A crunch final Group C game sees Robert Lewandowski’s Poland face Lionel Messi’s Argentina, with both aiming to prolong their World Cup.
After just a pair of games each, it has already been an up and down World Cup for two of the best players on the planet.
Poland’s Robert Lewandowski was the villain on matchday one as he saw a tame penalty saved in the 0-0 draw with Mexico, before redemption as he claimed his first ever World Cup goal in the 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Lionel Messi scored his penalty in Argentina’s first game, though was unable to stop his team from suffering a humiliating 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, but then his exquisite strike set La Albiceleste on their way to a 2-0 win against Mexico.
These two superstars will surely be front and centre when they clash in their final game of Group C on Wednesday.
Victory for either will confirm their passage to the knockout stage, with a draw also good enough for the Poles.
A defeat would eliminate Argentina, with a draw leaving them sweating on the outcome of Saudi Arabia v Mexico.
History could be on their side, though, with their last meeting at a World Cup coming in 1978, where Argentina won 2-0 before going on to lift the trophy for the first time (Poland won their only other World Cup clash 3-2 in 1974).
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Lionel Scaloni’s men will have their work cut out though, with Poland having kept a clean sheet in each of their last three World Cup games, including both in Qatar so far despite facing 27 shots (nine on target).
Poland are looking to qualify from their World Cup group for the first time since the 1986 tournament under Antoni Piechniczek, and they last went unbeaten in all three matches in their first round group in 1982.
Following his match-winning performance against Mexico, Messi said: “Another World Cup started for us today… We can’t give up now; we have finals from this point on and can’t make a mistake.”
Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said after Lewandowski’s maiden World Cup strike “one player will not win the match alone”. He could be right, but if ever there were a contest to prove whether he is, it might just be this one.
Players to Watch
Poland: Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski (50) was the player with most goals scored among players in the top five European leagues in all competitions last season, ahead of Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema (44).
The Barcelona striker cut a frustrated figure against Mexico, but was key in their win against Saudi Arabia, grabbing a goal and an assist.
Lewandowski is the only Polish player to have attempted more than two shots so far (seven), while no team-mate has created more chances than his three, level with Piotr Zielinski.
Argentina: Lionel Messi
Despite people daring to suggest Messi’s powers are waning, he remains his country’s talisman.
The 35-year-old has scored in six successive appearances for Argentina in all competitions, his joint-longest scoring run for his national side (also six between November 2011 and September 2012), while he now has as many World Cup goals as Diego Maradona (eight), with only Gabriel Batistuta (10) netting more for Argentina at the tournament overall.
Poland vs. Argentina Prediction
Despite Poland leading the way in Group C, our supercomputer makes Argentina favourites for this one, with Scaloni’s side having a 64.8% chance of winning at Stadium 974.
Poland have just a 13.8% chance of victory, but they will also be satisfied with a draw, which has a 21.4% chance of occurring.