Two of the most successful nations in World Cup history will be eliminated early from the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
Argentina entered the tournament as the tournament’s second favorite, but they lost their first game 2-1 to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, despite leading at halftime.
A day later, Germany was defeated by Japan by the same scoreline, despite being 1-0 up at the half.
Both teams are now into difficult second matches with the knowledge that they may be leaving the global spectacle much sooner than expected.
Ahead of their forthcoming matches, we look at what would need to happen for Argentina, a two-time World Cup winner, and Germany, a four-time champion, to exit the tournament.
Argentina cannot afford to lose.
Lionel Scaloni’s team has dropped to the bottom of Group C after losing to Saudi Arabia, with Poland and Mexico drawing 0-0.
Simply put, Argentina must not lose to Mexico on Saturday, or they will be eliminated from this World Cup.
Saudi Arabia and Poland meet early in the day. Whatever the outcome of that match, a defeat for La Albiceleste would leave two clubs with four or more points, making qualification for the knockout stages impossible.
If Argentina avoids defeat and keeps their qualification ambitions alive, a second-place result may see them face France in the last 16, along with Tunisia, Denmark, and Australia.
Argentina’s history favors them.
Argentina is unbeaten in their last ten games with Mexico in all competitions (seven victories, three draws) since a 1-0 defeat in the 2004 Copa America.
They have also won all three of their previous World Cup games with Saturday’s opponents, most notably a 3-1 victory in 2010.
The loss to Saudi Arabia interrupted Argentina’s 36-match unbeaten streak, and it may have been prevented if Argentina had repeatedly broken through the defending high line in the first half.
Everything points to Argentina making it to the final group games, as long as Lionel Messi and his teammates can recover from the massive shock.
Failure is not always fatal.
Germany might lose again against Spain on Sunday night and still qualify for the World Cup.
They would, however, be dependent on Costa Rica defeating Japan, which is doubtful given Spain’s 7-0 victory over the Central Americans.
If Japan wins by more than a point, Germany will be eliminated from the competition if they lose to Spain.
If Germany achieves a positive performance to qualify, they will face a team from Group F, which includes Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, and Canada.
Germany thrashed in 2020
Germany lacks a dominant record against Spain to inspire confidence.
Germany has won just one of the last seven meetings between European nations in all competitions (two draws, four defeats), and has not won a competitive match against La Roja since Euro 1988.
They most recently met in the Nations League group stages, with the teams drawing 1-1 in Germany and Spain hammering them 6-0 in the reverse encounter.
Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick in that encounter, and the Barcelona forward has already made an impression at the World Cup, scoring a brace against Costa Rica.
Germany’s setback was not as shocking as Argentina’s, as Hansi Flick’s team had only two wins in their previous eight matches (five draws, one defeat).