Group C: Mexico to face Lewandowski and Messi

Lionel Messi and Argentina will face El Tri in their second group stage game in the Qatar World Cup. (Photo by Mike Stone/LatinContent via Getty Images)
Lionel Messi and Argentina will face El Tri in their second group stage game in the Qatar World Cup. (Photo by Mike Stone/LatinContent via Getty Images) /
El Tri draw
El Tri striker Raúl Jiménez will hope to repeat his heroics of Nov. 13, 2017, when he scored the lone goal for Mexico against Poland. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images) /

El Tri will kick off its World Cup campaign against Poland on Nov. 22 followed by a clash against always difficult Argentina on Nov. 26. Mexico will close out its Group C schedule against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 30.

The opener against Poland and Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski will be the critical match for coach Gerardo Martino and “los tricolores” because Argentina has dominated Mexico, knocking El Tri out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

El Tri climbed to No. 9 in the latest FIFA world rankings but they have not been playing like a Top 10 team and might not be favored against Poland (No. 29 in the FIFA rankings).

If Mexico loses to the rugged European squad (second-place finishers to England in their UEFA qualifying group), their World Cup could virtually be over since Saudi Arabia will not be expected to collect a single point.

A Poland win in the opener means Lewandowski & Co. would likely have 6 points after its first two matches, forcing El Tri to defeat Argentina in its second match to maintain any hope of advancing out of the group. Mexico has defeated Argentina only five times in 35 encounters (5-14-16) and only once in an official match (a 1-0 triumph in a 2004 Copa América group stage match).

The last time El Tri faced Poland was in 2017 with Mexico claiming a 1-0 win in a friendly played in Gdansk. Lewandowski did not feature in that match. Raúl Jiménez scored the lone goal (in minute 13), collecting a ball from Javier Aquino and firing past Wojciech Szczesny.

The two teams have split the difference in eight meetings, each winning three times with two draws. The only official match the Group C rivals have played came back in the 1978 World Cup. Poland won 3-1 in a group stage game played in Rosario.

Mexico will finish group play in Qatar at the same time Poland and Argentina square off, hoping that a victory over Saudi Arabia will lift them past either the Europeans or the South Americans. El Tri has never lost to the Saudis, boasting a 5-1-0 record including three wins in FIFA Confederations Cup matches (2-0 in 1995, 5-0 in 1997, and 5-1 in 1999).

As for other Concacaf teams, the United States (ranked No. 15) was drawn into Group B with England (No. 5), Iran (No. 21) and the winner of a European playoff involving Ukraine (No. 27), Wales (No. 18) and Scotland (No. 39). Canada – the winner of the Concacaf qualifying tournament – will face world No. 2 Belgium, Croatia (No. 16) and Morocco (No. 24) in Group F.

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Costa Rica could join the Big Three from North America by winning a one-game playoff against New Zealand on June 13 in Qatar. If the Ticos (No. 31) qualify for the World Cup, they’ll find themselves in Group E with Spain (No. 7), Germany (No. 12) and Japan (No. 23).