Lionel Messi’s Argentina beat Poland 2-0 on Wednesday to top World Cup Group C and reach the last 16 as the Poles also progressed on goal difference.
Lionel Messi had a penalty saved but Argentina still advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup as Group C winners after a 2-0 victory over Poland on Wednesday. Poland also went through as runners-up although a 2-1 win for Mexico over Saudi Arabia in the group’s other game meant Czeslaw Michniewicz’s side advanced only on goal difference. Alexis Mac Allister’s 46th-minute goal settled Argentina’s nerves after a tense first half, before Julian Alvarez doubled their lead just over 20 minutes later. Argentina had been unable to find a way past Wojciech Szczesny in an opening 45 minutes in which the Poland goalkeeper saved his second penalty of the tournament.
- Szczesny was adjudged to have fouled Messi while stretching to reach a cross, but he dived to his left to beat away the resulting spot-kick.
- It was the 31st penalty Messi had failed to convert in his career.
- Poland offered little attacking threat, with star striker Robert Lewandowski virtually anonymous throughout.
- Instead it was left to Szczesny to take centre stage for the Poles, denying Messi with two crucial early stops.
- First Messi wriggled clear of a pack of defenders before producing a shot that flew straight at the keeper.
- Then he found space to charge into the Polish box down the left, forcing Szczesny to make a save at his near post.
- Argentina continued to create the better chances in the first half and Marcos Acuna flashed a shot wide after Alvarez had also gone close to breaking the deadlock.
- Szczesny had to scramble to stop Angel di Maria scoring direct from a corner, before the goalkeeper was again called into action to deny Alvarez.
– Penalty save –
- Szczesny outdid himself when he dived to his left to stop Messi’s penalty in the 39th minute.
- He still had more to do before the half-time whistle, punching away a shot from Alvarez before saving the follow-up from Rodrigo de Paul.
- There was nothing he could do when Mac Allister broke the deadlock less than a minute after the interval.
- Nahuel Molina charged down the right, then cut the ball back for Mac Allister to drill just beyond Szczesny’s reach.
- The goal forced Poland to show some belated attacking ambition and Kamil Glik headed just wide from a free-kick almost immediately after the restart.
- Argentina continued to go in search of more goals and Alvarez scored their second after combining well with Enzo Fernandez.
- Fernandez, making his first start for Argentina, picked out his team-mate, who held off a defender before lashing the ball past Szczesny.
- Poland were still walking a tightrope with yellow cards potentially crucial to their chances of reaching the last 16.
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- Grzegorz Krychowiak went into the book in the 83rd minute but a late goal for Saudi Arabia against Mexico saw the Poles safely through on goal difference.
– NDTV Sports