With a free kick, but without a warning for Vega, it continues. Montiel can also participate again.
For the first time, the Italian referee Daniele Orsato is in the spotlight. Gonzalo Montiel gets elbowed in the face by Alexis Vega and stays down.
The volume level is already extremely high in the first few minutes. Argentina fans celebrate their team’s high ball possession percentage.
Now the first attack wave of the Albiceleste. Lionel Messi misses two men in midfield, but the cross from new starter Marcos Acuña is too imprecise.
Kick-off for the Mexicans, traditionally dressed in dark green, who sent Hirving Lozano on his way with a long ball.
The Lusail Iconic Stadium is filled to the last of the 80,000 seats. Thousands of fans from both sides hoped in vain for tickets in front of the arena, the last ones are said to have gone on the black market for up to 900 dollars.
The record of the last direct clashes speaks clearly for the South Americans: Argentina won the last three games against Mexico without conceding a goal, the most recent friendly in 2019 even 4-0 – Lautaro Martínez scored a flawless hat-trick in the first half. The last Mexican success was 18 years ago, at the 2004 Copa America, Ramón Morales, now 47, scored the only goal.
Even before the game starts, the game offers a lot to talk about: Does Lionel Messi really remain “the unfinished one”, does Argentina deliver a horror tournament at the first World Cup after the death of Diego Maradona? Is Tata Martino luckier with Mexico than his home country, losing back-to-back Copa América finals to Chile on penalties in two years?
On the Mexican side, Argentinian coach Gerardo Martino, who was in charge of his country’s national selection between 2014 and 2016, even made a system change: defenders Néstor Araujo and Kevin Álvarez are new in the starting XI and are divided into a five-man formation. In midfield, the 36-year-old veteran Andrés Guardado is supposed to pull the strings, in the two-man attack you can find Germany terror Hirving “Chucky” Lozano again.
After the surprising opening defeat, the South Americans, who were unbeaten in 36 games, made five changes, three of them in defence: Only Nicolás Otamendi is back, Gonzalo Montiel, Lisandro Martínez and Marcos Acuña are new in the back four. The storm with Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martínez is of course set, Guido Rodríguez and Alexis Mac Allister should set new accents from midfield.
The pressure is particularly high on the Argentinian side: The Albiceleste surprisingly lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia at the start of the tournament. The scheme was the same as in the German game against Japan – a penalty goal in the first half, two goals in the second and then a harmless run. Mexico opened the game without a goal against Poland, lucky when Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty.
Good evening and welcome to the Americas’ smash in Group C – Argentina and Mexico were without a win on Matchday 1 and are already under a lot of pressure today. Kick-off at Lusail Iconic Stadium is at 8pm!