It has been 36 years since the last time Maradona and the Argentinian stood at the top of the football world. Nowadays, Lionel Messi is known as a GOAT without a World Cup trophy despite he was so close to it in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany. The Barcelona legend claimed that the 2022 tournament in Qatar is his last FIFA World Cup. That means this is the last opportunity to shut down any comparison between him with any other footballers in the world.
But the squad led by captain Lionel Messi, which is among the most favorite team in this tournament, will face a challenge named Saudi Arabia in the World Cup opener. Although Saudi Arabia’s national team has only made it past the group stage once, in 1994, the representative from the Middle East always makes a lot of trouble for who they’ve matched up.
Best finish: Winners (1978, 1986)
Argentina’s two triumphs at the World Cup happened over an eight-year period, with their first in 1978 motivated by Mario Kempes who scored twice in the final to beat the Netherlands 3-1 in Buenos Aires.
Kempes, who won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals, was also rewarded with the Golden Ball and he is one of only three Argentina players to win the accolade, preceding Diego Maradona in 1986 and Lionel Messi in 2014. Indeed, Maradona was the standout performer at the 1986 World Cup, with Argentina beating West Germany 3-2 in the final held in Mexico City.
Kempes is known for winning the Golden Boot after scoring six goals and later being rewarded the Golden Ball. He is one of only three Argentina footballers to win the accolade, preceding Diego Maradona in 1986 and Lionel Messi in 2014. Actually, Maradona had a blow-minded performance at the 1986 World Cup, with the 3-2 victory over West Germany in the final taking place in Mexico City. Germany eventually got revenge with two 1-0 wins in 1990 and 2014.
La Albiceleste has taken part in 16 of the previous 21 World Cups, with the 1970 edition being the only time they were unsuccessful to qualify, while they withdrew from the tournaments in 1938, 1950, and 1954.
Argentina who has only failed to progress from the group stage once (2002), has won 47, drawn 10, and lost 24 of their 81 World Cup matches in sum.
Best finish: Round of 16 (1994)
As mentioned, Saudi Arabia made their sixth appearance in the finals of a World Cup, and they have been eliminated in the group stage in 4 of their previous 5 participations.
The national team of Saudi Arabia failed to win a game in the 1998, 2002, and 2006 tournaments; they made a record one victory at the 2018 World Cup in the game against Egypt, but it was not enough to qualify from Group A.
Saudi Arabia already get the round of 16 back in 1994, though, which is their best performance at a World Cup to mention.
Having finished second in Group F, which contained victories over Morocco and Belgium, the Green Falcons qualified for the next round in the second position, but their journey was finished by Sweden in the first knockout round.
In the tournament, Saudi Arabia became only the second Arab team to get into the round of 16 of a World Cup after Morocco, who had handled progress to that stage in 1986.