We compared Australia and Argentina's first XI's and choose who would make our combined team
Let’s not sugar coat it, the Socceroos have a mammoth task ahead of them when they go up against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
But Australia wouldn’t be at this stage if they didn’t have stellar performers in their side that could potentially make the difference.
Ahead of the crucial clash, we’re going to give a like-for-like comparison of the Australia and Argentina first elevens, and who we would pick in our combined XI.
And yes, there may be instances where our Aussie bias comes into play - let us have it.
Emiliano Martinez vs Mat Ryan
Two stellar number ones between the sticks.
Emiliano Martinez had a tricky start to his tournament conceding two against Saudi Arabia but has kept two quality clean sheets in the final two games of the group.
Mathew Ryan may very well be a busy man up against Argentina. But his calm and commanding presence is exactly why he is the captain of the Socceroos. He could be the difference for Australia.
These two will be in and about the action throughout the game, but we’d have to give our tip to Matty Ryan between the two number ones to make more of the difference. The influence he has and the leadership qualities he possesses are invaluable.
Nahuel Molina vs Milos Degenek
The Argentinian side hasn’t seemed to have nailed down their first-choice right back, but based on his last performance we’ll have to give the spot to Nahuel Molina. While he provided an assist against Poland, his offensive attributes leave a bit to be desired, however, he is an excellent tackler and will bring stability.
Similarly for Australia, the Socceroos have gone through three right-backs throughout the group stages, however, Degenek’s performance against Denmark makes him our pick here. He kept the likes of Jesper Lindstrom and Martin Braithwaite quiet against the European side.
No clear difference maker between these two, but Molina may just edge it.
Cristian Romero vs Harry Souttar
Cristian Romero earned a heap of praise for his display against Poland. The Tottenham player kept Robert Lewandowski quiet, however, he was dropped for the matchup with Mexico.
Harry Souttar has arguably been the Socceroos' best performer at this World Cup. He’s become a household name in Australia with his leadership at the back and ability to make that goal-saving tackle at a crucial time. He’ll face a tough test against Lionel Messi, but with the way he’s been playing don’t be surprised if he shuts the Argentine down.
Expect Harry Souttar to make a huge impact on this game and make our XI.
Lisandro Martinez vs Kye Rowles
Lisandro Martinez has arguably been the best defender in the Premier League this season, however, Lionel Scaolini has at times opted for Nicolas Otamendi ahead of him. We expect him to be picked for the game against Grahm Arnold’s men and make for some aggressive battles against the likes of Mitchell Duke.
Kye Rowles has formed a safe and reliable partnership with Harry Souttar at the back. Although the pair let in four against the world champions France, they’ve been solid since and kept two clean sheets that for all intents and purposes are the reason we’re in the Round of 16. He puts his body on the line time and time again and is a great option at the back.
This is a tough one to pick between the two, but based on club form we have to pick Lisandro Martinez here.
Marcos Acuna vs Aziz Behich
Marcos Acuna has gotten the nod over Nicolas Tagliafico in the last two group games so expect him to start here again. He’s a real attacking presence on the left side, however, may get caught out defensively with the likes of Matthew Leckie pushing down the right-hand side as he does.
Aziz Behich has been a key performer in Australia’s backline and a vital reason for our two clean sheets in the group stages. Sometimes his final delivery leaves much to be desired, but his link-up play with Craig Goodwin adds another dimension to the Socceroos’ left side.
Both left-backs can make the difference in the attacking third, but based on the last couple of performances we’re giving Behich the edge here.
Rodrigo De Paul vs Aaron Mooy
The two workhorses in the middle of that pitch.
Rodrigo De Paul has been a consistent force for Argentina for close to 50 caps now. While he hasn’t exactly shone so far this World Cup, he’s clearly a world-class player and one that can dictate the pace of the game.
Aaron Mooy, unfortunately, struggled against France, but since then he’s gone from strength to strength. He ran the game against Tunisia and played a pivotal role against Denmark. His distribution is top-notch, and his calmness on the ball will be very much needed in what will be a high-pressure fixture.
Both are world-class players, but we can see Aaron Mooy being the difference for Australia if they are to get a result.
Enzo Fernandez vs Jackson Irvine
Enzo Fernandez has arguably been the breakout star for Argentina this World Cup. With an assist against Poland, and a gorgeous curled finish against Mexico. Argentina look like a rejuvenated team with Fernandez on the pitch and is key in breaking down the opposition. Australia will need to put focus on him if they are to get anything out of the game.
Jackson Irvine has been the heartbeat of the side alongside Aaron Mooy. He brings a physical intensity that could be crucial against an aggressive Argentina, where the game could be won and lost by the fact of whoever wants it more in the middle of the pitch.
Both players have been outstanding this World Cup, but Enzo Fernandez just edges it for us.
Alexis Mac Allister vs Riley McGree
Alexis Mac Allister scored the opener against Poland during the week and generally provided a solid performance when Argentina needed him. He broke lines of pressure and provided plenty of threading passes through to his teammates.
McGree may very well play higher up the pitch in more of a number ten role, but Graham Arnold may just sit him back in the midfield to contend with Argentina’s midfield three as he did against France. The Middlesbrough player struggled to make a difference in the first two group games but was a shining light against Denmark.
Both are coming into form, however, Mac Allister makes our combined team.
Lionel Messi vs Matthew Leckie
What more can you say about the greatest of all time? It’s his last World Cup and he’ll be doing everything to end his international career with his country’s highest honour. Everyone knows what he brings. Whether Australia can stop it will be the question.
The man that scored the most crucial goal in Socceroos' recent history. He’s a legend among Australians already, can he go one better and provide the goods to overcome Argentina?
We’re going to give the edge here to Matthew Leckie.
No, we’re kidding. As good as Leckers has been for Australia, you can’t look past one of the greatest of all time.
Julian Alvarez vs Mitchell Duke
We’re giving Julian Alvarez the pick for Argentina ahead of the likes of Lautaro Martinez or Paulo Dybala. He netted the second against Poland and looked to add a different layer of unpredictability compared to the aforementioned strikers.
The Duke. Another man who has provided the goods for the Socceroos time and time again. That header against Tunisia will live on in Australian memory for years to come. The target man very much could prove difficult against the likes of Lisandro Martinez who is smaller in stature.
Because we love the Duke, he’s making our combined XI.
Angel Di Maria vs Craig Goodwin
It feels like Angel Di Maria has been in and around the Argentina squad for years upon years. He always provides creativity for the likes of Messi and is a threat for all teams. Surprisingly enough his only two World Cup goals have come in the round of 16 against Switzerland in 2014 and France in 2018.
Craig Goodwin is arguably the Socceroos' most creative player and one that just doesn’t stop working. A goal against France proves he’s a constant threat in and around the box as well.
Di Maria takes out the left-wing spot here, simply because of his tenure at the World Cup.
Featured Image Credit: Sipa US / Alamy. Foto Arena LTDA / Alamy.
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