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Doha: Still recovering from a stunning loss to Saudi Arabia, Argentina's coach Lionel Scaloni has insisted La Albiceleste will not change how they play but will be ready to make things right on the pitch in their must-win match against Mexico later today at the Lusail Stadium.
The two-time champions suffered one of the biggest World Cup shocks when lowly-ranked Saudi Arabia came from behind to snatch victory in their opening Group C match. Scaloni added that Lionel Messi, making his fifth appearance at the World Cup, is fine and fit to play.
“The team's way of playing will be similar. We're not going to change our way of playing because of what happened on Tuesday (to Saudi Arabia); we have to turn the page,” Scaloni told reporters yesterday.
“When you are knocked out, you have to get up, and my players are more than capable of doing so. We may make some variations, but we will decide in the last training. This group will leave everything they've got on the pitch to recover from that heavy blow,” Scaloni said.
Although Mexico failed to win against Poland in the first match (0-0), Lionel Scaloni is wary of this team:“Mexico are a very good team, with a precise idea of the game. It's an attacking team with a great coach,” he said.
Striker Lautaro Martinez, whose goal was ruled out for offside against Saudi Arabia, insisted Argentina would take on Mexico like it was a final.
“It will be like a final for us because it is a match that could define our fate,” Martinez said.
“Losing to Saudi Arabia was a heavy blow to our morale, but we are a strong group that is very united. We need to stay calm, recover and think about what's coming. And that's Mexico, so we have to focus on getting the win no matter what.”
Mexico players during a training session at the Al Khor SC Stadium yesterday. REUTERS
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino has said his side must be ready for Argentina's main threat Messi who he says can change the game in five minutes.
“We always need to prepare as if Messi will show his best version. We can never speculate that maybe he won't because many times it has happened that during the 90 minutes, five (minutes) were enough for him to decide the whole game,” Martino said.
The 60-year-old, born in Rosario like Messi and managed the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner at Barcelona, said Mexico has to win and do the impossible. La Tri drew their opening match against Poland, and know a result against Argentina would set them up nicely for the last 16 stage.
“Mexico has to win; we will do it all for Mexico to win. There is no other answer.
“I know where I was born. I can tell you the hospital I was born in, the year I was born, and describe to you my hometown in Argentina - but I need to do the impossible for Mexico to win. I cannot do any other thing.”
Martino said nobody would have expected this scenario for both sides after the draw was made. He said the landscape of the group after the first round has changed the dynamics.
“Even if Argentina didn't appear as the key rival for us before, now it is, and that is how we will approach the game. Not getting the positive result will complicate things for us, while if we do, we may be in a position to qualify for the next round,” he added.
Poland take on high-flying Saudi Arabia today at the Education City Stadium.
When: Today, at 10:00pm
Where: Lusail Stadium
* Lionel Messi has become the fifth player to score at four World Cup finals - after Cristiano Ronaldo, Miroslav Klose, Uwe Seeler and
Pele - and the first Argentine player to feature at five tournaments.
* Mexico have lost only three of their last 21 World Cup group stage matches (W10 D8) and kept clean sheets in five of their last nine.
* Saudi Arabia ended Argentina's 36-match unbeaten run (W25 D11) on Tuesday in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
* Mexico have failed to score in their last three World Cup games - the goalless draw with Poland on Tuesday and defeats to Sweden and Brazil in 2018.
* The teams first met all the way back at the inaugural World Cup in 1930, when Argentina won 6-3.
* Argentina have beaten Mexico 16 times in 35 meetings (D14 L5), including all three at a World Cup. They last locked horns in the competition in 2010, when Argentina won 3-1.
* Mexico last beat Argentina in the Copa America in 2004 but have lost to the South Americans eight times since then (D2).