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Argentina national football team
World Cup | Last 16
Dec 3, 2022 at 7pm UK
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
Australia national football team
2 - 1
Messi (35'), Alvarez (57')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Fernandez (77' og.)
Irvine (15'), Degenek (38')

Preview: Argentina vs. Australia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's World Cup clash between Argentina and Australia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

After escaping their groups in dramatic circumstances, just three days later Argentina and last-16 opponents Australia meet at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday.

Both nations' World Cup adventures now continue into the knockout stages, following the Albiceleste's recovery from a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia and the Socceroos' defeat of Denmark in midweek.

Match preview

Argentina's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on November 30, 2022© Reuters

Having overcome a faltering start to their latest World Cup campaign, an Argentina squad fuelled by a hard-fought victory over Mexico in their second Group C fixture secured a spot in the last 16 by bettering a limited Poland side on Wednesday.

The South American champions saw talisman Lionel Messi spurn the chance to open the scoring from a contentious first-half penalty, but were ultimately rewarded for 90 minutes of dominance by leapfrogging their European opponents at the top of the group standings.

After Alexis Mac Allister - who had been promoted to the starting lineup as one of a handful of changes made by coach Lionel Scaloni - made the breakthrough only seconds after the interval, a 67th-minute strike from Julian Alvarez helped the Albiceleste to post a second successive 2-0 win.

As a result, for the 11th time in the last 12 finals the two-time world champions have progressed to the knockout phase, and they remain among many pundits' favourites to lift the World Cup trophy later this month.

While conditions will be the same for both his team and their next opponents, Scaloni has bemoaned the fact they will return to action after just over two days rest - particularly having followed such an emotionally draining route to the top of Group C. However, he knows that no excuses will be accepted by an expectant public back home in Argentina.

To combat concerns about fatigue, the Copa America-winning coach can call upon several talented players to have emerged from the fringes of his squad, such as Mac Allister, Alvarez and Benfica's Enzo Fernandez, though of course Messi still shoulders much of the creative burden.

Argentina's irreplaceable playmaker will surely be integral again, as they attempt to set up a quarter-final with either the Netherlands or United States, but he will need plenty of help from the supporting cast that put on a 36-game unbeaten streak only ended last week.

Australia's Mathew Leckie celebrates scoring against Denmark at the World Cup on November 30, 2022© Reuters

Given the gulf in stature between the two nations in football terms, it comes as no surprise that Australia have lost each of their last four meetings with Argentina - including a crucial playoff to reach USA '94 - though the Socceroos earned a 2-0 win when two very different squads clashed at last year's Tokyo Olympics.

Yet, Graham Arnold's men are riding the crest of a wave before they arrive in Al Rayyan for a date with destiny that sees them taking part in the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time since the fabled 'golden generation' of 2006.

The unfancied Socceroos defied expectations to finish second in Group D behind defending champions France, doing so only on goal difference after winning two of their three fixtures - against Tunisia and then Euro 2022 semi-finalists Denmark.

Beating the latter 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium required both a fiercely-fought rearguard action led by Harry Souttar and goalkeeper Mat Ryan, and a wonderful winning goal from Matthew Leckie, which broke the deadlock in the 60th minute and ultimately sent them through to the last 16.

Realism is never far away from a pragmatic Australian side, largely made up of players on the fringe of things at their European clubs, so for all the euphoria their historic victory unleashed, they will be acutely aware of the step-up in class that awaits on Saturday.

Already swept aside by a fluent French team, who ran out 4-1 winners in the sides' opening fixture, Arnold's well-drilled unit will be outsiders to topple Argentina and make the final eight for the first time ever.

If they could somehow do so, jubilant scenes of fans celebrating on the streets of Melbourne in the early hours of Thursday morning would surely be matched - even surpassed - in Sydney, Adelaide and beyond.

Argentina World Cup form:

Argentina form (all competitions):

Australia World Cup form:

Australia form (all competitions):

Team News

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni pictured on November 22, 2022© Reuters

Though surely loath to change a winning team, Lionel Scaloni could feel the need to alter his starting lineup once again, given a rapid turnaround between games.

Lisandro Martinez could therefore come into contention for a place in central defence, while Lyon's Nicolas Tagliafico aims to usurp Marcos Acuna at left-back.

After making a substantial impression as a substitute in both of Argentina's first two matches at the finals, Enzo Fernandez is set to hold off the challenge of Leandro Paredes, who has been consigned to the bench against both Poland and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Lautaro Martinez was among a deep trove of attacking riches starting on the sidelines on Wednesday night, but Julian Alvarez's goal may give him the edge in a battle to join stalwarts Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria - who is troubled by a thigh problem - up front.

Australia may also make a limited number of changes, as Nathaniel Atkinson and Fran Karacic - who started the first and second games respectively - compete with Milos Degenek, who then took up the reins at right-back against Denmark.

Craig Goodwin endured a tough 45 minutes versus the Danes and was replaced by Keanu Baccus at half time, and the latter effortlessly slotted into the Aussies' engine room next to Aaron Mooy. Graham Arnold could therefore make a brave call to include the relatively inexperienced St Mirren midfielder on Saturday.

Up front, Mitchell Duke leads the line again, having so far exceeded his modest status as a man who plays his club football in Japan's second tier.

Argentina possible starting lineup:
E. Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Tagliafico; Mac Allister, Fernandez, De Paul; Alvarez, Messi, Di Maria

Australia possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Karacic, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy; Leckie, Irvine, McGree, Goodwin; Duke

SM words green background

We say: Argentina 2-0 Australia

Having avoided facing the reigning champions by topping Group C, Argentina will be determined to take advantage of their re-found form and fluency to reach the quarter-finals. While a plucky Australia side can keep them at bay for certain spells, if the Albiceleste unleash their undoubted quality in the final third there should surely be only one winner.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after the match on November 30, 2022
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Group A

Q Netherlands Netherlands32107
Q Senegal flag Senegal32016
3 Ecuador flag Ecuador31114
4 Qatar Qatar30030

Group B

Q England flag England32107
Q United States USA31205
3 Iran Iran31023
4 Wales flag Wales30121

Group C

Q Argentina Argentina32016
Q Poland Poland31114
3 Mexico Mexico31114
4 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia31023

Group D

Q France France32016
Q Australia Australia32016
3 Tunisia Tunisia31114
4 Denmark Denmark30121

Group E

Q Japan Japan32016
Q Spain Spain31114
3 Germany Germany31114
4 Costa Rica flag Costa Rica31023

Group F

Q Morocco Morocco32107
Q Croatia Croatia31205
3 Belgium Belgium31114
4 Canada Canada30030

Group G

Q Brazil Brazil32016
Q Switzerland Switzerland32016
3 Cameroon flag Cameroon31114
4 Serbia Serbia30121

Group H

Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Republic of Korea South Korea31114
3 Uruguay flag Uruguay31114
4 Ghana flag Ghana31023

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