The stage is set, and on November 20th, the FIFA World Cup will kick off in Qatar. For the first time ever, the world’s biggest tournament is being played in November, bringing even more unpredictability to an already unpredictable sport – such as injuries.
Due to the tournament being played mid-season, many nations will be dealing with injuries caused by club soccer. Star players such as N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba, and Reece James are already confirmed out of the tournament, while others such as Kyle Walker and Alphonso Davies are racing to be fit in time. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle in the hot Middle Eastern desert, and although it’s bound to be a strange World Cup, a month of incredible soccer awaits us.
Let’s take a look at the group that everyone will have their eyes on, Group C.
Odds to win Group C: Argentina (-250), Mexico (+470), Poland (+470), Saudi Arabia (+2900)
Argentina (-250): The whole world will be watching this group because the best player will be playing in it. Attending his fifth World Cup, Lionel Messi leads Argentina (-250) as favorites to qualify from Group C. Messi is on a mission this year, starting the season with 26 goal contributions in just 19 appearances, and you can bet he has been saving his best stuff for the biggest stage. However, this time around, the Argentinian National Team is a lot more than just Messi.
The Albicelestes are on a 35-game unbeaten streak dating back to 2019 and won the most recent Copa America beating Brazil in the Final on home turf. They then went on to beat Italy in the third-ever Finalissima. Argentina is one to watch for the whole tournament, not just to win Group C and get their first chance to put on a show against Saudi Arabia.
Mexico (+470): Mexico is somewhat of a group stage legend. They have advanced to the Round of 16 in seven straight World Cups and come into Qatar with a very experienced core. Despite their recent success, oddsmakers believe they are equal to Poland, as both teams have the same chances of making it to the next round. Andres Guardado will captain the side in his fifth World Cup. At the same time, veterans Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez, and Guillermo Ochoa will lean on their experience to lead El Tri to their eighth consecutive Round of 16 at the World Cup.
Poland (+470): No one knows what to expect from Poland. The team has struggled to find an identity in recent years and still doesn’t have a go-to lineup on which to rely. Inconsistent performances from their midfield will have to be tidied up if they want a chance to go far in this tournament.
Their opening game against Mexico is crucial and should determine how far the team can go. Leaning on Robert Lewandowski, if Poland can secure a win in their opening match against Mexico, it should propel them into the Round of 16, as their second match will be against an underwhelming Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia (+2900): Saudi Arabia opens up their campaign against Argentina on the tournament’s third day. Making their sixth-ever appearance at the World Cup, Saudi Arabia isn’t expected to make waves in group C. They have only made it past the group stages once in the World Cup, which was in 1994. Saudi Arabia relies on defense and counterattacks, conceding only four goals in their last eight games. However, this team can barely score and should find it tough against the rest of group C.
Players to watch from Group C:
Lionel Messi (ARG)
Lautaro Martinez (ARG)
Cristian Romero (ARG)
Emiliano Martinez (ARG)
Hirving Lozano (MEX)
Guillermo Ochoa (MEX)
Jesus Manuel Corona (MEX)
Robert Lewandowski (POL)
Piotr Zielinski (POL)
Matty Cash (POL)
Salem Al-Dawsari (KSA)
Salman Al-Faraj (KSA)
Odds to qualify from Group C: Argentina (-1100), Mexico (-120), Poland (-125), Saudi Arabia (+650)
Best Bets for Group C:
Mexico to Qualify to Round of 16 (-120)
I’m going to back history on this one and back Mexico to make it to their eighth consecutive Round of 16 in the World Cup. Using the squad’s experience, Mexico will do just enough to get past the group stages. I can see them manipulating the tournament’s opening game to frustrate Poland. Even a draw in that game can be enough to go through, as Mexico can use their final match against Saudi Arabia to secure their spot.
Lionel Messi to win the Golden Ball (+1000)
The Golden Ball is awarded to the best player of the tournament – and that will be Lionel Messi. As I mentioned, Messi is in one of the best forms of his career and has turned back the clock just in time for the World Cup. He won the Golden Ball in 2014 despite not winning the tournament, and with Argentina being one of the favorites to win it all this year, Messi is in a prime position to win this award again. With this being his last World Cup, +1000 is terrific value for the greatest player of all time to say goodbye on the biggest stage in the world.
Argentina to win the World Cup (+550)
It’s always hard to predict the outright winner, but I would be crazy not to take this value. Take Argentina to win the whole thing at +550. Heading in with a 35-game unbeaten streak, Argentina is on a mission to get Messi a World Cup. This is the best national team Messi has been a part of. On paper, the attack doesn’t seem as potent as in years past, but on the pitch, the difference is clear – this Argentinian team was not built for Messi to do EVERYTHING. Instead, it was built to complement his skill set. Their attack can score goals without him, led by Lautaro. The midfield can create opportunities using the spaces Messi creates. The defense is one of the stingiest in the world. This team is very well-rounded and has the experience to reach the tournament’s final stages. On top of everything? They have the best player of all time.
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