World Cup 2022 preview: Group C

We take a closer look at Group C, featuring Copa America winners Argentina, group stage experts Mexico, Lewandowski-led Poland and underdogs Saudi Arabia.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 18 November 2022 - 2.45pm
Lionel Messi

There is a clear favourite and a clear underdog in Group C, with Argentina expected to progress comfortably into the last 16 and Saudi Arabia the potential whipping boys amongst an otherwise strong group of teams.

The interest, then, is likely to be in the battle for second place between Poland, who boast the prolific goal scoring of Robert Lewandowski up front, and Mexico, looking to reach the last 16 of the World Cup for an eighth successive tournament.

Here's how each team reached the finals, as well as insight into their best players, manager and strengths and weaknesses.

Watch the stars of the World Cup!

BT Sport is the only place to watch live Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and much more, featuring the biggest names and breakout stars of Qatar all season long!

Group C

Argentina

Argentina

FIFA ranking: 3rd

Squad's top scorer: 91 goals / 165 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 2nd (CONMEBOL)

Best World Cup finish: Winners (1978, 1986)

Route to qualification:

Argentina qualified second from their South American group, behind Brazil. They finished 11 points ahead of third-placed Uruguay. 

Star man:

Lionel Messi appears back to his best at Paris Saint-Germain since Christophe Galtier arrived in the French capital over the summer. The 35-year-old is also just 10 goals away from 100 for his country as he prepares for his fifth World Cup. 

Manager:

West Ham fans will remember Lionel Scaloni as the right-back part of their 2006 FA Cup final starting XI.

Scaloni's post-playing ascent has been rapid, going from being appointed Sevilla assistant coach in October 2016 to reaching Argentina's top job in November 2018, succeeding the man who took him into the national-team set-up, Jorge Sampaoli. 

Strengths:

The depth of attacking options. A front three of Messi, Lisandro Martinez and Angel Di Maria is not too shabby, but Scaloni also has Paulo Dybala, Joaquin Correa and Manchester City's Julian Alvarez in reserve, along with Fiorentina forward Nicolas Gonzalez.

The midfield technicians of Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo De Paul are also extremely adept in possession.

Weaknesses:

A lack of World Cup experience is the obvious potential Achilles heel. Only seven of the 26-man squad have previously been chosen to play at the tournament, and just three - Otamendi, Di Maria and Messi - are expected to start. 

Lionel Messi - Argentina

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

FIFA ranking: 51

Squad's top scorer: Salem Al-Dawsari - 17 goals / 71 apps

World Cup qualifying position: Third-round group winners (AFC)

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (1994)

Route to qualification:

Saudi Arabia received a bye into the second round of Asian qualifying and swept to the top of their group, and then reached the summit in their third-round group, finishing a point clear of Japan

Star man:

Saleh Al-Shehri is the team's star striker with 10 goals from just 19 caps. Al-Shehri plays for current Saudi champions Al-Hilal. 

Manager:

Frenchman Herve Renard is a hero in Zambia after guiding the southern African nation to the their first (and so far only) AFCON title.

Renard took over in 2019 and has suffered some setbacks - notably a pitiful Arab Cup exit last year - but his side are unbeaten in seven games, including wins over Iceland and North Macedonia, as well as draws with Ecuador, USA and Albania. 

Strengths:

Their defence is extremely solid, having conceded just twice in that seven-game run. Even when they lose, they rarely let in more than one. 

Weaknesses:

As you might have guessed, their weaknesses lie at the other end of the field. For all their defensive steel, Al-Shehri is the team's only real outlet. 

Salem Al-Dawsari - Saudi Arabia

Mexico

Mexico

FIFA ranking: 13

Squad's top scorer: Raul Jimenez - 29 goals / 94 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 2nd in third-round group stage (CONCACAF)

Best World Cup finish: Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)

Route to qualification:

Mexico came second in their CONCACAF group, behind Canada on goal difference. 

Star man:

Imposing holding midfielder Edson Alvarez plays his club football at Ajax and was wanted by Chelsea in the summer, even skipping training in an attempt to force a move before falling back in line with head coach Alfred Schreuder. Loves doing the dirty work for El Tri. 

Manager:

Argentinian Gerardo Martino took over in 2019 and has experienced triumph and heartbreak since then, guiding his side to the 2019 Gold Cup against the USA, only to lose that title two years later to the same opponents.

Strengths:

Raul Jimenez's ability to both get on the end of crosses and link up with Alexis Vega and Hirving Lozano is invaluable to how Mexico play, and much is likely to depend on the performances of the 31-year-old. 

Weaknesses:

If Jimenez doesn't fire, they don't have any proven options to replace him, although Rogelio Funes Mori, brother of former Everton centre-back Ramiro, has six goals from 16 caps, all of which have come this year or last.

Eric Alonso
Raul Jimenez - Mexico

Poland

Poland

FIFA ranking: 26

Squad's top scorer: Robert Lewandowski - 76 goals / 134 apps

World Cup qualifying position: Play-off winners against Sweden (UEFA)

Best World Cup finish: Third place (1974, 1982)

Route to qualification:

Poland came second to England in their group, subsequently receiving a play-off walkover against Russia before Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski secured a 2-0 win over Sweden to book their place in Qatar. 

Star man:

Perhaps an obvious choice, but Lewandowski continues to astonish for both club and country. He bagged the European Golden Boot in the last two seasons and has been on fire for Barcelona having swapped the Allianz Arena for the Nou Camp. He also got nine goals in qualifying.

Manager:

Paulo Sousa was sacked at the end of the group campaign after failing to finish as one of the seeded second-placed sides, leading to significant financial losses for the Polish Football Association.

Successor Czeslaw Michniewicz secured the victory over Sweden, but has since struggled in Nations League matches, albeit against the Netherlands and Belgium.

Strengths:

Lewandowski's skills are well known, but Poland also possess extremely promising young players like ball-playing centre-back Jakub Kiwior and sprightly wing-back Nicola Zalewski, who has impressed at Roma under Jose Mourinho.

On Zalewski's opposite flank, Przemyslaw Frankowski is impressing for Lens, while Napoli central midfielder Zielinski has a terrific engine. 

Weaknesses:

None of the back three of Kiwior, Kamil Glik and Jan Bednarek are quick, leaving the team potentially vulnerable on the counter-attack. The team play deep due to this lack of pace at the back, meaning Lewandowski needs to occupy more of a hold-up role than the central striker position he is most familiar with.

Robert Lewandowski - Poland