Lionel Messi was Argentina’s savior once again, scoring the breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico at the Lusail Stadium, kicking off his team’s World Cup campaign.
Poland’s 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia early Saturday left Argentina facing the challenge of avoiding a loss to Mexico if they don’t pull out of the tournament after just two games.
Argentina left behind their shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia thanks to Messi’s long-range strike in the 64th minute and an equally impressive late strike from Enzo Fernandez.
Lionel Scaloni’s men join Saudi Arabia with three points and are one point behind Group C leaders Poland, whom they face in the final, while Mexico is one point behind.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 26, 2022
Argentina made five substitutions after the first loss, three of them defensively, and they failed to record a meaningful try in the first half.
Closest to opening the scoring, Mexico came at half-time thanks to a free-kick from Alexis Vega that spurred Emiliano Martinez into action.
The quality of play improved only marginally in the second half, but Messi out of the blue controlled Angel Di Maria’s pass and shot a low past Guillermo Ochoa from 25 yards.
This shot put Messi on a par with another great, Diego Maradona, who scored eight World Cup goals for Argentina.
Three minutes before the end, the Benfica midfielder received a pass from Messi after a short corner, made his way into the box and moved away from Ochoa into the top corner, scoring his first Argentine goal.
What does it mean? Group C going down to the wire
The four first-half shots Argentina and Mexico made against each other were the lowest total in a World Cup game since the Netherlands against Argentina in 2014 (three).
However, Scaloni’s team stepped up the game in the final half hour to ensure their hopes of progress remain in their own hands as they went 11 games unbeaten against a lackluster Mexican team.
Argentina will now be guaranteed a place in the round of 16 if they beat Poland, although a draw could also be sufficient.
Mexico is at the bottom of Group C but can still take the lead if they beat Saudi Arabia and Argentina lose to Poland, while a Mexico win and a draw in the other match would mean goal difference.
The Magical Messi Matters
On the day he equaled Maradona in terms of caps (21) and goals record (8) at the World Cup, Messi had his breakthrough with a superb shot and then helped substitute Fernandez score Argentina’s killer second goal.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker has scored in six consecutive games for Argentina, his joint best for the national team (also six between November 2011 and September 2012).
Guardado’s big day is interrupted
Mexico captain Andrés Guardado was recalled by Gerardo Martino to become only the sixth player to play in five different World Cups, three of which were Mexicans (also Rafael Márquez and Antonio Carbajal), but his return only lasted 42 minutes due to a strike. which he received. unable to shake off.
Guardado’s absence was felt as he won more duels (4), won more tackles (2) and recovered the ball more times (5) than any Mexican player in the first half, with only Kevin Alvarez (27) having more touches than Real Madrid. Betis. player 25.
Opta key features:
– Since 1966, only Rivellino (5) has scored more World Cup goals from outside the box than Messi (4).
– Mexico has lost all four World Cup matches against Argentina – only Nigeria (5 against Argentina) has played more World Cup matches against a particular country, but lost each time.
– Argentina kept their first clean sheet in seven World Cup matches since the 2014 semi-final against the Netherlands (0-0, Argentina won on penalties).
– Mexico failed to win either of their first two matches in the same World Cup tournament for the first time since 1978, losing all three group games in this edition.
– They also failed to score for the first time in four consecutive World Cup matches, losing three of those four matches (D1).
Group C is in for a thrilling final on Wednesday with Argentina taking on Poland and Mexico taking on Saudi Arabia, with all four teams yet to qualify.