Pic: Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports
Mexico will be looking to lean heavily on Raul Jimenez (below) and Hirving Lozano in Qatar. Manager Gerardo Martino will be hoping their attacking threat can cancel out the goals of Lionel Messi and the Argentinians at the the other end of the pitch.
Jimenez hit double digits two seasons in a row for Wolverhampton Wanderers, while Napoli’s Lozano, 26, has 56 caps for his country so far and has already scored 15 times wearing the national team’s shirt. In Serie A last season he managed 11 goal involvements - five goals and six assists - in 30 appearances for the Partenopei as he helped them to secure a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League.
Raul Jimenez dribbles dangerously with the ball. Pic: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
The Mexico attacking threat means they will have to be taken seriously by every team they encounter this winter. And if they can beat Saudi Arabia , they might just fancy themselves to get through World Cup Group C and into the knockout rounds.
They have a roster with a number of players with experience in the major leagues, which will likely give them an edge over Saudi Arabia and keep them in with a chance when they take on Argentina and Poland. The doubts that hung over Gerardo Martino’s position on the bench didn’t help them through qualification though, and the coach’s position was anything but certain even after they booked their place in Qatar.
READ MORE: Mexico vs Poland preview
READ MORE: Mexico vs Saudi Arabia preview
Mexico player to watch: Guillermo Ochoa
It's not often a goalkeeper would feature as our player to watch, but when facing the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez, we feel Mexico's fate rests firmly in Guillermo Ochoa's gloves.
Ochoa, who is an experienced campaigner at the age of 36, kept regular clean sheets for his team during World Cup qualification. And he'll need to be at his very best to blunt the threat the Argentinians pose in front of goal.
Mexico's captain has enjoyed an illustrious career which has seen him play in some of Europe's top leagues. But his proudest achievement will undoubtedly be keeping Messi and co quiet on the biggest stage of them all to help seal his country's place in the knockout rounds.
It's safe to say any chance Mexico have of getting something from the Argentina game will be dashed if Ochoa has a bad day between the posts.
For their part, Argentina arrive in Qatar as one of the most-fancied sides to emerge as world champions in December, and Lionel Scaloni’s side now know how to win silverware in a way that they haven’t since the days of Diego Maradona - first winning the Copa America and then easing past European champions Italy at Wembley in La Finalissima .
The strength of their roster is undeniable, and it’s right up there with the world elite and not far behind France and Brazil as one of the deepest at this fall's World Cup. It could be argued though that they’re left wanting somewhat in midfield, without having any real standout stars. Rodrigo De Paul has been excellent since joining Atletico Madrid and is a high-quality player, but it’s an area that is a little under-stocked in comparison to other parts of the pitch.
Lionel Messi’s presence can’t be overlooked either, and the Paris Saint-Germain star has really shown his best on international duty in the last couple of years. With him in the team and on form, it is hard to back against them, whoever the opposition.
Argentina player to watch: Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is the obvious choice here - how could it be anybody else? Rodrigo de Paul enjoyed a good season at Atletico after his move from Udinese, Inter’s Lautaro Martinez ended the 2021/22 campaign in the form of his life although the Nerazzurri fell short of the title, and Julian Alvarez was so good at River Plate that he secured a move to Manchester City, so those three players are others to watch out for. But when Messi is in the same team, it’s only natural that everybody else takes a step back away from the limelight and the PSG star takes centre stage.
Although he didn’t have the best of first seasons in Ligue 1, Messi’s best football of late has come with Argentina, and he’ll want to add to their recent Copa America success - and their win over Italy in the CONMEBOL UEFA Cup of Champions - with the biggest prize of them all. He showed in both of those aforementioned successes that he’s still got plenty to offer for his country, and he’ll no doubt want to show that from the off in the Argentina World Cup games.