Some pre-match listening
Our award-winning podcast Football Weekly has gone nightly for the duration of the World Cup and yesterday, myself, Max Rushden, Nedum Onuoha and John Brewin (featuring cameos from Barney Ronay and Elis James in Doha) discussed England’s great start to the tournament, Kieffer Moore’s stellar performance as Wales left it late to snatch a point from USA and much, much more. If you’re not already a subscriber, where have you been? You can listen here or subscribe for free on all the usual pod platforms.
Matty Cash: For reasons I can never quite put my finger on, it never stops being amusing seeing the Aston Villa right-back’s name in the Poland line-up. Born in Slough, Cash had never set foot in Poland before making his debut for the country his grandfather was forced to leave 82 years ago. A little over a year after representing them for the first time, he’s playing in the Poland colours at the World Cup finals. Strap yourself in for a yarn the player himself describes as “quite a crazy story really, a bit complicated”.
Mexico v Poland line-ups
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Jorge Sanchez, Hector Moreno, Cesar Montes, Jesus Gallardo, Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera, Luis Chavez, Hirving Lozano, Henry Martin, Alexis Vega
Poland: Wojciech Szczesny, Kamil Glik, Jakub Kiwior, Matty Cash, Bartosz Bereszynski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Piotr Zielinski, Sebastian Szymanski, Nicola Zalewski, Jakub Kaminski, Robert Lewandowski
Gerardo Martino: A recent run of poor(ish) results – three wins and two draws in their past nine – mean Mexico fans have been less than enthused by their team’s efforts going into this World Cup. They were further incensed when their manager Gerardo Martino left Braga midfielder Diego Lainez and Feyenoord striker Santiago Jimenez out of his squad.
“What we have always tried to do is to be in the same tune and with the same objective with the entire country,” said Martino. “But since we have not achieved it, we are making ourselves strong in our atmosphere. This national team is very strong behind closed doors,” he said.
“Actually none of this has changed in recent times. I don’t think we can change this situation, the greatest responsibility for what we generate with a fan is ours, but what has your job been all this time because not always selection has generated bad moments. We are a group that determines this. What we have to do is prepare for the game, try to win it and that will change the opinion that people have somewhat.”
Czeslaw Michniewicz: “If I say that there are no logical reasons for Poland to make it out of the group, you will say that I am a man of little faith,” the Poland manager said in his pre-match press conference. “I think that we can get out of the group. We don’t want to be among the first 16 teams to go home.
“We have experienced players who have played in many tournaments, and there’s a lot of youngsters who are just learning the big tournaments here in Qatar. I think this mix is right for us.”
Asked if he thought Mexico’s favouritism to win this opener is justified, Michniewicz disagreed. “We don’t look at Mexico this way,” he said. “I don’t see such disparities between us, also between us and Saudi Arabia or Argentina. We are all at the World Cup, we feel as important as our opponents in the group. We don’t give them any special rank.”
Mexico: Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is about to take part in his fifth World Cup. Here is his profile from our brilliant interactive featuring all 831 players taking part in this winter Qatari jamboree.
“Ochoa’s reliability is one of the most controversial topics in Mexico. Some consider him the best goalkeeper to play for El Tri. Others think he is a little bit less than a fraud. The fact is he is aiming for his third World Cup as a starter (fifth overall) and looking forward to a fourth one (and sixth overall) in 2026. “It would be extraordinary to play the World Cup at home”, he said. Ochoa is Gerardo Martino’s first and only choice in Qatar. He was a national hero in 2014 and 2018. His saves have become famous. Now he is ready to put on a new show.”
Poland: “Although Robert Lewandowski spends most days closeted in the team hotel, he is a ubiquitous presence here. Once darkness falls, and it descends early in the Gulf at this time of year, giant images of the Poland captain and record goalscorer illuminate the sides of skyscrapers lining the city’s Corniche.” Louise Taylor reports from Doha.
Early team news: A recurring groin injury has kept Wolves striker Raul Jimenez sidelined since the end of August and it remains to be seen if he will feature for Mexico today. Henry M artin, who plays his club football for América in his native Mexico, is likely to start up front for El Tri while Jimenez could get a run out off the bench.
Poland have a full 26-man squad to choose from but lost Spezia goalkeeper Bartłomiej Drągowski, Lens striker Adam Buksa and Bochum midfielder Jacek Goralski to injury in the build-up to the tournament. Without a World Cup to his name, Robert Lewandowski will almost certainly lead the line for his country. The 34-year-old Barcelona stiriker scored nine goals in qualifying for these finals.
Today’s match officials
Referee: Christopher Beath (Australia)
Assistant referees: Anton Shchetinin and Ashley Beecham
Fourth official: Stéphanie Frappart
Video Assistant Referee: Shaun Evans
Group C: Mexico v Poland
Made from almost 1,000 shipping containers (there’s a clue to the exact number in its name), Stadium 974 is the first temporary stadium in World Cup history and plays host to today’s match between Mexico and Poland. The minds of both sets of players and their fans will almost certainly have been well and truly boggled by Saudi Arabia’s almost unthinkable win over Argentina earlier today, putting an end to the South American nation’s 36-match run with a victory few in their right minds could have predicted.
Contesting their eighth consecutive World Cup, Mexico have been knocked out in the Round of 16 on each of the past seven occasions. Poland, by contrast, have not made out of the group stages since 1986, when the World Cup was hosted by the country they face this afternoon. Kick-off is at 4pm (GMT) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.