Poland vs Argentina predictions: Argentina can edge nervy Group C decider
- Poland have shown a lack of attacking intent but need only a draw to qualify
- Argentina need to win to guarantee a place in the knockout stages
- Recommended bet: Argentina to win and under 2.5 goals
Argentina responded to their shock opening defeat to Saudi Arabia by beating Mexico and now face Poland with a place in the last 16 up for grabs.
As is so often the case, Lionel Messi rode to Argentina’s rescue in their last match against Mexico, but there is still work for La Albiceleste to do.
That shock 2-1 defeat to the Green Falcons means that a point against Poland may not be enough for Lionel Scaloni’s side to escape Group C, so Messi and co will need to get on the front foot against a Poland side who, in contrast, would be happy with a point.
That could set up another game of attack vs defence for Argentina, who have not exactly shone in that scenario in either of their previous two group-stage outings against Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
And with Poland also failing to impress in a dreary 0-0 draw against Mexico and a somewhat fortunate 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, this could be a match that offers plenty of tension but a limited amount of entertainment.
Poland manager Czeslaw Michniewicz has a fully fit squad to choose from, with no injuries reported and none of his players facing suspension.
He is likely to revert to the more defensive-minded 4-1-4-1 line-up used against Mexico, rather than the 4-4-2 that featured against Saudi Arabia, when Arkadiusz Milik partnered Robert Lewandowski up front.
Scaloni has a largely fit squad, although centre-back Cristian Romero has been struggling with a niggling injury that has restricted his minutes for Argentina.
As a result, Lisandro Martinez is again likely to partner Nicolas Otamendi in the centre of defence.
Argentina’s shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia was their only loss in their last 38 matches and while that result drew understandable criticism, La Albiceleste were still the better team in that game.
Scaloni’s men had three goals ruled out for marginal offsides, conceded twice from just three shots and managed to lose despite creating 2.2 expected goals to Saudi Arabia’s 0.1.
Poland have kept clean sheets in each of their last four outings but rode their luck against Saudi Arabia last time out.
The Green Falcons had 16 shots, including a penalty that Wojciech Szczesny saved, and racked up an xG tally of 1.7.
With Poland needing only a draw and Argentina desperate for a win, this could end up being a South American siege around the Polish penalty area.
Lewandowski finally got the World Cup goal that his career has so richly deserved last time out against Saudi Arabia, but he was feeding off scraps in that game as Poland were pinned back for long periods.
And Michniewicz’s side also showed limited attacking intent in their opener against Mexico, refusing to take the game to El Tri even though their opponents were without their two most dangerous attacking options.
With Poland previously more interested in staying compact than springing forwards — and with a point the only prize they are interested in — it is hard to see them suddenly going on the attack against Argentina.
The South Americans will be handed the initiative then and will likely control most of the possession, which should result in Messi, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria seeing plenty of the ball in the Polish final third.
However, they might be frustrated for long periods against massed ranks of Polish defenders and the excellent Szczesny in goal, so under 2.5 goals looks a decent call.
It may take a moment of magic to win the game but La Albiceleste are hardly lacking in conjurers and should eventually break through.
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