Lionel Messi’s excellent lengthy-vary strike helped revive Argentina’s flagging World Cup hopes as they claimed an important 2-0 win over Mexico on the Lusail Stadium.
Argentina got here into the sport realizing defeat would imply elimination after their shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia they usually laboured once more till Messi’s sixty fifth-minute intervention.
The 35-12 months-outdated, taking part in at what is predicted to be his final World Cup, picked up Angel Di Maria’s go outdoors the field and arrowed a exact shot into the underside nook to interrupt the impasse in a scrappy and ailing-tempered encounter.
Messi then turned supplier as Argentina made the sport secure three minutes from time, his go discovering substitute Enzo Fernandez who minimize inside and curled a luxurious end previous Guillermo Ochoa.
The victory appeared unlikely at instances throughout a recreation disrupted by fixed fouls and that includes little in the best way of high quality, however it takes Argentina as much as second in Group C, a degree behind Poland, who they face of their remaining recreation as they bid to clinch their place within the final 16.
“Today another World Cup starts for Argentina,” Messi mentioned after the sport. “I inform individuals the identical factor, that they proceed to imagine. Today we did what we needed to do.
“We had no different alternative. We needed to win in order that we depended solely on ourselves.
“The first half we didn’t play as we should and in the second, when we calmed down, we started to play the ball better and after the goal we went back to being what we are.”
Big moments within the recreation…
- 45 min: Mexico register the primary shot on course as Vega’s free kick saved
- 51 min: Messi’s first tried shot sees him sky a free kick
- 64 min: Messi scores a superb opener from Di Maria’s go
- 87 min: Fernandez provides Argentina’s late second
How Argentina emerged victorious
Argentina supervisor Lionel Scaloni had sought to shake issues up following the Saudi Arabia defeat, making 5 modifications to his crew, with Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez and Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister amongst these included.
But there was no signal of enchancment in a dire first half, with Messi unable to affect proceedings and Lautaro Martinez chopping an remoted determine forward of him as Argentina, flat and disjointed, picked up the place they left off in Tuesday’s recreation.
Mexico appeared extra threatening within the first interval, however, like Argentina, they struggled to provide any actual moments of high quality, with an Alexis Vega free-kick, comfortably saved by Emi Martinez, the one effort on course from both aspect earlier than the interval.
There was extra of the identical after the break regardless of the crackling ambiance inside the bottom, with a wayward Messi free kick seemingly summing up his night as he struggled to spark.
It all modified, although, when he lastly discovered himself in a pocket of house round 25 yards from purpose, taking a contact to manage Di Maria’s go earlier than rifling an unstoppable shot into the far nook.
The purpose sparked wild celebrations amongst Argentina’s gamers and followers and there was one other outpouring of reduction when substitute Fernandez ran onto Messi’s go following a nook and dispatched a elegant end from the left-hand aspect of the field.
Mexico provided little in response, registering solely 4 pictures over the course of the sport, leaving Argentina to rejoice a victory that maintains their hopes of qualifying for the final 16.
What it means in Group C
Having averted a defeat to Mexico which might have ended their World Cup participation, Argentina have their Group C future in their very own palms once more. Victory in opposition to Poland on Wednesday night time will assure not solely their development but additionally put them in pole place to advance as group winners – to disclaim them high spot in that situation, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t solely have to beat Mexico but additionally win by a bigger margin than Argentina.
Poland will progress in the event that they keep away from defeat to Argentina – a win would assure their development as group winners – whereas a draw for Saudi Arabia in opposition to Mexico and a defeat for Poland would solely see the Saudis qualify if Poland lose closely.
As for Mexico, they should beat Saudi Arabia to have any hope of qualifying. A win for Mexico and a defeat for Argentina in opposition to Poland would undoubtedly be adequate for Mexico to complete as runners-up whereas a win for Mexico and a draw between Argentina and Poland would see the 2 South American groups end stage on factors and runners-up standing decided by purpose distinction.
What the managers mentioned…
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni: “The feeling you are playing something more than a football match, I don’t share this opinion.
“I do assume the sensation of pleasure is there. Maybe you assume I’m loopy. We will get pleasure from it within the dressing room tonight, however tomorrow, that is it, we begin once more.
“It was the same when we won the Copa America – the happiness lasts only 10 minutes. We need to find that emotional balance when we win, and when we lose.”
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino: “When Messi gets the ball, in 30 seconds he can be very harmful.”
When requested if he felt Mexico had afforded Messi an excessive amount of house all through, Martino replied: “I don’t see it that way. I saw there was space when he scored – we made a mistake.
“I do not assume in the course of the match he discovered many areas within the final third, however I do perceive that Argentina’s objectives can change the attitude of what has occurred over the 90 minutes.
“We held our heads high to face a huge opponent in Argentina and I’m sure we will play the same way and we will break our backs in the next game.”
Keane: Moments of high quality gained it
Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane instructed ITV: “As these great players get older, it’s all about moments and that bit of end product. We’ve talked about Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo recently, the finish was brilliant, but other than that he was very average.
“But he produced that second. He’s now received two objectives in two video games and contemplating persons are saying he is nearly completed, you’ll be able to’t write these gamers off.
“In the second half, I was looking at Argentina thinking ‘what kind of characters have you got, because you’re up against it’, but they turned it around. They found a way to win the game with two bits of quality.
“Credit to the supervisor, he made modifications earlier than the sport and simply as essential, made modifications in the course of the recreation. They received the job achieved they usually’ll be feeling so much higher tonight.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville credited Argentina’s swap to 5 on the again as one other key issue within the victory.
“In the first half, I couldn’t see a way for Argentina in terms of the overall competition,” he mentioned on ITV.
“But I liked it when they went to five at the back, they did it at the start of the second half by dropping one of the midfield players in, but then they bought Romero on.
“All of a sudden, they appeared much more aggressive and the three in midfield had much more vitality.
“Then with Alvarez and Messi up front as a two, you can build from a solid foundation and have the players up front who can actually deliver in moments, which is how Argentina are going to win this tournament if they’re going to do it.”
Analysis: Messi nonetheless a recreation-changer
Cometh the hour, cometh the person.
Lionel Messi had endured a deeply irritating night on the Lusail Stadium, his struggles mirroring these of the Argentina crew as an entire, however his sensational opening purpose was a reminder he can nonetheless change a recreation immediately.
Messi had floated on the periphery of a poor-high quality encounter for the previous hour, a wayward free kick early within the second half his solely try on purpose. But when his alternative lastly got here, in a pocket of house simply outdoors the field, he seized it.
The purpose, guided into the underside nook, was his 93rd for his nation and his eighth on the World Cup, placing him stage with Diego Maradona. It could show to be one in all his most important too.
Argentina had been terrible till that second however their perception step by step returned after it and when the second purpose got here it was no shock to see Messi concerned, the 35-12 months-outdated feeding Enzo Fernandez, whose beautiful end made the sport secure.
Argentina’s work just isn’t achieved. A troublesome remaining group recreation in opposition to Poland awaits. They might want to present appreciable enchancment on this efficiency if they’re to navigate it efficiently and plot a route into the latter levels of the match.
But in Messi, they know they’ve a trump card, a participant who, even at 35, remains to be able to elevating them once they want it most. With the Saudi Arabia debacle now behind them, and with Messi chasing his World Cup future, Argentina can dream once more.
Messi stage with Maradona – Opta stats
- Lionel Messi has scored in six successive appearances for Argentina, his joint-longest ever scoring run in worldwide soccer (additionally 6 between November 2011 – September 2012).
- Lionel Messi has now scored as many World Cup objectives as Diego Maradona (8), with solely Gabriel Batistuta (10) netting extra for Argentina on the match general.
- Since 1966, solely Rivellino (5) has scored extra World Cup objectives from outdoors the field than Messi (4).
- Andres Guardado grew to become simply the sixth participant to characteristic at 5 totally different World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) and the third totally different Mexican to take action after Rafael Márquez and Antonio Carbajal.
- Argentina are unbeaten of their final 11 conferences with Mexico in all competitions (W8 D3) since a 1-0 loss within the 2004 Copa America.