Argentina against Australia in the World Cup round of 16. On paper, Lionel Messi and his men should win this one. But we’ve been here before. On paper, they should also have wiped the floor with Saudi Arabia in the group stages and we all know how that one turned out (they lost 2-1, in case you don’t).
The defeat to the Saudis made plotting a way through Group C ‘interesting’ for La Albiceleste although they ended up clinching top spot thanks to comfortable 2-0 victories over Mexico and Poland despite not impressing all that much.
Australia, meanwhile, were not fancied by many to get out of Group D and although they took a shock first-half lead against France in their opening match, they ultimately ended up on the end of a 4-1 thrashing and few had changed their minds about them. But if their defence was in disarray against Kylian Mbappé and friends, it was momentous in scrappy 1-0 wins against Tunisia and Denmark. We’ve seen teams like the Socceroos do well many times before in World Cups; there may not be a lot of attacking inspiration but if you’ve got a solid defensive foundation, you’ve got half of chance of getting somewhere.
Argentina vs Australia: who is Szymon Marciniak?
The referee for this match-up will be Szymon Marciniak from Poland, who has taken charge of over 200 games in the Ekstraklasa, the Polish top division, since turning professional in 2006. The 41-year-old became a FIFA-listed referee at the age of 30 in 2011, the year in which he first officiated in the Europa League. He was given his first Champions League match in 2012 and was chosen for a major international tournament for the first time in Euro 2016. This is Marciniak’s second World Cup after the 2018 tournament, in which he took charge of two group stage matches. He was the man in the middle for France’s Group D win against Denmark on 26 November.
Marciniak was criticised by then-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel after the Blues’ Champions League defeat to Real Madrid last season, with the former Blues boss unhappy with the Pole seemingly laughing and ‘having a good time’ with Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti after the game.
Marciniak will be assisted by compatriots Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz, with Mario Escobar of Guatemala acting as the fourth official.
Argentina vs Australia: who is the VAR?
Both managers and sets of fans will probably hope that the VAR doesn’t have to get involved but if he does it will be Tomasz Kwiatkowski, also of Poland, who will have German Mario Fritz as his VAR assistant. Italy’s Alessandro Giallatini will be the offside VAR, and Benoit Millot of France will be the support VAR.