Argentina will try to salvage its World Cup skin in Qatar on Saturday, when Lionel Messi and his team-mates take on Mexico in a game they can’t miss. A stunning 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia has left Argentina, who arrived in Doha on a 36-match unbeaten run and one of the overall favourites, in a precarious position. The Argentines said they will draw on memories of superstar Diego Maradona, their 1986 World Cup winning captain who died two years ago this week, to inspire them against the Mexicans.
“We keep him in mind. He was a very important person in world football, and not just for us Argentines,” said Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez.
“Today is a sad day for everyone and hopefully tomorrow we can bring happiness.”
The Argentines know that they cannot afford a repeat of their opening match in Group C.
“It was difficult, but we are a united group, a strong group that knows what we want, we know our opponents, we have already overcome many things,” said Martinez, who twice had a goal disallowed for offside against the Saudis.
The surprise Saudis have a chance to prove they are no flash in the pan when they take on Poland and Robert Lewandowski, the prolific striker still looking for the first World Cup goal of his career.
The Barcelona attacker missed a penalty kick in the goalless draw against Mexico.
In other games on Saturday, defending champions France could book a place in the last 16 if they beat Denmark at Stadium 974, which has incorporated shipping containers into its design.
The French lost defender Lucas Hernandez to injury in their opening 4–1 win against Australia, adding to a list of absentees led by Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema who limped out of the World Cup before a ball was kicked.
Australia faces another tough ride against a robust Tunisian side.
– Host Qatar goes out –
Friday’s action saw hosts Qatar crash out of their own World Cup after a second straight defeat.
Qatar lost 3-1 to Senegal to become the first team to be eliminated from this World Cup after the Netherlands and Ecuador drew 1-1 in the other Group A match to seal their fate.
Asian champion Qatar had high hopes for its participation in the tournament, but became only the second home team after South Africa in 2010 to drop out in the group stage.
Goals from Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou and Bamba Dieng were enough to give the African champion Senegal the victory.
Mohammed Muntari scored Qatar’s only World Cup goal to date in a deeply disappointing debut on football’s biggest stage – marking the first time a World Cup host nation has gone out after just two games.
“We want to say we are very sorry to the supporters, to the country,” said Qatar defender Tarek Salman.
“We gave them the feeling that they lost two games in a row at the World Cup.”
Senegal must now beat Ecuador to advance to the knockout stages as the Qataris take on the Netherlands.
An uninspired England missed out on the chance to complete qualification for the knockout stage after drawing 0-0 with the United States.
After beating Iran 6–2 in their opening game, England rarely bothered a well-organized American unit and were booed full-time.
“A draw is not the end of the world for us, it puts us in a great position in the group,” said England captain Harry Kane.
England need only avoid a four-goal defeat to neighbors Wales on Tuesday to go through and know that a win will send them through as group winners.
Earlier, Iran scored twice deep into stoppage time to stun Wales 2-0 and revive a World Cup campaign overshadowed by massive anti-government protests at home.
The Iranian players sang the national anthem for their victory over Wales after choosing to remain silent in their opener in Qatar in an apparent gesture of support for the protesters.
They were worthy winners against a team reduced to 10 men late in the game.
Iran, who would have been out if they had lost, penalized Gareth Bale’s Wales in the eighth minute of stoppage time when substitute Rouzbeh Cheshmi hauled in the ball.
The Iranians sent their thousands of fans wild when Ramin Rezaeian scored a second goal on the counter-attack.
Brazil’s team camp announced that superstar Neymar would miss the side’s next match against Switzerland after suffering an ankle ligament injury in their first 2-0 win against Serbia.
Neymar could also be sidelined for Brazil’s final group stage match against Cameroon, according to a report from Brazil’s Globo Esporte.
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