Argentina, considered by many to be among the FIFA World Cup title favourites, began its Qatar 2022 campaign with a shock 1-2 loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
With the other Group C match between Poland and Mexico ending 0-0, Argentina is now bottom of the group, without a point.
The Saudi Arabia loss makes the Lionel Messi-led side’s chances of qualifying from Group C to the round of 16 more difficult.
How Argentina can ensure qualification for the knockout stage of the World Cup
The South American side next faces Mexico on November 27 and then takes on Poland on December 1.
Argentina needs to win both games to give itself the best chance of advancing. Two wins would put it at six points, which could ensure a top spot depending on other results.
But there is a potential scenario in which three teams from Group C could end at six points, which would see one of those teams miss out on a knockout spot based on goal difference. It means Argentina needs to outscore Mexico and Poland heavily to boost its qualification chances.
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If Argentina fails to win one of the next two games, its qualification hopes will take a hit. A draw and a win would leave it at four points, which would mean it would’ve to depend on other results to go its way.
If Argentina finishes second, then in the round of 16, it could potentially run into defending champion France. Incidentally, France beat Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16 in Russia 2018.
Argentina finishing second in Group C would keep hopes of a potential Brazil-Argentina final alive as it would put both the South American giants on different sides of the bracket, of course, assuming the Selecao finish top of their group.
Losing to either Mexico or Poland would almost end Argentina’s hopes of making it to the knockouts.
There is one scenario where Argentina could qualify even if it loses one more game in the group stage, but this one comes with conditions attached.
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If Argentina loses one more game, it would need to win the other game and then hope one of Saudi Arabia, Mexico or Poland wins all its games in the group and no games are drawn. If this scenario plays out, it would put the group topper at nine points and the rest at three points, where, again, goal difference would come into play.
This is the sixth time Argentina has lost its opening fixture in the World Cup. The last time it happened was in the 1990 World Cup, when the Diego Maradona-led side lost to Cameroon 1-0, before bouncing back to make it to the final.
Group C standings before Poland vs Saudi Arabia game.