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Saudi Arabia eye victory that would spell end of World Cup road for Messi or Lewandowski

As per thenationalnews report, Herve Renard, the manager of Saudi Arabia, let the phrase slip as he described the great shock of the World Cup so far. “Lionel Messi against Saudi Arabia,” he said, reflecting on why the 2-1 Saudi win that opened up Group C had resonated so widely. Argentina had been defeated; the fact it was “Messi’s Argentina” made it such a headline.Information Guide Nigeria

As the group goes into its last 90 minutes, three teams are left with their qualifying fate in their own hands. Or, if you measure it by how these contenders for a last-16 place are generally assessed, destiny is in the hands of two superstars – Messi and Robert Lewandowski – or the broad collective that is Saudi Arabia’s well-drilled side. After Poland’s 2-0 win against Renard’s side preserved the cliffhanger balance of tonight’s last match day, he might just as easily have referred to his conquerors as “Lewandowski’s Poland”. The Polish skipper set up the first goal and scored the second.

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Saudi Arabia have their outstanding individuals, established match-winners, such as Salem Al Dawsari, and rising talents like Firas Al Buraikan, but they have thrived on sound, shared habits skilfully channelled by Renard, a coach benefiting from the concentrated time many of the Saudi players spend together. Nine of the starting line-up against Argentina are teammates at Al Hilal, reigning Asian club champions, footballers tuned to one another’s strengths, movements, and instincts.JAMB Result

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Any national manager who can graft onto his team the routines rehearsed, day in, day out, on a club practice pitch, is grateful. It gains him time, that most limited resource when you gather in national colours only for a few days, periods spread far apart in the calendar. Preparation time for this World Cup has been especially limited, because it is squeezed into the middle of a club season.NYSC portal

Just ask Messi or Lewandowski – who face off today with Argentina on three points, Poland on four – how far tried-and-tested club drills can carry team and about the limits of a lone megastar’s impact on his national team. They have been serial collectors of individual awards – Messi eight times the top scorer in a Spanish Liga season, Lewandowski the same in seven different Bundesliga campaigns – and have watched, from afar, while the teammates who benefited from their stellar club contributions brought gold medals back from World Cups.

When Lewandowski joined Bayern Munich in the summer of 2014, the mood there was jubilant. Bayern’s players were naturally thrilled the best centre-forward in their league had left Borussia Dortmund to sign for them, but there was also a glow about the six Bayern players who had beaten Argentina in the Maracana stadium weeks earlier. Another of the 2014 world champions, Toni Kroos, had been a Bayern midfielder until that summer; an eighth, Miroslav Klose, had spent an important portion of his career combining with the likes of Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger on the Bayern practice ground.JAMB portal

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