Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday’s Copa America fixture between Qatar and Argentina.
Argentina head into their Copa America encounter with Qatar aware that only victory will do if they wish to advance through to the knockout stages of the competition.
The same scenario applies to Qatar after the 2022 World Cup hosts claimed a surprise draw with Paraguay at the beginning of the tournament.
Qatar made their bow in the Copa America with seemingly little hope of making it through to the last eight, but the Asia Cup champions head into their final fixture in Group B with the opportunity to cause one of the biggest surprises on the international stage in recent years.
Despite Argentina’s lack of form, they still face an uphill task to overcome one of the most formidable nations in football, although Felix Sanchez Bas will have every confidence that his players can pull off a seismic upset.
There will be an acknowledgement that Qatar were fortunate to only lose 1-0 to Colombia earlier this week, a defeat which was inflicted courtesy of a goal netted four minutes from time.
However, few expected the competition minnows to hold out for so long, and Sanchez Bas will only take the positives from how his team performed Sao Paulo.
Avoiding defeat against Argentina may not be enough to earn a spot in the quarter-finals, but such a result would be yet another boost to a country who want to justify being provided with the privilege of hosting the next World Cup.
Qatar are currently without a win in three, although conceding just five goals in outings against Brazil, Paraguay and Colombia has proven that they are heading in the right direction.
Facing an Argentina team who have their backs against the wall could be one match too far, but it will be the opposition who may become engulfed with nerves should Qatar make it to half time without conceding a goal.
Qatar adopted a similar strategy in their friendly win over Switzerland at the back end of 2018, and it is a result which will undoubtedly provide them with the belief that they can heap further misery on Sunday’s opponents.
Recent form: DL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLDL
The appointment of Lionel Scaloni was supposed to lead to an upturn in fortunes for Argentina ahead of their bid to get their hands back on the Copa America trophy.
However, despite a run of just one defeat in nine matches heading into this competition, La Albiceleste are one bad result away from an early exit in what will be perceived as calamitous circumstances.
Argentina’s supporters will feel that their side should make light work of Qatar, but they have been provided with little encouragement during the games with Colombia and Paraguay.
While dominating for large parts against the former in their opening fixture, they again lacked a cutting edge in attack despite the presence of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero and ultimately suffered a 2-0 defeat.
That resulted in Aguero being dropped from the side to face Paraguay, but it took a spot kick from Messi for Argentina to earn a share of the spoils on Wednesday night.
This campaign is – so far, at least – similar to their poor showing at last summer’s World Cup, although the situation was retrieved with a edgy win over Nigeria in their final group game.
Scaloni will take heart from the fact that his players have history of showing fight in the face of adversity, but he will also acknowledge that failure to see off Qatar may lead to the termination of his contract.
It is a case of high stakes all round for those associated with Argentina, and any kind of win may just prove to be the catalyst for a prolonged run at this tournament.
Recent form: LD
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWLD
Scaloni will almost certainly hand a recall to Aguero after his contribution from the substitutes’ bench against Paraguay.
That may result in Lautaro Martinez being selected among the replacements, although do not rule out a 4-3-3 formation with the Inter Milan striker featuring alongside Messi and Aguero.
Roberto Pereyra could find his place at risk, but the Watford man may benefit if Scaloni goes with a 4-4 2 strategy on Sunday evening.
Qatar could go with an unchanged lineup, with Almoez Ali provided with the responsibility of leading the attack.
Qatar possible starting lineup:
Sheeb; Rawi, Khoukhi, Salman; Miguel, Haydos, Madibo, Hatim, Hassan; Afif, Ali
Argentina possible starting lineup:
Armani; Casco, Otamendi, Pezzella, Tagliafico; Pereyra, Lo Celso, Paredes, Acuna; Messi, Aguero
Head To Head
Sunday’s encounter will represent just the second contest between the two nations, with the first taking place back in 2005.
On that occasion, Argentina registered a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Juan Roman Riquelme, Julio Cruz and Roberto Ayala.
We say: Qatar 1-4 Argentina
Argentina may have struggled in their opening two fixtures, but we are expecting a clinical performance from Messi and co. Qatar were fortunate not to concede more goals against Colombia, and their luck may run out in Porto Alegre.