Back in June 2019, Argentina entered the Copa America looking to salvage a reputation that had taken an enormous beating, just a year ago at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After the debacle in France, the Argentines underwent wholesale changes as Jorge Sampaoli was given the boot and Lionel Scaloni was handed the reins. Subsequently, the incoming manager decided to adopt a youth-first approach, meaning that several young aspirants were accorded the opportunity to don the famous shirt.
The Albiceleste got off to a decent start under the stewardship of Scaloni and seemed to be getting back to the levels they desired. Yet, there always remained a feeling that they might come unstuck, especially against the continent’s elite gun-slingers.
And, unfortunately for them, it all unravelled rather spectacularly at the Copa America where they were acrimoniously dumped out by arch-rivals, Brazil in the semi-finals.
In the aftermath of the elimination, Lionel Messi went on an incredible rant, criticising the referee and even accusing the CONMEBOL of corruption. Unsurprisingly, the forward was slapped with a ban, which only ends in November.
However, despite the steep mountain in front of the Argentines, they gave a good account of themselves in an entertaining goalless draw against Chile a few days prior.
Though the Albiceleste were unlucky to not end up on the winning side, there were certainly enough positives for Scaloni’s charges, none more so than the tempo at which they operated.
Thus, Argentina would be hoping to maintain that upward curve when they clash swords with Mexico, a team riding high on confidence themselves after another CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph over the summer.
Gerardo Martino’s troops have been unbeaten since November of last year, a run that has included 11 games. And, one reckons that should hold them in good stead come the encounter on Tuesday. However, Mexico’s last defeat was against Argentina.
Thus, the game has several intricate storylines to immerse oneself in. While one side is looking to resurrect an esteem that has been on a downward spiral in recent years, the other team is hoping to build on a head of steam generated over the past eighteen months.
And, usually, such stakes provide high-octane action, irrespective of the match being a competitive fixture or not.
Date: 10th September, 2019
Time: 09:00pm (Local Time); 07:30am IST on the 11th of September, 2019
Venue: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Form Guide (Last five matches; Most recent first)
Head to Head Record
Total Matches Played: 34 matches
Argentina: 15 wins
Mexico: 5 wins
Draw: 14 draws
Players to watch out for
Throughout the off-season, the transfer saga of Paulo Dybala occupied quite a bit of effort and time. Yet, a potential move to the Premier League never materialised as the Argentine stayed put in Turin, despite Maurizio Sarri apparently not seeing him as a vital cog of the Juventus wheel.
However, now that he remains in Italy, Dybala will have to prove himself again, in order to nail down a regular starting spot. And, the game against Mexico provides him with the ideal platform to remind the world what he is really capable of.
Blessed with a wand of a left foot, the Argentine hasn’t enjoyed a purple patch with the national side previously. But, the absence of Messi could play into his hands, with Scaloni probably using the Juventus forward as a No.10 with the license to roam across the pitch.
Thus, after all that Dybala has endured over the past six months, including a failed transfer move and a peripheral role at the Copa America, Tuesday could be the day when he finally comes off age, as an international player.
The Mexican winger earned a big-money move to Napoli over the summer and so far, he has showcased the requisite quality to be a star in the Serie A.
Despite playing only 45 minutes against Juventus a few days ago, Hirving Lozano managed to make the net bulge and propel Napoli towards an improbable comeback.
Hence, Martino would be hoping that the flying winger continues his upturn in form when they face Argentina at the Alamodome.
Lozano boasts searing pace and with speed not being the Argentine defence’s strongest suit, the Mexican could create an enormous impact.
Moreover, he likes to dent historically strong opponents, with his goal against Germany a perfect example. Thus, one can expect him to come out all guns blazing on Tuesday.
Argentina win: 2.20
Mexico win: 3.00
Published 09 Sep 2019, 22:00 IST