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Soccer

Messi and Argentina closing in on Italy’s world record unbeaten streak

After back-to-back victories this week, Lionel Messi and Argentina are just three games away from breaking Italy’s world record.

Roddy Cons
Update:
Argentina's Lionel Messi (10) celebrates his goal with teammates during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on September 27, 2022. (Photo by Andres Kudacki / AFP)
ANDRES KUDACKIAFP

Following back-to-back 3-0 victories over Honduras and Jamaica this week, Argentina are closing in on the world record for the longest unbeaten streak in international men’s soccer.

Argentina unbeaten in 35 matches in international soccer

Manager Lionel Scaloni has overseen a run of 35 matches without defeat, with La Albiceleste’s last loss coming against arch-rivals Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa América in 2019. Since then, they have posted 24 victories and 11 draws across friendly matches, World Cup 2022 qualifying and, of course, the 2021 Copa América, a trophy they lifted for the 15th time. Additionally, Lionel Messi and his teammates also defeated reigning European champions Italy at Wembley in June in La Finalissima, the first edition of the rebranded CONEMBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions.

The closest Argentina have come to defeat in their current streak was in their 2021 Copa América triumph, as they needed a penalty shootout to defeat Colombia in the semi-finals. And their unbeaten sequence could have been at serious risk had their World Cup qualifier in Brazil gone ahead in September 2021. The match was postponed after the Brazilian health authorities accused several Argentinian players of breaking the country’s covid-19 quarantine rules. With both nations already having qualified for the World Cup, FIFA later opted to cancel the fixture to avoid further controversy.

Argentina fans
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Argentina fansELSAAFP

Brazil, Spain and Algeria records equalled

Argentina’s victory over Jamaica in New Jersey means they have equalled the 35-match unbeaten runs of three other countries. Brazil, who won the 1994 World Cup in the midst of theirs. Spain, whose streak started and ended either side of their Euro 2008 triumph. And Algeria, who suffered a shock loss to Equatorial Guinea in the group stages of the 2021 African Cup of Nations, played in January.

Italy hold the longest unbeaten streak

But it is Italy who are the current world record holders in men’s international soccer thanks to their 37-game undefeated streak between October 2018 and October 2021. A month after a 1-0 defeat to Portugal in the Nations League in Lisbon, Roberto Mancini’s side drew a home friendly with Ukraine in Genoa and went on to record a further eight draws and 29 victories, taking in additional friendly matches, UEFA Nations League games, Euro 2020 qualification, World Cup 2022 qualification and Euro 2020, in which they emerged victorious, which took place in 2021.

Italy's head coach Roberto Mancini
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Italy's head coach Roberto Mancini ATTILA KISBENEDEKGetty

Penalty shoot-out victories over Spain and England in the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final respectively came towards the tail end of the run, which ended in a 2-1 defeat to La Roja in the semi-final of the Nations League Final Four in Milan.

Despite that sequence only coming to an end relatively recently, Italy won’t feature at the 2022 World Cup after a surprise loss to North Macedonia in a playoff.

When could Argentina break the record?

Argentina, meanwhile, head into the competition as one of the favourites, with this week’s results meaning they have won their last four matches by a 14-0 aggregate score. On current form, they look to be near-certainties to break the record. So, when could it happen?

Lionel Messi
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Lionel Messi Villar LópezEFE

As things stand, La Albiceleste are due to play just one more friendly match before the World Cup, against the United Arab Emirates on 16 November. Their Group C opener against Saudi Arabia follows eight days later and the date to mark on your calendars could be 26 November, when they face Mexico in Lusail. Poland are the other team in the group.