World Cup winners Argentina take on Australia in an international friendly at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing on Thursday.
While La Albiceleste are still basking in the glory of their 2022 triumph in Qatar, the Socceroos are seeking revenge against the nation who knocked them out at the last-16 stage.
Since beating France on penalties in an enthralling World Cup final in December, Argentina celebrated their success on home soil in back-to-back friendlies against Panama and Curacao in March, winning both fixtures by an aggregate score of 9-0.
A 2-0 victory over Panama in Buenos Aires was followed by a thumping 7-0 win against Curacao in Santiago del Estero, with talisman Lionel Messi scoring four goals across those two fixtures to reach two milestones in the process.
Indeed, after scoring his 800th career goal with a sweet free kick against Panama, Messi netted a 17-minute hat-trick against Curacaro, with the first of his treble moving him onto 100 international goals for Argentina.
Victory over Curacao marked La Albiceleste’s eighth successive win in all competitions, while they have only lost one of their last 45 international matches over the last four years – a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening World Cup group game.
Argentina beat Australia 2-1 in the last 16 of the tournament in Qatar seven months ago courtesy of goals from Messi and Julian Alvarez, and Lionel Scaloni’s side – ranked No.1 in the world – will look to extend their winning run over the Socceroos to five matches on Thursday, as they continue their preparations ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in September.
Australia surprised many by progressing out of their World Cup group along with France, leaving both Denmark and Tunisia in their wake, but they could not topple the South American giants of Argentina in the round of 16, despite mounting a late fightback thanks to an Enzo Fernandez own goal.
Three months after their efforts in Qatar, Graham Arnold’s side experienced mixed fortunes in successive friendly fixtures against Ecuador, with a 3-1 win in Sydney followed by a 2-1 defeat just four days later in Melbourne.
A less-experienced Socceroos side were leading through a 16th-minute strike from Brandon Borrello – his first international goal – but Ecuador turned the game on its head in the second half courtesy of a converted penalty from Pervis Estupinan and a match-winning header from William Pacho.
Australia, ranked 29th in the world by FIFA, have just one friendly fixture against Argentina scheduled this month before facing England at Wembley in October in their final game of 2023, before preparing for the AFC Asian Cup in January.
Argentina will be without injured centre-back Lisandro Martinez, while Juan Foyth, Papu Gomez, Angel Correa, Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez have all been left out of Scaloni’s 27-man squad, which includes 19 players who were also selected at the World Cup.
Julian Alvarez has been named in Scaloni’s squad, but the forward is unlikely to feature on Thursday after celebrating Manchester City’s treble success at an open-top bus parade on Monday; the 22-year-old could be involved in next Monday’s friendly with Indonesia, though.
Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Facundo Buonanotte are two uncapped teenagers who will be pushing to make their first senior international appearance, while captain Messi is poised to earn his 175th cap for Argentina.
Liverpool’s new signing Alexis Mac Allister could line up in centre-midfield with Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul, while German Pezzella, Leonardo Balerdi and Facundo Medina will battle with each other to start alongside Nicolas Otamendi in central defence.
As for Australia, Arnold has named a youthful 23-man squad as he intends to use this month’s international window as an opportunity to assess a number of emerging players ahead of next year’s AFC Asian Cup.
The Socceroos will have to cope without several senior players due to injury, including Aaron Mooy, Craig Goodwin, Jason Cummings, Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Jackson Irvine and Bailey Wright, who were all in the matchday squad that lost to Argentina at the World Cup.
Parma’s 19-year-old defender Alessandro Circati and Melbourne City goalkeeper Thomas Glover are two uncapped players who could be involved on Thursday, while Gianni Stensness and Denis Genreau are also hoping to feature after being rewarded with recalls to the senior squad for their impressive form at club level with Viking FK and Toulouse respectively.
Argentina possible starting lineup:
E. Martinez; Montiel, Otamendi, Romero, Acuna; De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister; Messi, Simeone, Garnacho
Australia possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, King; McGree, Metcalfe, Hrustic; Leckie, Maclaren, Borrello