Cristiano Ronaldo must accept "he is not 25 years old" anymore and follow the examples of veterans Ryan Giggs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paolo Maldini.

That was the message from Manchester United great Eric Cantona, who referenced the leading role Ibrahimovic has played at Milan despite his status diminishing to a squad role.

Ronaldo parted ways with United in an acrimonious exit after stating he felt "betrayed" by the club and had little respect for Red Devils head coach Erik ten Hag and former interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

The Portugal forward started just 10 of United's 21 matches prior to his departure, though Cantona suggested the 37-year-old should have handled the situation in a different manner.

Ibrahimovic played through injury as Milan ended an 11-year wait for the Scudetto last term, scoring eight goals in 23 Serie A games to support Stefano Pioli's regular starters Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao.

Cantona told CalcioMercato: "There are two types of veterans: those who want to play every game because they still think they're 25 and those who realise they're not 25 and are here to help young players, they know they won't play every game, but they're aware that they'll have their moment.

"There are players who help new players: Ibrahimovic still does it with Milan, Ryan Giggs or Maldini himself when he was at Milan. 

"Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't realise he's not 25 years old. He's already older and doesn't know that, instead of being unhappy about not having played all the time, he should accept the situation."

Ronaldo could make his debut for Al Nassr against Ettifaq next Sunday after missing clashes with Al Tai and Al Shabab due to a two-match ban from the English Football Association.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr contract does not include any commitment to promote a 2030 World Cup bid, the Saudi Arabian club stated on Tuesday.

The Portugal forward joined Al Nassr on December 30 after his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract reportedly worth around €200million (£177m) per year.

Reports suggested Ronaldo's agreement included an additional bonus to act as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia's World Cup bid, with the Middle East aiming to host another tournament after Qatar 2022.

Al Nassr strongly denied claims Ronaldo had been offered a financial incentive to secure FIFA's top tournament, with Spain, Ukraine and his home country Portugal among the others to make a joint bid to host.

"Al Nassr FC would like to clarify that contrary to news reports, Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with Al Nassr does not entail commitments to any World Cup bids," a statement read.

"His main focus is on Al Nassr and to work with his team-mates to help the club achieve success."

Ronaldo is yet to make his debut for Al Nassr after missing Friday's clash with Al Tai as he served the first part of a two-match ban from the English Football Association.

Cristiano Ronaldo should use his "considerable platform" to "draw attention" to human rights issues in Saudi Arabia after signing for Al Nassr, says Amnesty International.

Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Saudi Pro League leaders Al Nassr last week after his Manchester United contract was mutually terminated in November following a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was unveiled in Riyadh on Tuesday, stating he hoped to positively change the perceptions of Saudi Arabian football.

But Amnesty International, a global organisation that campaigns against human rights abuse, is hoping he uses his huge celebrity status to highlight off-field matters in Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, Amnesty International's Middle East researcher Dana Ahmed said: "Al-Nassr's signing of Cristiano Ronaldo fits into a wider pattern of sportswashing in Saudi Arabia.

"It is highly likely that the Saudi authorities will promote Ronaldo's presence in the country as a means of distracting from the country's appalling human rights record. 

"Instead of offering uncritical praise of Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo should use his considerable public platform to draw attention to human rights issues in the country.

"Saudi Arabia regularly executes people for crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

"The authorities are also continuing their crackdown on freedom of expression and association, with heavy prison sentences handed down to human rights defenders, women's rights activists and other political activists.

"Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn't allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi sportswashing – he should use his time at Al-Nassr to speak out about the myriad human rights issues in the country."

Cristiano Ronaldo vowed to change the rest of the world's perception of football in Saudi Arabia as he was formally unveiled as an Al Nassr player.

Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Saudi Pro League leaders Al Nassr last week, having spent over a month as a free agent after leaving Manchester United.

At his unveiling in Riyadh on Tuesday, Ronaldo declared he had nothing left to prove in Europe and insisted the move did not represent the end of his distinguished career.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner may well have appeared in the Champions League for the final time, but he claims to have a fresh set of aims in Saudi Arabia – including contributing to the development of women's football in the country.

"It's a new challenge and I'm so glad that Al Nassr has given me this opportunity to develop, not only in football, but also for the young generations, and for women as well," said Ronaldo.

"Many people probably don't know, but Al Nassr has a women's football team as well. Women's football is very competitive here.

"I know what I want, and I know, of course, what I don't want as well. It's a good chance to change, to help with my knowledge and my experience to grow many, many important things.

"I want to give a different vision of the country from the footballing perspective of everybody. This is why I took this opportunity."

While Ronaldo – who could make his Al Nassr debut against Al Ta'ee on Thursday – will undoubtedly be the most high-profile star to have featured in the Saudi Pro League, club president Musalli Al-Muammar insists he will be treated differently to other players.

"During the negotiations, Cristiano made it clear that he wants to be treated like the rest of our players," he said. "He doesn't want special treatment.

"Ronaldo is the greatest player ever. We hope players learn from him and replicate his attitude."

Head coach Rudi Garcia, meanwhile, is not expecting any issues as he integrates Ronaldo into his squad. 

"Ronaldo is one of the best ever. It's an honour for me and for Al Nassr to have him here," Garcia said.

"It's fantastic for the league and for the country to have Ronaldo here. 

"He will be the easiest player to train. There's nothing to teach him. My goal is to make Ronaldo happy."

Cristiano Ronaldo is unfazed by criticism of his decision to join Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, declaring that his "work is done" in Europe.

Having seen his Manchester United contract terminated in November after criticising the club in an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo sealed his move to Al Nassr last week.

His decision to join the Riyadh-based side has surprised many, with it coming just a few months after Ronaldo attempted to leave United in search of Champions League football.

However, the 37-year-old believes he has nothing left to prove in European football, claiming he turned down proposals from several clubs to sign his two-and-a-half-year deal with Al Nassr.

"I'm so proud to make this big decision in my life and in football," Ronaldo said at his unveiling on Tuesday. 

"In Europe, my work is done. I won everything and played for the most important clubs in Europe. 

"This is a great opportunity for me, not only in football but to change the mentality of the new generation in Saudi Arabia. 

"I had many opportunities in Europe, in Brazil, in the United States and even in Portugal, but I gave my word to this club, for the opportunity to develop football in this amazing country."

Ronaldo's conduct during his second stint at United was widely criticised, while he was relegated to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games at the World Cup.

However, the forward sees playing in the Saudi Pro League as a genuine challenge, hitting back at those who have questioned the motives behind his move.

"Many people speak and give their opinions, but really they know nothing about football," Ronaldo said.

"If you give the example of the World Cup, the only team who beat the champions [Argentina] was Saudi Arabia, don't forget that.

"For me, it's not the end of my career. I wanted to change and I don't worry about what people say. I took my decision and I have responsibility for it.

"I'm happy to be here and I know the league is really competitive, I saw many games. I'm ready to play tomorrow [against Al Ta'ee] if the coach thinks it's good! 

"I beat all records in Europe, so I want to beat all records here. This contract is unique, because I'm a unique player. So for me, this is normal.

"I'm coming here to win, to play, to enjoy, to be part of the success of the country and the culture of the country. What I want is to enjoy, to smile and to play football."

Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Real Madrid, with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez granting him permission to use their training facilities as he looks for a new club.

Ronaldo had his Manchester United contract terminated last month after he criticised the Red Devils' hierarchy – including manager Erik ten Hag – in a controversial interview.

The Portugal captain created more headlines at the World Cup, where he was dropped to the bench for A Selecao's 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16, as well as their quarter-final defeat against Morocco.

Saudi Pro League club Al Nassr have been strongly linked with a move for Ronaldo, with coach Rudi Garcia saying he would be "delighted" to coach the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

However, no deal has yet been done, and Premier League side Chelsea continue to be touted as another possible destination for the 37-year-old.

For now, Ronaldo has returned to the site of his peak years, with AS reporting he reached out to Madrid president Perez to ask permission to use the club's Valdebebas training ground.

Ronaldo won 15 trophies – including four Champions League titles – during a nine-year spell with Madrid, while becoming their record scorer with 450 goals.

While Al Nassr are favourites to secure Ronaldo's signature, Spanish media reports have suggested he could opt to continue his career in Qatar, while a return to his first club Sporting CP has also been mooted.

Ronaldo's only goal at the World Cup came from the penalty spot against Ghana in the group stage, meaning he remains the highest-scoring player in the tournament's history (eight goals) to fail to net in a knockout tie.

Tata Martino accepted responsibility for Mexico's "huge failure" at the World Cup and confirmed his contract had now expired with little prospect of him returning to the role.

Martino has been a largely unpopular El Tri coach, and his standing was not helped by Wednesday's elimination in the group stage at Qatar 2022.

Mexico came agonisingly close to making the last 16 at an eighth straight World Cup before they were instead knocked out on goal difference behind Poland in Group C.

After second-half goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez against Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium, Mexico were tied with Poland on points, goal difference and goals scored, having drawn their head-to-head encounter.

With the full-time whistle having blown in Poland's match against Argentina, Mexico were heading out due to an inferior fair play record when Salem Al Dawsari pulled one back for Saudi Arabia in stoppage time.

Ultimately, Martino's men had left it too late to stage a recovery, and plenty of the ire was directed at the coach, whose name had been jeered ahead of kick-off.

Told of his status as a "villain" in Mexico, Martino replied: "I can't tell you anything abut people's opinions.

"I am the main [person] responsible for the frustrations we have. I'm responsible and it's a source of great sadness.

"I assume all the responsibility of this huge failure. It's been eight World Cups this hasn't happened."

Martino's contract was to expire after the World Cup, and he continued: "I have no reasons at the moment to think the future should be different. The contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do."

Chavez was asked for his opinion later in the news conference and added: "We are the players, we assume full responsibility.

"I would say in the second match [against Argentina] we didn't fully understand what he [Martino] wanted to see on the pitch.

"We defended well for some time but didn't create enough chances."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard accepted his side did not deserve to advance with their performance against Mexico.

However, he sought instead to focus on their campaign as a whole – including the shock opening win over Argentina.

"Congratulations to the players. We did our best," he said. "Today it was more difficult for us, but we don't have to forget what we did together. I will always protect them. I'm proud of their World Cup."

Mexico fell painfully short of the last 16 of the World Cup as a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium left them behind Poland on goal difference.

Salem Al Dawsari's stoppage-time consolation sealed El Tri's elimination, although they were already on their way out by an even finer margin.

An inferior fair play record to Poland, who had already lost 2-0 to Argentina, was set to separate the sides until that point.

Mexico still had two minutes in which to add a decisive third to second-half strikes from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez, but the goal they had chased for so long proved beyond them.

Tata Martino's men perhaps paid for not making more of a first half they dominated, going closest when Mohammed Al Owais denied Alexis Vega in the third minute.

The second period initially went according to plan as Cesar Montes flicked Chavez's corner into the centre of the six-yard box, where Martin could not miss.

One quickly became two thanks to a sensational Chavez free-kick, but Hirving Lozano and substitute Uriel Antuna saw potentially precious goals ruled out for offside, leaving Mexico agonisingly short heading into stoppage time.

Full-time in the Poland match was followed by Al Dawsari strolling through to net an effort that ultimately meant little but felt like a heartbreaker for Mexico.

Mexico always reach the last 16 of the World Cup. It is just what they do. Progress beyond that point has been the issue.

But El Tri head into their final Group C fixture at Lusail Stadium on Wednesday at risk of elimination, needing to beat Saudi Arabia to have any chance of advancing.

Tata Martino's side have shown little sign of delivering such a result so far, drawing with Poland only after Robert Lewandowski had a penalty saved and then losing 2-0 to Argentina.

Mexico are winless in four World Cup matches, only enduring a worse sequence across their first 13 finals games.

They have not scored in any of those four outings either, with 49 attempts in that time producing just nine on target.

 

Perhaps their luck will change against Saudi Arabia, who have kept only one clean sheet in 18 World Cup matches – that rate of 5.6 per cent the worst in tournament history among teams to play 10 or more games.

"While we still have a chance, we have to try to do it," Martino said after losing to Argentina. "Saudi Arabia need to try to win and score goals, and we do, too.

"I think that in life and in this case, with these players, we are used to picking ourselves up, above all when we have to. It's hard, though; it's definitely hard."

Saudi Arabia could go through with a draw, although they will have to win to ensure they cannot be impacted by the result between Poland and Argentina.

They have only made it through the group stage once previously, in their first participation in 1994.

"I hope [the Saudi fans] won't give up," coach Herve Renard said following a 2-0 defeat to Poland.

"When you are fans, you need to support your team when it's a fantastic day. But you also need to support your team to make history in the third game. I would like to see one more time a green stadium."

Mexico are unbeaten against Saudi Arabia, winning four of their five previous meetings, which all occurred between 1995 and 1999.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Saudi Arabia – Mohammed Kanno

Kanno really stood out as Saudi Arabia might a bright start against Poland, providing a goal threat from midfield as he attempted a joint-high four shots. His support will be key as the Green Falcons go on the attack again.

Mexico – Raul Jimenez

Martino played without a natural forward against Argentina, but he surely cannot afford to do so again as Mexico need goals. They have only had five shots on target, with no player contributing more than one. After coming off the bench twice, Jimenez may now be called upon to produce at a big moment.

PREDICTION

Despite their recent World Cup woes, Mexico are strong favourites to get the win they need to stay in contention. The supercomputer rates their chances at 56.4 per cent.

A second Saudi Arabia upset of the group stage is given only a 21.2 per cent shot, while the draw – which would see Mexico eliminated and may not be enough for Saudi Arabia either – has a 22.4 per cent likelihood.

France, Brazil and Portugal are the only sides to have already secured World Cup knockout football, with numerous teams facing a nervy final matchday as they bid to reach the round of 16 in Qatar.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil breezed through Group G with wins over Serbia and Switzerland, while France became the first reigning world champions to escape the group stage since the Selecao in 2006.

Portugal made sure of their round-of-16 spot after Monday's Group H victory over Uruguay, yet the likes of England, Spain, Germany and Argentina all need results on matchday three to progress.

The Netherlands are another big name that have yet to confirm their place in the latter stages of FIFA's top tournament, while Belgium face a tense Group F clash with Croatia to avoid an early exit.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the permutations riding on the final selection of group-stage action in the Middle East.

Group A

The Netherlands are largely in control of Group A, needing to just avoid defeat against the already eliminated hosts, Qatar.

Louis van Gaal's side will also reach the round of 16 if Ecuador beat Senegal, who have to win otherwise Aliou Cisse's side will rely on a somewhat unlikely win for Qatar over the Netherlands to remain in contention.

Ecuador, who have impressed in their first two games, must win or draw against Senegal to progress. However, Gustavo Alfaro's men could go through in defeat if Qatar beat the Netherlands.

Group B

A win or a draw is enough for England against fierce rivals Wales. Yet, the Three Lions would still progress as long as they avoid a four-goal defeat against Wales, whose goal difference is six fewer.

Iran are guaranteed to qualify with victory over the United States, who know anything other than a win against Carlos Queiroz's side will see them eliminated from the competition.

Quieroz's men could still escape Group B with a draw, though goal difference would come into play if Wales pick up their first win at the tournament against Gareth Southgate's England.

Group C

All four teams can still make it out of an enticing Group C, with Argentina – who were among the pre-tournament favourites – needing to beat Poland to guarantee a round-of-16 place.

La Albiceleste could progress with a draw, however, and would be through in that instance if Mexico and Saudi Arabia also share the spoils.

Yet, if Lionel Scaloni's men are held and Herve Renard's men beat El Tri, Argentina will be eliminated. If Mexico win and Argentina draw, it goes to goal difference.

Poland would go through by avoiding defeat, but would be knocked out by a loss coupled with a Saudi Arabia victory over Mexico, who must win to have any chance of remaining in the tournament.

If Poland lose and Saudi Arabia draw, the two teams will have to be separated by goal difference, which will also be used if Czeslaw Michniewicz's side are defeated and Mexico win.

Group D

France are already in the round-of-16 draw and will top Group D as long as they do not lose to Tunisia and Australia do not defeat Denmark, otherwise the Socceroos would move level on six points with Les Bleus.

While victory would take Australia through, Graham Arnold's side would still reach the knockout stage with a draw unless Tunisia beat France, which would see Jalel Kadri's men progress on goal difference.

Denmark would grab qualification with a win over Australia unless Tunisia triumph over France, which would leave goal difference or goals scored to separate the Carthage Eagles and Kasper Hjulmand's men.

Group E

Spain are the favourites to progress from Group E, requiring a win or draw against Japan. Defeat would see Luis Enrique's side still go through on goal difference, unless Germany lose to Costa Rica.

Germany must pick up three points to stay in contention and would qualify as long as Spain defeat Japan, though a draw in the latter game or a win for Hajime Moriyasu's men would see goal difference needed.

A win for Japan over Spain would take Moriyasu's side through, while a draw – coupled with a stalemate for Germany – would also see the Samurai Blue make the knockout stage.

Costa Rica would earn a last-16 spot with victory and a point would also take them through if Spain overcome Japan. A draw in both games or a defeat for Fernando Suarez's side sees them eliminated.

Group F

Croatia will pass through Group F if they avoid defeat against Belgium, who require victory against the 2018 runners-up to guarantee a place in the round of 16.

Such a win for Belgium would leave Croatia needing already eliminated Canada to overcome Morocco, with goal difference coming into play to separate Zlatko Dalic's side from the Atlas Lions.

A draw is likely not enough for Belgium. They would need Morocco to lose to Canada and then rely on goal difference, though Walid Regragui's men (+2) hold the advantage over Roberto Martinez's side (-1) in the decisive metric.

Morocco would progress with victory over Canada, while a defeat would see Regragui's side reliant on Belgium beating Croatia for goal difference to be decisive between Dalic's men and the Atlas Lions for second.

Group G

Brazil have secured knockout football and will finish as Group G winners with anything other than defeat against Cameroon, who need victory against Tite's side and results to go their way to make the last 16.

Rigobert Song's men would be eliminated if they do not win, though victory is not guaranteed to secure progression as Switzerland could play out a high-scoring draw with Serbia to go through on goals scored, which is used if sides cannot be separated on goal difference – Cameroon are currently on -1 and Switzerland level in the latter metric.

The somewhat expected scenario of Cameroon losing to Brazil would see Serbia and Switzerland become a winner-takes-all clash. 

Dragan Stojkovic's side need victory to progress in that instance, while a draw would be enough for Switzerland. Goal difference would be required if Serbia (-2) and Cameroon (-1) both win their final encounters.

Group H

Portugal are already through and would top Group H by avoiding defeat against South Korea, who could still make a late charge for the round-of-16 stage should the result between Uruguay and Ghana go their way.

The permutations are straightforward for Uruguay and South Korea, who must win to avoid elimination, though qualification is not assured even with victory.

Both teams would be level on four points with victories, again leading to goal difference to separate. Yet, if Ghana beat Uruguay then South Korea's result against Portugal will prove irrelevant for Paulo Bento's side.

A draw for Ghana and a win for South Korea would also see goal difference required to split the two sides, with Bento's men trailing the Black Stars by one in that metric, which could mean goals scored comes into it.

Saudi Arabia captain Salman Al Faraj has been ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup through injury.

The Al Hilal defender injured his leg in Tuesday's shock 2-1 win over Argentina and left the stadium on crutches.

Al Faraj did not feature in Saudi Arabia's 2-0 loss to Poland in their second Group C contest on Saturday and will play no further part in their Qatar 2022 campaign.

A Saudi statement confirmed the news on Sunday and added Al Faraj, who has been capped 71 times for his country, will undergo a full recovery programme.

Saudi Arabia are also without Yasser Al Shahrani after he underwent emergency surgery following a horror collision with team-mate Mohammed Al Owais against Argentina.

Herve Renard's side face Mexico in their final group match and will advance to the last 16 if they win, while a draw will be enough should Poland defeat Argentina.

Should Saudi Arabia draw and Argentina beat Poland, it will then come down to goal difference to determine who progresses to the knockout stage.

Robert Lewandowski broke his World Cup duck on Saturday and explained his emotional celebration was due to the possibility of this being his last finals.

This is only Lewandowski's second World Cup with Poland, but he is now 34 years old and did not score a single goal at Russia 2018.

That barren run continued in the opening match against Mexico, in which the Barcelona forward saw a penalty saved.

But Lewandowski assisted Piotr Zielinski's strike against Saudi Arabia and grabbed the second himself in a vital 2-0 win to move Poland top of Group C.

The former Bayern Munich man was clearly overcome with emotion as he embraced his team-mates.

"The older I get, the more emotional I get," Lewandowski said. "I'm aware when it comes to the World Cup, it might be my last World Cup."

He added: "When you play for the national squad, you have to focus on the results, but some per cent of my identity also wanted me to have good statistics.

"I always wanted to score at the World Cup, and this dream came true."

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said of Lewandowski's emotion: "I was not surprised, because I know how deeply he lived the last match. The whole team supported him a lot.

"We are very happy together with him, just as we were very sad together with him after the penalty."

Michniewicz added "one player will not win the match alone", but that was an assessment Herve Renard disagreed with, as the Saudi Arabia coach attributed Poland's victory to Wojciech Szczesny.

A penalty save from Salem Al Dawsari at 1-0 kept Poland in front in a game Saudi Arabia controlled for long periods.

Despite the result, Renard is not giving up hope, saying: "We are still alive, so we'll play until the last second of our World Cup. If that's next time or another time, we won't give up."

Saudi Arabia are second in the pool, a point behind Poland, ahead of Argentina playing Mexico later on Saturday.

"I hope [the Saudi fans] won't give up," Renard said. "When you are fans, you need to support your team when it's a fantastic day. But you also need to support your team to make history in the third game. I would like to see one more time a green stadium."

Robert Lewandowski ended his wait for a first World Cup goal as Poland took a significant step towards reaching the knockout stage for the first time in 36 years by beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Saturday.

Talisman Lewandowski's penalty failure against Mexico had denied Poland an opening win, but he and they made amends at Education City Stadium, toppling Argentina's conquerors to blow Group C wide open.

Although Saudi Arabia were largely more impressive than in their smash-and-grab defeat of Argentina, they again fell behind and this time could not recover – the latest episode of spot-kick drama making a hero of Wojciech Szczesny after he denied Salem Al Dawsari.

Either side of that save, Lewandowski assisted the opening goal for Piotr Zielinski and belatedly netted a breakthrough strike to make sure of a win that moves Poland to four points ahead of themselves taking on Lionel Messi and Co.

Matty Cash raced onto an incisive pass six minutes before the break and squared to Lewandowski, whose first touch took him away from goal before he cut the ball back for Zielinski's clinical finish.

The response might have been swift as a VAR review granted Saleh Al Shehri a soft penalty following contact from Krystian Bielik, but Szczesny sensationally repelled Al Dawsari's spot-kick and then – even more spectacularly – Mohammed Al Burayk's follow-up.

Szczesny had to come to Poland's rescue again 10 minutes after the restart, blocking with his legs from Al Dawsari, and Feras Al Brikan and Mohammed Kanno each blazed wildly off target.

Poland squandered chances to put the game to bed as first Arkadiusz Milik and then Lewandowski worked the frame of the goal, but the Barcelona man eventually got his goal after pinching possession from Abdulelah Al Malki and finishing calmly.

What does it mean? Poland take pole position

Even in victory, Czeslaw Michniewicz's men were not especially impressive, although Lewandowski would have felt the weight of the world lift off his shoulders with a first goal in his fifth finals match.

Vitally, Poland also have a star performer at the other end of the pitch. Their strong position in this group is chiefly down to their back-to-back clean sheets, now having kept three in a row stretching back to 2018 – matching their best such sequence.

Poland penalty heroics

Poland have now faced five penalties at World Cups, yet three of them have been saved. Szczesny's stop sees him join Jan Tomaszewski, who kept out two at the 1970 tournament.

The save from Al Burayk on the rebound was truly remarkable, while Szczesny had also early made a sharp stop from Kanno and would later frustrate Al Dawsari again.

Tempers boil over

Played in front of a raucous – primarily Saudi – crowd, a kind observer might call this encounter "competitive". Players from both sides thundered into challenges, occasionally with both arms and legs.

In the opening 30 minutes, the sides shared more yellow cards (four) than shots (three). By half-time, there had been five bookings – the most cards at that stage of a World Cup game since the famously feisty 2010 final.

It seemed inevitable there would be a red card eventually, but it never came.

What's next?

Poland must still play their toughest fixture on paper, taking on an Argentina side who will need to win. Saudi Arabia remain in contention ahead of facing Mexico at the same time on Wednesday.

Robert Lewandowski remains Poland's "number one" penalty taker despite missing his spot-kick against Mexico, head coach Czeslaw Michniewicz has confirmed.

Having drawn a blank in Russia four years ago, the Barcelona forward is still awaiting his first World Cup goal after Guillermo Ochoa denied him from 12 yards in the Eagles' Group C opener on Tuesday.

But Michniewicz confirmed Lewandowski remains Poland's first choice should they be awarded another penalty in their second group game against Saudi Arabia.

"When it comes to the penalties, Robert is still number one," the head coach said. "As a striker, of course, he will make a decision whether he will shoot or pass it on to someone else. He feels ready to score for Poland."

Jan Bednarek believes while Lewandowski will be desperate to break his finals duck, the captain's main focus is on the team's performance in Qatar.

"Robert Lewandowski is our captain, he's a striker, he wants to score as many goals as he can," the on-loan Aston Villa defender said. "But for him, the good of the team is most important. He wants us to win.

"He hides his pride in his pocket, and he really focuses on working as hard as he can. It's not important to him if he scores or not, he wants us to win the match.

"He's got his individual objective, but I am convinced he places the team's success at the top. This is the best striker in the world. I hope he leads us to win. I don't know if he will score or not, but the most important thing is for us to win."

Saudi Arabia produced surely the result of the 2022 World Cup when they stunned Lionel Messi's Argentina this week, but they are not done there.

Herve Renard's men came from behind to beat the Albiceleste 2-1, scoring with their only two shots for one of the tournament's biggest ever upsets.

The odds were stacked against Saudi Arabia in that match, as they will be again on matchday two as they tackle Poland.

Saudi Arabia have lost nine of their 10 World Cup matches against European opposition, including each of the past eight in a row.

That dismal run included an 8-0 humiliation at the hands of Germany in 2002, but forward Saleh Al Shehri knows this is a very different team.

"That was a defeat in the past," said Al Shehri. "I think we, as a country, want to get back and go up to the top as a team.

"And I guess in the 20 years, we worked a lot, we worked hard. Now, in 2022, in Qatar, we made history, and there's still more to come."

 

Al Shehri scored the equaliser against Argentina, setting Saudi Arabia on their way to a second straight World Cup win after another 2-1 success against Egypt in 2018.

Saudi Arabia had won only two of their previous 15 games at the finals – again in succession in 1994 – while this is the first time they have scored twice in consecutive matches.

They have never netted three in a World Cup match, though, and face a Poland team looking for a third clean sheet in a row – last achieving such a sequence between 1974 and 1978.

"I think about the pressure," added Al Shehri. "Every game has its own pressure.

"We did one job perfectly. It's finished and we are waiting for the next game against Poland. The pressure is always on when you play at this top level."

Poland may be tight at the back but have struggled in attack, attempting only six shots in the 0-0 draw with Mexico.

It was their sixth goalless draw in 35 World Cup matches, making up 17 per cent – the largest such percentage of any team to play 15 or more games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Poland – Arkadiusz Milik

Milik is never likely to start while Poland play with only one striker, but the Juventus man will continue to get opportunities from the bench while Robert Lewandowski's drought drags on. Lewandowski has not scored in his four World Cup outings, attempting 11 shots – including that unsuccessful penalty against Mexico.

Saudi Arabia – Salem Al Dawsari

Al Dawsari could have retired a Saudi Arabia World Cup hero even before this tournament, having netted a stoppage-time winner against Egypt in 2018. Now, after topping that effort with the decisive goal in the Argentina game, he is just the second Saudi player to score in multiple World Cups. Sami Al Jaber, the other, netted three goals in total, a record Al Dawsari can match with another key strike.

PREDICTION

Saudi Arabia might have beaten Argentina, but the supercomputer still does not expect them to follow that up with victory against Poland. They are given just a 20.0 per cent chance.

Poland are clear favourites at 55.5 per cent... or could there be another 0-0 on the cards? The draw is rated more likely than a Saudi Arabia victory at 24.5 per cent.

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