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Day 7 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is officially in the books. Saturday’s action started with Australia’s 1-0 win against Tunisia. After losing 4-1 in their opening match of the Group D against France, Australia managed to put three crucial points on the board against Tunisia, putting the Socceroos in a strong position ahead of the last match of the group stage against Denmark on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. Tunisia will face France at the same time.
Les Bleus are the first team into the knockout phase after a 2-1 win over the Danes thanks to a second half double from star man Kylian Mbappe. Andreas Christensen had pulled the Scandinavians level, but Mbappe shot himself to join-top of the scoring charts with his brace to usurp Jean-Pierre Papin and Just Fontaine in the scoring charts. The French hotshot also levels Pele on seven World Cup goals for the most scored by a player younger than 24 in tournament history.
Argentina, after surprisingly losing against Saudi Arabia in their opening match, got a much-needed win against Mexico to get back on track and avoid what would have beeb an unexpected and incredible elimination in the group stage. It took a brilliant long-distance strike from Lionel Messi in the 64th minute to break through against a doggedly defensive Mexico side. And then Enzo Fernandez put the game away in the 87th minute to seal the points.
Meanwhile, Poland defeated Saudi Arabia for first place in Group C. Robert Lewandowski scored his first-ever World Cup goal, while Wojciech Szczesny made a double save on a penalty kick. The results mean Argentina can control their destiny and win the group if they beat Poland.
As always, we will be providing you with takeaways below from the day’s action — and while you’re at it, sign up for our new newsletter covering the beautiful game in all its glory, including daily updates about the World Cup, here.
Saturday, Nov. 26
Australia 1, Tunisia 0
Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0
France 2, Denmark 1
Argentina 2, Mexico 0
The least heralded match of the day quietly produced one of the more surprising results of the tournament. After getting torched by France 4-1 in their opener, Australia came back and passed a difficult test, beating Tunisia 1-0. That means that the least heralded Australian team in recent memory, a side that only qualified for the tournament by running hot in its last chance qualifier against Peru, has their fate in their own hands. A draw against Denmark would get the job done for the extreme underdog. The result against Tunisia wasn’t pretty, but despite conceding 14 shots, they held Tunisia to only 0.94 expected goals and made their headed goal from Mitchell Duke in the 23rd minute stand up.
The final score was comfortable for Poland with Piotr Zelenski scoring at the end of the first half and Lewandowski adding an insurance goal at the end of the second. It only took Poland’s talisman 136 appearances to get that coveted World Cup goal. But in the interim, Saudi Arabia gave as good — if not better — than they got. Soccer is a silly old game and the fact that against Argentina, Saudi Arabia managed two goals on three difficult shot means you can only offer rueful smile in response to the fact that against Poland they teed off on goal 16 times, including one from the penalty spot and couldn’t buy a goal. But let Mexico be warned, if they think the Saudis are an easy opponent to close out the group stage against, they’re going to have a rude surprise waiting for them at the end of this group.
The game wasn’t as close as the 2-1 score suggested. France aggressively took the game to Denmark, a side that had beaten the French twice in Nations League in the lead-up to this World Cup. Kylian Mbappe had yet another excellent performance, scoring twice, but perhaps the most notable development was Theo Hernandez lodging his second assist of the tournament from left back. Hernandez, the brother of Lucas Hernandez whose serious knee injury in the opener opened the door for the younger Hernandez to play, is a more attacking option. His insistent overlaps have been impossible for teams to deal with so far this tournament, and they mark a change in style for this France side. The team that won the World Cup four years ago was much more defensive and kept its fullbacks in reserve. It’s possible that their ultra-attacking style won’t last, but it’s a refreshing change of pace for the defending champions. Defending World Cup champs have failed to get out of the group for 20 years, but France have already clinched a spot in the knockouts. The Hernandez injury enforced a change in style and that’s a major reason why they become the first to clinch in Qatar.
Argentina won, but this was not a performance that inspires confidence. Mexico dirtied up the game, committed a raft of fouls and effectively took Argentina out of everything they wanted to do. Now, to do that, Mexico sacrificed any semblance of an attack of their own, so Argentina were never in doubt of conceding, but to win this tournament Argentina are going to need to figure out better ways to get around dogged defensive performances. It took a major moment from Messi to break the deadlock, and despite his greatness 20-yard, grass-cutting lasers don’t come along all that often.
Argentina get their second! A golazo from young Enzo Fernandez! A curler from inside the box to put this one to bed! What a hit and what a moment to score! He hugs Messi after the goal, and they cannot believe that moment of magic!
Now Argentina are playing. There is a confidence now and a swag. They are quickly moving it around, using flair passes, and they are starting to feel it. But still plenty of time for Mexico here. Argentina need to kill this game off. Alvarado comes on for Lozano, and El Tri are going for that equalizer. Watch Argentina on the counter here … a real chance with a speedy Alvarez now up top.
What a strike from Messi! 😍#FIFAWorldCup
Argentina wasn’t threatening. Mexico’s plan was working. There were no good attempts to be had, and the South American side seemed to be beyond running out of ideas. But Lionel Messi can’t be stopped. Angel Di Maria fed the ball to him in the middle 20 yards from goal with a sea of bodies in-between him and goal. Didn matter. He ripped a worm burner through the bodies and into the lower left hand corner of Memo Ochoa’s goal.
This wasn’t a goal that proved Mexico’s plan was a bad one. In fact, it’s a goal that shows exactly how well El Tri’s plan was working. But there’s a reason Argentina are one of the best clubs in the world and that reason may just keep them alive to fight another day. The question now for Mexico is do they have any attacking gear whatsoever to shift into.
I know he’s Lionel Messi, but set piece attempts from 20 yards away are not particularly high quality looks, even for the worlds greatest set piece taker. But so far that’s all Argentina has been able to generate as Messi launched one over, for his side’s second shot of the match. It was a promising bit of play which led to the free kick, as Messi got free in the middle of Mexico’s defense to run at the back line, and eventually if they keep doing that maybe something better will arise. But if all they keep getting are set pieces from 20 yards, that’s a win for El Tri, even if Argentina eventually convert one.
Clearly a low-scoring, ugly affair is the kind of game Mexico is aiming for, and it makes sense. Drawing Argentina puts them in great shape to advance. And, to be fair to Mexico, Cesar Montes’s 10th minute left-footed attempt in the box off of a set-piece delivery was probably the match’s best opportunity. But still, it’s absolutely brutal to watch.
That said, if your Argentina you’re not a stranger to playing this type of math. You’re ARGENTINA. Plenty of teams over the years have tried to kick you out of the match, and given the ease with which they qualified for the tournament this year it’s obvious they’ve successfully overcome this strategy in the past. Frequently.
Like if Argentina are one of the best teams in the tournament, they’re supposed to be able to overcome these tactics. They’ve got slick passing midfielders and possibly the best on-ball player in the history of the game. There isn’t anything unfair about what Mexico is doing. It’s brutal but a pretty basic strategy. The best way for Argentina to stop getting kicked is to go score a goal. It’s slightly mystifying that they seem utterly unable to do so.
It’s a sign of how little has happened in this match that a 20-yard free kick from Mexico elicited ooh and ahhhs. But it did. Mexico’s second shot, the dead-all opportunity from Vega is probably the best chance they’ve had, and it’s kind of the best type of chance they’re trying to create.
It took until the 40th minute for Argentina to have their first shot. Mexico also has only one shot. El Tri has made a concerted effort to muck the game up and its working, committing 10 tackles before the 35 minute mark. On current pace this match is ticketed for the sixth 0-0 draw of the tournament. A potential draw wouldn’t eliminate either side, and in fact would Mexico’s fate in their own hands. An El Tri draw followed by a win against Saudi Arabia would ensure them a place in the knockout stages. And if Argentina draw today, they’d need to win against Poland and then get some help.
So, Mexico kicking the ever loving life out of Argentina and hoping to get to full time without any of the South Americans skilled attackers breaking through is a strategy that makes sense. It’s just absolutely miserable to watch.
Welp, I expected a faster start, but it’s been ugly so far. Lots of fouls, the passing not precise and both teams are playing somewhat cautiously. Argentina are leaving a ton of space between their two center backs, who are getting wide. That could be a problem if Mexico go on the counter. Guido Rodriguez drops back between the two center backs, but they better not turn the ball over in that spot. Mexico can make them pay.
Mexico in their traditional green, and Argentina are wearing their traditional white and blue stripes. Mexico applying pressure early as Guido looks to get involved as the man to dictate the pace in the middle with the ball for the Argentines.
Argentina: The midfield of Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes and Papu Gomez did not work at all. Expect some changes there. It could be a chance for Guido Rodriguez to start at defensive midfielder, and the team needs more creativity on the ball, so Alexis Mac Allister makes a ton of sense as well. Both Exequiel Palacios and Enzo Fernandez are candidates in the midfield too, should Lionel Scaloni look to switch things up.
Mexico: Rogelio Funes Mori is expected to start in attack as El Tri look to get their first win of the tournament. Funes Mori also has the potential to make history, becoming the second player to score against his birth nation at a World Cup with his adopted nation. That had never happened up until this tournament when Breel Embolo did it for Switzerland against Cameroon.
“He’s feeling well but more than ever we need everyone,” Scaloni told the media ahead of the game. “We have no questions over [Messi’s] physical level, and emotionally he’s feeling well so no problems there.”
“Leo is doing well, as are his other teammates. We know tomorrow we have an important match and most young players know that everything will be left on the pitch. Everything depends on us — that’s why we need to give everything on the pitch.”
So much pressure on Argentina, but they looked comfortable walking into the dressing room. They appeared calm and united ahead of a massive 90 minutes. A draw would feel like a loss. Argentina need three points.
Argentina XI: Martinez; Montiel, Otamendi, Lisandro, Acuna; De Paul, Guido Rodriguez, Alexis Mac Allister; Messi, Lautaro, Di Maria.
Mexico XI: Ochoa; Gallardo, Moreno, Montres, Araujo, Kevin; Guardado, Herrera, Chavez; Lozano, Vega.
It’s massive changes for Argentina who are responding to only scoring one goal (a penalty) against Saudi Arabia by bringing Alexis Mac Allister and Guido Rodriguez into midfield. In defense Lisandro Martinez comes into the side as well and both fullbacks have been rotated. Meanwhile on the Mexican side it looks like a back three of Moreno, Araujo and Montes will hope to stifle Argentina as well as Saudi Arabia did in the tournaments opener.
There will be five changes from the Saudi Arabia game according to Ole. Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna slide into the starting XI at full-back, Lisandro Martinez starts for Cuti Romero at center back, Guido Rodriguez over Leandro Paredes in midfield, and Alexis Mac Allister replaces Papu Gomez.
Argentina XI: Martinez; Montiel, Otamendi, Lisandro, Acuna; De Paul, Guido Rodriguez, Alexis Mac Allister; Messi, Lautaro, Di Maria.
31 – Kylian Mbappé has now scored 31 goals with France, equalling Zinédine Zidane. Antoine Griezmann, who delivered an assist on the Parisian’s second goal, has also equalized Zidane with 26 assists. ZZ. #FRADAN pic.twitter.com/lUijIvlhVI
A big win for Les Bleus in Doha! Didier Deschamps’ defending champions are the first nation to reach the knockout phase in Qatar. Mbappe’s double either side of Christensen’s equalizer sends the French into the Round of 16. Also, France are the first defending champions from Europe since 1994 to not fall in the group stage. Germany was the last European defending champion to avoid that fate.
1 – France are the first nation to reach the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup. This is the first time the reigning champions have reached the round of 16 since Brazil in 2006. Champions. #FRADAN pic.twitter.com/9mArtA7klC
MBAPPE MAGIC ✨
France takes the lead in the 86th minute 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/vOulTGkSHl
Mbappe again! Griezmann with the assist and the French superstar forces it home. Mbappe levels with Pele on seven World Cup goals before the age of 24. As things stand, Les Bleus are going through to the knockout phase. Huge Group D moment in Doha.
Adrien Rabiot nearly made a goal of the tournament contender 😳 pic.twitter.com/eo9fkC4bkH
Since Denmark’s equalizer, Tchouameni’s header has been thwarted at the back by the Danes and then Rabiot flashed an acrobatic effort over the bar! Braithwaite fired narrowly wide at the other end moments later. It is a lively ending at Stadium 974, but can either side find the killer goal? It would be an historic one for Mbappe.
The French captain with a big intervention there to deny Lindstrom. Suddenly, Les Bleus are living dangerously. Deschamps needs his defense and midfield to rediscover their shape immediately. Was Giroud withdrawn too soon? It seems to have affected the structure.
DENMARK TIES IT
Andreas Christensen levels the score 🇩🇰 pic.twitter.com/62xnSH2TXv
Christensen levels it up for the Danes as he heads home in front of Rabiot. Mbappe’s goal for the lead did not last long! Big goal that for the Scandinavians. They are back in it through the Barcelona man who was perhaps lucky to have only been booked earlier.
France takes the lead 🇫🇷💪 pic.twitter.com/euJsAh69HI
Mbappe opens the scoring. The PSG man exchanges the ball with Hernandez and finishes via a slight deflection in front of Schmeichel. Big goal at a big moment from a big player. Giroud makes way just after the goal goes in. Thuram is now on. Les Bleus, for the moment, going through today. That is 30 goals in French colors for Mbappe alongside Jean-Pierre Papin and Just Fontaine.
Griezmann is going to want another chance at this 😬 pic.twitter.com/tlKhCOWNxB
Coming up on the hour mark and the Atletico Madrid man fires over after chesting the ball down to set himself well. Not an easy chance, but perhaps could have at least hit the target. Otherwise, Mbappe still looking to make a nuisance of himself with his searing pace.
The second half has started now. Will we see one of these two throw caution to the wind? Or, will they be happy playing to a draw which should still position both to advance. Rabiot has had another good game so far and is emerging as an important part of this French midfield in Qatar. Might he aid a breakthrough for Les Bleus like he did against Australia?
13 – France have 13 shots against Denmark tonight, their most without scoring at half-time of a World Cup + EURO game since Opta has had this data (1966). Container. #FRADAN pic.twitter.com/2jh25FdgFI
We are level at the break. A match of few clear chances for now, but the big talking point was whether Christensen’s booking for his foul on Mbappe should have been a red. The Danes have only really had one opening for now while the French have had a few. Mbappe wasted perhaps the best occasion when he blazed over from Dembele’s pass.
Still goalless in Doha, but things have started to get a bit chippy. France have gotten forward a few times since that Rabiot chance which Schmeichel handled, but no clear-cut openings. Denmark yet to get motoring going forward. This is definitely a game that they are aware there is little margin for error in. Cornelius then gets played in for the Danes’ first opening and fires wide without working Lloris. Minutes later, Mbappe fires over when well-positioned to pull the trigger and hit the target after being located by Dembele.
First quarter of an hour or so and it is level pegging at Stadium 974. Christensen just got shown a yellow card for hauling Mbappe down as he hit the gas. Lucky, perhaps, that he was not a bit further ahead as it would have been considered a clear scoring chance. Should it have been red? VAR not even consulted. Schmeichel alert just down to repel an effort on goal from Rabiot.
Underway between France and Denmark. If Les Bleus can win here, they will be the first team to book their place in the knockout phase. It will not be over for Denmark if they lose, but they could really use at least a draw here ahead of their clash with Australia in the final round of matches.
Not only could Olivier Giroud become France’s all-time top goal scorer if he scores today, Brazil back in 2006 were the last World Cup holders to win their opening game of the following edition. With that hurdle now successfully jumped, Les Bleus can win six consecutive games at World Cup finals for the first time in their history, but also for the first time since Spain back in 2010. Denmark can also write history, just not of the positive variety — they have drawn each of their last four World Cup matches and could become only the second nation in history to play to five straight ties in this tournament. Three clean sheets from their last four across all competitions should given them confidence of at least shutting France out.
3 – France will play their 3rd game against Denmark in 2022. This is the first time Les Bleus have played 3 matches against the same opponent in a calendar year since 1949 against Yugoslavia. Unusual. #FRADEN pic.twitter.com/osgeGLI2aw
France and Denmark have actually met fairly regularly in the lead up to Qatar with the Danish winning their two UEFA Nations League confrontations. Kasper Hjulmand’s men won 2-1 at Stade de France back in June before a 2-0 win at Parken in late September — the final international fixture before this World Cup for both of these sides. Having seen plenty of each other, expect the two teams to know what to expect from their opponents which should create a close and competitive encounter.
France made a flying start to their World Cup title defense with a 4-1 thumping of Australia. Olivier Giroud scored twice as Kylian Mbappe and Adrien Rabiot also found the net to overcome Craig Goodwin’s surprise opener. One more goal for the AC Milan man and he will become Les Bleus’ all-time top goal scorer — he currently ties with Thierry Henry on 51 goals apiece.
Denmark got off to a slow start with a goalless draw with Tunisia who have since been beaten by the Socceroos. Given their point from the Eagles of Carthage stalemate and the fact that they face the Aussies last, the Scandinavians’ hopes of a knockout phase appearance will still be alive in the event of a loss to the French. However, failing to score and beat Tunisia was not part of the plan for the Danes who find themselves in uncomfortable territory.
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