Four games are scheduled for day 11 — Wednesday, November 30 — of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Australia vs Denmark (Group D): 6pm (15:00 GMT), Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Tunisia vs France (Group D): 6PM (15:00 GMT), Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Poland vs Argentina (Group C): 10pm (19:00 GMT), Stadium 974, Ras Abu Aboud
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico (Group C): 10pm (19:00 GMT), Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
After losing their opening game 4-1 to France, Australia striker Mitchell Duke’s goal against Tunisia on Saturday has put the Socceroos right back in contention for a place in the final 16.
Australia now sits second in the table on three points, three behind France, but still two ahead of both Denmark and Tunisia.
That’s why Denmark must win their third game of the tournament on Wednesday against Australia to stand a chance for a place in the group of 16.
In a training session on Sunday, the Australians were in high spirits but also aware that they need at least a draw against the Danes to have any chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Australia’s star player Ajdin Hrustic said that the Socceroos must not be transfixed by Dutch footballing legend Christian Eriksen when they play Denmark. Hrustic said a collective team effort would be needed if the Australians are to triumph.
Expect an exciting game as both teams battle it out to make it through to the next stage of the tournament.
Players to watch:
The Danes will look to Christian Eriksen to deliver his brilliance and beat Australia.
Socceroos hero Duke is only the eighth Australian player to have scored a goal at the World Cup. The Australian striker, who plays his club football in Japan’s second division, dedicated his goal against Tunisia to his young son who was watching from the stands.
Duke will do everything possible to give his son another memory for life, and also get his team through to the next round.
Australian defender Harry Souttar will also be sure to entertain following a video of his earth-shaking tackle on Tunisian Yassine Khenissi going viral. Souttar appeared almost out of nowhere to slide in with a thunderous tackle that would have had hard-nut defenders of yesteryear nodding their approval. Souttar’s defending skills have been widely praised by pundits with many predicting he will be a target for a Premier League club in January.
Tunisia are faced with the huge task of upsetting World Cup title-holders France on Wednesday if they are to stand a chance of advancing to the knockouts. A goalless draw between Australia and Denmark could see Tunisia go second if they beat France – it’s a big ask but the brave Eagles of Carthage could still soar.
Don’t forget that Tunisia were the first African country to win a game at the World Cup finals when they beat Mexico 3-1 in Argentina in 1978. Ten of Tunisia’s 26-man squad were born in France and they have three players based at French clubs.
But, France were the first team to secure qualification through to the round of 16 at his World Cup tournament with wins over Australia and Denmark, and with a game to spare.
France appear to have shaken off the curse of the defending champions by becoming the first World Cup champs to make it out of the group stage since 2006 – the year defending champs Brazil emerged. Italy, Spain and Germany all were eliminated early four years after winning their World Cup titles.
The team’s pre-tournament injury blues are also fading, and Les Bleus are feeling upbeat again and looking like one of the tournament favourites.
France will look to strike the right balance between resting players and keeping their World Cup momentum up against Tunisia, where even a draw with the Tunisians will guarantee them top spot in their grouping.
Should the French finish first, they will face the team who ends up second in Group C, which features Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Mexico.
Coach Didier Deschamps is set to rest some of his key men and give fringe players minutes in the game.
Kylian Mbappe might be held back in reserve but France’s talismanic forward is chasing records in Qatar and Deschamps could give him some playing time to help him add to his seven World Cup goals – three of which were scored in Qatar.
Players to watch:
France’s Antoine Griezmann has returned to his best form and is likely to play deep and also close to lone strikers at the front.
Griezmann has played as an attacking midfielder rather than a pure forward, brilliantly making the link between midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot and France’s attacking trio of Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe.
“I probably ask different things from him, but there is no sacrifice on his part,” Deschamps recently said of Griezmann.
“I could have played him on the right flank of the attack instead of Ousmane (Dembele) but that’s not where he would be the most useful to the team,” he said.
Two of the most talented and deadly strikers in world football, Argentina’s 35-year-old Lionel Messi and Poland’s 34-year-old Robert Lewandowski, line up against each other on Wednesday with a last 16 place at stake in the World Cup.
Messi has scored twice in Argentina’s extraordinary start to the campaign in Doha, and also suffered one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history by losing to Saudi Arabia before masterminding a euphoric victory over Mexico.
Argentina’s 2-0 win over Mexico was the most-watched Spanish-language World Cup group stage broadcast in US history, drawing 8.9 million viewers on Telemundo television and the streaming services of Telemundo and Peacock.
The brilliant Argentinian, whose team are one of the tournament favourites, is playing his fifth and final campaign, meaning it is his last chance to match Diego Maradona and lift the trophy for his longing homeland.
With Argentina second in Group C on three points, one behind the Poles, the Argentinians must win on Wednesday to be sure of progressing and keeping alive their dream of a third World Cup title.
A draw would be enough for the South Americans, too, if Mexico and Saudi Arabia also end level.
Like Messi, Poland’s Lewandowski is also his nation’s all-time top scorer and is also on possibly his last mission at a World Cup. He has been in sizzling form for Barcelona (Messi’s old club) and has also had an eventful start in Qatar.
Lewandowski uncharacteristically missed a penalty in Poland’s opening draw with Mexico before scoring his first-ever World Cup goal in their 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Poland, who have not reached the World Cup knockout stage since 1986, could go through with a win or draw against Argentina.
This is the third time Poland and Argentina will meet at the World Cup. Poland won 3-2 in 1974 and Argentina won 2-0 four years later. Argentina have won six of their 11 meetings overall, with Poland winning three. The teams last played an international friendly in June 2011, which Poland won 2-1.
Players to watch:
Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski.
Argentina, Mexico and Poland may all have been fancied to progress from Group C at the World Cup ahead of Saudi Arabia, but after their stunning win over the Argentinians, the Saudis are firmly in the mix ahead of their Wednesday game against Mexico.
In their five previous World Cup outings, Saudi Arabia have qualified for the round of 16 only once, on their debut at the tournament in 1994.
At this stage in Qatar, Poland lead Group C on four points, one ahead of Argentina and Saudi Arabia, while Mexico are on one point.
If Saudi Arabia want to progress they will have to beat Mexico on Wednesday, regardless of the outcome of the match between Poland and Argentina. A draw would mean they need Poland to beat Argentina, while a defeat would make the permutations more complicated, as they would need to lose by only one goal while hoping that Poland win their match by a bigger margin.
And the Saudi players can do it.
Saudi Arabia stunned the football world when they defeated Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game, only to then lose 2-0 to Poland in their second match.
“No one around the world thought that we could play with this level. Yes, in Saudi Arabia we know the players well, but they are unknown to the fans around the world,” Saudi coach Herve Renard told a news conference after the Poland game.
“We are still alive,” he said. The 54-year-old Renard indicated his team will play the next match in Lusail against Mexico with the same energy and desire, and he rallied Saudi supporters.
“We need the fans to make history. I want a green stadium again, maybe we will play in the white jersey, but that isn’t important, we want the support from the fans,” he said.
Things will not be easy for Saudi Arabia. Mexico also have a chance of reaching the last 16, and for them, it will be their eighth time in a row. Mexico needs to beat Saudi Arabia by at least a three-goal margin, with Poland not losing to Argentina. If Argentina beat the Poles, it will depend on the final result.
Mexico will be reminding themselves that they have never lost to Saudi Arabia in five previous matches, and won twice with 5-0 and 5-1 results in the FIFA Confederations Cup. But the Mexicans are struggling offensively and the team did not score a goal in the first two matches against Poland and Argentina.
Mexico will be desperate for Wednesday’s game to not be the first time they fail to score at a World Cup tournament (they have now failed to score in their last four World Cup appearances).
Players to watch:
Mexico’s hopes seem to rest on the shoulders of star striker Raul Jimenez.
Saudi Arabia’s Saleh al-Shehri and Salem al-Dawsari scored a goal each against Argentina. Can the pair deliver goals against Mexico?
Certainly two players to watch.