The top 32 teams from around the world are getting ready to battle it out over 28 days at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. As the countdown to the tournament is on, here's our preview of the teams drawn in Group C – Argentina, Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. Going by the 2021 Ballon d'Or, Group C features the world's best two players - Argentina's Lionel Messi and Poland's Robert Lewandowski.
Even though Argentina are the group's favourites, Poland and Mexico are no pushovers. Saudi Arabia are among the lowest-ranked sides in the whole tournament, but they have beaten the likes of Japan and Australia in the qualification rounds.
Here's our preview of the teams drawn in Group C:
FIFA ranking: 3
Head coach: Lionel Scaloni
Argentina will arrive in Qatar with their confidence high after winning the 2021 Copa America final against hosts Brazil, and the 'Finalissima' (clash between European champions and Copa America champions) against Italy. Qatar 2022 is likely to be Messi's last chance to add a World Cup to his impressive trophy cabinet. He has been in sparkling form for his club Paris Saint-Germain in the French league. Scaloni, who was appointed manager on an interim basis, has been able to build a competent and cohesive unit. Argentina are now unbeaten in their last 35 games and are just two shy of Italy's world record unbeaten run of 37 set between 2018 and 2012. However, breaking Italy's record may not be their priority in Qatar. They will be looking to win seven matches and give Messi a fitting farewell.
The Copa America triumph has boosted the team's confidence. With Rodrigo De Paul pulling the strings for them from the middle, Messi will be able to create space and play with freedom. Since Lautaro Martínez will be deployed as the lone striker, Messi can look for pockets of space between the midfield and attack.
Injuries to Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala dealt a big blow to Argentina's World Cup preparations. The duo will now be racing against time to get fully fit. Defending set-pieces is clearly a major weakness. They may struggle against teams with aerial prowess.
Canada last played in a World Cup in 1986, when Argentina were crowned champions under Diego Maradona. Time will tell whether Canada's presence in Qatar 2022 is a good omen for Argentina!
FIFA ranking: 13
Head coach: Gerardo Martino
Having qualified for seven World Cups in a row, Mexico is a familiar face at the tournament. In all the last seven editions, they progressed comfortably through the group stages before exiting at the pre-quarterfinal stage. The other teams in the Group C will be wary of Mexico as they have the wherewithal to beat any team on a given day. Football fans will be remembering their surprise win against the mighty Germans in the 2018 edition. Led by former Barcelona and Argentina coach Gerardo Martino, Mexico's defensive approach will surely frustrate their opponents.
Mexico have some experienced campaigners in their ranks. This will be the fifth World Cup appearance for captain Andres Guardado and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Midfielder Hector Herrera and center-back Hector Moreno are vastly experienced with over 100 international matches under their belt.
Sevilla winger Jesus Corona will not recover from his ankle injury in time to play for them. Striker Raul Jimenez is yet to get back in form after suffering a serious head injury in November, 2020, that sidelined him for several months.
Mexico holds the record for playing in the maximum number of World Cups without winning the title. Mexico has competed in the tournament since the inaugural 1930 World Cup, and has entered ever since, for a total of 16 tournaments. Their best result – a quarterfinal berth - came when they hosted the tournament in 1986 and 1970.
FIFA ranking: 26
Head coach: Czesław Michniewicz
Poland will be playing in their eighth World Cup. Their best performance came in the 1974 and the 1982 editions when they finished third. Poland have not got past the group stage since 1986 when they lost to Brazil in the last 16. Polish fans believe that Robert Lewandowski, who won the Best FIFA Men's Player Award for the second year in succession, will lead from the front to restore their past glory. However, they struggled to qualify for Qatar 2022 and had to take the play-off route to get to the World Cup. Their confidence took a beating after suffering a 1-6 defeat at the hands of Belgium in the UEFA Nations League.
Poland will be hoping a red-hot Lewandowski will continue his sparkling form in Qatar. The other two in their attack, Krzysztof Piątek and Arkadiusz Milik, are also proven goal-scorers.
Kamil Glik is a towering presence in their backline, but their midfield lacks quality. Napoli's Piotr Zielinski is the only notable name in their midfield.
A Polish player has won the 'Golden Boot' award in the World Cup. Grzegorz Lato became the top-scorer in the 1974 edition by netting seven goals, including one against Brazil in the third place play-off.
FIFA ranking: 51
Head coach: Herve Renard
Saudi Arabia will be looking to put up a good performance at the World Cup to be held in their neighbourhood. They arrive in Qatar after a successful Asian qualifying campaign where they topped the group consisting of Japan and Australia. The draw has not been kind to Saudi as their first game is against favourites Argentina. The 54-year-old Renard is the only coach to have led two different national teams to African Cup titles; Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
Saudi will be 'feeling at home' in Qatar. Since most of the players in the squad play for the Al Hilal SFC in the local league, Saudi sport a settled look.
Saudi lack a quality striker in their ranks. They are overly dependent on winger Salem al-Dawsari to score goals. If he fails to hit the back of the net, Saudi will be in deep trouble.
Saudi Arabia's 1-7 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2002 edition is one of the worst losses in World Cup history.