The FIFA World Cup is almost upon us, and Group C has some talented teams. This World Cup this year will be held in November and December because it is being hosted in Qatar. A summer World Cup in the Middle East would be unrealistic given the warm temperatures in the region. Domestic club football will take a break during this period.
Argentina are the clear favorites in Group C and are the reigning Copa America champions. Poland are a talented team, but Mexico will feel they stand a good chance of qualifying. Saudi Arabia will have to punch above their weight. Let’s take a look at one key player from each team in Group C who will have to play a crucial role for their country.
#1 Lionel Messi – Argentina – Group favourites￼
When it comes to key players in the Argentina squad, one cannot look past Lionel Messi. They may have Paulo Dybala, Angel Di Maria, Cristian Romero, etc, but Messi is one of the best players ever. He has made 162 appearances for Argentina, scoring 86 goals. Although he is 35, he is still playing at a very high level.
For Paris Saint Germain this season, he has six goals and eight assists in 11 appearances. This will most likely be Messi’s last World Cup, but Argentina probably stand their best chance of winning the tournament since Messi’s debut in 2005. Qualification from the group stages should not be a problem. While Argentina have enough quality to go all the way, Messi will be key.
#2 Salem Al-Dawsari – Saudi Arabia
Salem Al-Dawsari has scored 15 goals for Saudi Arabia in 49 appearances and at 31, is one of the most experienced players in the squad. He plays as a left-winger for Al-Hilal SFC in the Saudi Arabian Professional League. It is fair to say that on paper, it looks very difficult for Saudi Arabia to progress from the group stages. Al-Dawsari is a good player and impressed in the Club World Cup, but him alone might not be enough.
The positive for Saudi Arabia is that the World Cup is taking place in their region, so they will have plenty of support from the fans. Football is full of underdog stories and any team can cause an upset on a given day. If the team can progress through the group or even finish third, it will be a massive accomplishment for them.
#3 Raúl Jiménez – Mexico
Raúl Jiménez is the latest Mexican striker that is expected to do well for his country at a World Cup. At 31, he has scored 29 goals in 96 appearances for his country. Jiménez is not a talisman-like Messi, and the responsibility in the Mexico squad is spread among players like Hirving Lozano, Guillermo Ochoa, Andres Guardado, etc.
Jiménez though, is the most lethal goal scorer on the team. The Mexican has recently struggled with fitness and hasn’t been able to replicate the form he showed before his serious head injury. If Jiménez can find his scoring touch again, Mexico will stand a good chance of progressing from the group stages.
#4 Robert Lewandowski – Poland
Robert Lewandowski has been one of the world’s best strikers for several seasons. The 34-year-old recently signed for Barcelona from Bayern Munich and has continued his goal-scoring form in Spain. He has scored 11 goals in eight appearances for his new club. With the way Bayern Munich have started the season, it looks like he has been a massive loss for the German giants.
Lewandowski has scored 76 goals in 132 appearances for his country. Poland have some exciting strikers like Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piatek, but Lewandowski is still the main man up front. Poland might not have a star-studded team, but they have players who are regular starters in Europe’s best leagues. Lewandowski, though, will be key to progressing out of the group.