World Cup: Group C preview and best bets

By Nigel Seeley  (VSIN.com) 

November 17, 2022 06:10 PM
USATSI_19443640

The 2022 World Cup is finally here, and VSiN's soccer handicapper Nigel Seeley has picks, predictions and best bets for every group as part of the VSiN World Cup Guide.

Here is his Group C preview for Argentina, Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia:

Odds to win the group

Argentina-250

Poland +400

Mexico +450

Saudi Arabia +2200

Argentina

Argentina heads into this World Cup as the most in-form nation in the world.

Lionel Scaloni’s superb squad have posted 24 victories and 11 draws across friendly matches, World Cup 2022 qualifying and, of course, the 2021 Copa América, a trophy it lifted for the 15th time last summer.

Argentina may go into this tournament as the third-ranked team in the world on FIFA rankings, but it is the team to beat, heading into Qatar as the tournament second favorite at +600. It has strength in all departments and remains one of the world’s soccer powerhouses. Argentina is a strong favorite to win Group C at -250, and it is difficult to see any other outcome.

Key players

Lionel Messi

The question everyone asks is: Are you Team Messi or Team Ronaldo? I have always been firmly in the Messi camp.

He is a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, four-time Champions League winner, 10-time Spanish champion with one Copa America and so much more in his outrageously successful career. The only thing missing from the Atomic Flea’s trophy cabinet is a World Cup winner’s medal, and he has his best chance ever to get that over the next month. Is this the time the great man finally gets his hands on the trophy he craves?

Messi will go down as one of the greatest to play the great game, and he will head into this World Cup in tip-top form and not after a long hard season. The captain has 90 goals in 164 games for his country and will increase that tally by the end of the tournament. Is it his destiny to end his career with that elusive World Cup winner’s medal? There have been critics over the years from many quarters who have claimed the great man has disappointed on this biggest of stages. He will want to silence those once and for all.

Lautaro Martinez

Martinez is one of the first names on the team sheet for both club Inter Milan and country since strikers Aguero and Higuain have both retired from international soccer. He has scored 21 goals in 40 games for the country and should add to his goal-scoring tally during the World Cup, especially with the service and assists he will receive from Messi. Now 25, Martinez has been linked with a move to the EPL and, given his all-round game, it is easy to see why.

Prediction

I firmly believe Argentina will cruise to a win in Group C and justify odds of -250 with a 100 percent winning group record.

Poland

The 26th-ranked nation, Poland heads into its eighth World Cup finals. Poland qualified for the 2022 World Cup after defeating Sweden 2-0 in the UEFA playoffs and will be playing consecutive World Cups for the first time since 2002-2006.

Captain and top goal scorer Robert Lewandowski is the biggest attraction for Poland and by far one of the best players in the world. In the World Cup, though, he has never scored a goal in the three games he played in 2018, which is a major concern for his nation’s hopes of qualification.

Key player

Robert Lewandowski

He is a true legend in Poland with an impressive CV containing 18-time top goal scorer, two-time FIFA men’s player of the year, 10-time German champion and a Champions League winner. Lewandowski, 34, remains one of the biggest stars going to the World Cup. Despite his advancing years, he remains in superb form. His move to the mighty Barcelona has seen him having more goals than games. This will most likely be his last World Cup, and he will hope to score a goal in the tournament (for the first time) and get his nation out of the group stage. If Poland is to have any chance of qualifying, Lewandowski must have a strong tournament and what a bookend to an amazing career if he does.

Prediction

I think it will be tight between Poland and Mexico for second in the group. For Poland to qualify, it needs Lewandowski to end his World Cup goal drought. With that incredible pressure on the veteran’s shoulders, I believe Poland is likely to miss out and finish in third place.

Mexico

Mexico always seems to perform well on the biggest stage, and as the 13th-ranked country will be looking to make the knockout stages yet again.

Mexico faced Peru and Colombia in November to prepare for the World Cup and didn’t impress in either the win over Peru or the loss to Columbia. I am expecting the hot and humid conditions to suit the Mexicans far more than Poland, their group rival for qualification.

This is Mexico’s 17th appearance at the World Cup with only Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Italy appearing more often. Mexico has a habit of qualifying from its group, then crashing out at the last 16 stage. That has happened in the last eight World Cups, but that proven experience of knowing how to qualify from the group stages will serve the Mexicans well in Qatar. They will be confident they can repeat the pattern and qualify from this group.

Key player

Hirving Lozano

Lozano has appeared on a consistent basis in both Serie A and starred in the Champions League for a very good Napoli side. He has looked confident at the highest levels.

Napoli is at the top in Serie A and qualified as a group winner in the Champions League, which featured Liverpool. Lozano debuted for Mexico in 2016 and since then has played 59 games with 16 goals. Lozano is a tricky winger and is the bright spark in this Mexican squad. If, as I expect, Mexico makes it out of Group C, Lozano will need to be at the top of his game. He is the player who has that extra attacking flair and can break down other teams and score, or set up the goal that can make the difference in a tight game.

Prediction

This will be close between Mexico and Poland to make it out of Group C as the second team to qualify behind Argentina. The factors that make me get behind Mexico are firstly its experience in the humid conditions. Mexico has an excellent record of qualification in World Cups and knows how to get the job done. While he has had a great career, there has to be doubts about Lewandowski’s scoring record in the World Cup. That’s why I give Mexico the edge over Poland for that second spot.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries that has warm-up games. Saudi Arabia plays three games before the World Cup against Iceland, Croatia and Panama. The Saudis are one of the lowest-ranked nations in the tournament at 51 despite having qualified for an impressive total of six World Cup tournaments (1994,1998, 2002, 2006, 2018 and 2022). Their best performance was in 1994, when they reached the round of 16. There is little chance of that this time despite being used to the humid conditions. I still think they will finish bottom of the group.

Key player

Salem Al-Dawsari

The 31-year-old winger made his international debut for Saudi Arabia 10 years ago and continues to perform at high levels with club Al Hilal FC and internationally. Last season in the Saudi League, he had nine goals and five assists in just 21 games. Given his fitness and skills, he was once described by a journalist as a new breed of modern Saudi player. He has featured 67 times scoring 17 goals for his country and will be a key player for the Green Falcons. They will look to get him on the ball as much as possible, but it may not be enough for them to be competitive in this group.

Prediction

This is a tough group and Saudi Arabia is clearly the weakest nation in Group C. Despite knowing the conditions and having good support, the Green Falcons will finish at the bottom of the group with three defeats.

Best Bets

Argentina 1st, Mexico 2nd +200

Mexico to qualify for the last 16 -110

Saudi Arabia to finish bottom -250

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