Lionel Messi and Argentina had three goals called back for offside and their 1-0 lead disappeared due to a second-half surge by Saudi Arabia who pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in World Cup history.
Now, for one of the heavy favorites to win the World Cup in what’s likely to be Messi’s final attempt to win the sport’s biggest trophy for his country, the focus is on doing anything possible to get out of Group C and into the knockout stage.
If past tournaments are any indicator, the odds of getting out of the group — let alone a deep run in the tournament — are not in Argentina’s favor. But it’s been done before.
Had Argentina won their first game as nearly everyone expected, their chances of advancing to the round of 16 would have been almost guaranteed. Since 1998, when the World Cup expanded to 32 teams, 84% of teams who win their first group stage game go on to the knockout stage.
That percentage goes down to a still favorable 59% with a draw, but plummets to 11% with a loss in the opening game. According to FiveThirtyEight, Argentina has a 52% chance to advance out of its group, but a loss against Poland or Mexico would almost certainly knock them out.
Opta still has Argentina the most likely team to advance from Group C but it’s made things incredibly tight among all four.
Group C at the 2022 #FIFAWorldCup is going to be fun now. Chances of progression to the last 16 after that match…
Saudi Arabia: 46.16%
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) November 22, 2022
Since 1994, only one team has qualified for the round of 16 with less than four points.
As for advancing deep in the World Cup, FiveThirtyEight now lists Argentina as the eighth-most likely team to win the World Cup at 5%. Their chances of making the quarterfinals dropped to a mere 30%.
In the past five World Cups, eight teams have lost their first game and advanced to the knockout stage. The model for Argentina is Spain in 2010, which won the World Cup after losing the first game, or Turkey in 2002, which lost in the semifinals.
But the most likely route is an early exit. Five of those eight teams lost in the round of 16.
Once a heavy favorite to win the group, FiveThirtyEight now has Argentina more likely to finish second than first. That would likely set up a round of 16 rematch from 2018 against reigning champion and expected Group D winner France.