DOHA ( Associated Press) – As he recovered from an unexpected setback. Because it has a replacement. Because he has one of the best footballers in history, but it doesn’t depend on him. And because luck played in his favor.
Argentina returned to the starting point just before the round of 16 of the World Cup. He had arrived as one of the top favourites, but a setback on his debut against Saudi Arabia ended his 36-match unbeaten run and broke his record.
If there is a play that describes the collective stability that the South American team has recovered, it was the 27 touches of the ball that preceded the second goal of the victory against Poland: eight players took part in the maneuvers, in which Argentina Moved the ball. From one band to another until Enzo Fernández saw a hole in the opponent’s defense and threw a pass to Julián Álvarez, who defined the angle.
In a confined moment, coach Lionel Scaloni made major surgery on some of the starters to win the Copa America in 2021 and the team responded with 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland to finish first in their region. Thus, they avoided defending champions France and will face Australia in a table that theoretically appears favorable enough for them to reach the final on 18 December.
He told captain Lionel Messi, “We’ve long gone back to the way we were before.” That is what we wanted at the start of the World Cup, which we could not achieve due to various circumstances. It gives confidence for the times to come.”
What work did you do
The hand of the coach was crucial in fixing the pieces. Scaloni disagrees with an old football dogma: The winning team doesn’t touch. If a footballer does not live up to expectations or the next opponent demands other interpreters, the coach will change the eleven with only one exception: Messi.
Scaloni replaced five players against Mexico in his debut, compared to the losing side. And despite the win, they made four changes to face the Poles.
Midfielders Alexis McAllister and Fernandez and striker Alvarez – none of them older than 23 – emerged victorious from that mutation, having been a substitute ahead of the World Cup.
With the first two gone, Argentina seem to have built a new midfield, with only Rodrigo de Paul left in comparison to the Copa America winner.
McAllister and Fernandez pace the game, they get to the goal, but they are also important in setbacks and recoveries.
Scaloni gave the title to 22-year-old Álvarez instead of the more experienced Lautaro Martínez, his cycle’s second goalscorer after Messi. And the Manchester City attacker has one admirable quality despite his youth: the heavier the responsibility, the better he responds.
This happened to him as a River Plate player when he played at the age of 18 in the second leg of the historic Copa Libertadores final against classic rivals Boca Juniors, scoring in his first game as a starter for City and now a world cup.
Argentina also showed character to recover from the penalty as Messi was saved by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczecny in the first half. It was the second time the 35-year-old Argentina captain had disappointed at the World Cup. The first was against Iceland four years ago.
At any other time, that blow would have demoralized Starr and his teammates. But the opposite happened.
Messi said, “I felt very angry for missing the penalty because I know that a goal changes the game and makes you play in a different way, but as a result of missing the penalty, the team became stronger.”
One of the team’s weak points is still on the wings. Scaloni has switched sides in all three sports. Against Poland, Nahuel Molina returned to the right and assisted McAllister in goal, but required more participation from him.
On the left, Marcos Acuña was always free, but he was not accurate when he stepped down the field.
Veteran Ángel Di María was replaced midway through the second half due to a thigh niggle in his left leg. The risk of a tear puts his presence against Australia in doubt.
Star Lionel Messi has surpassed the legendary Diego Maradona as the Argentine player with the most appearances at the World Cup – 22 matches – and was three behind Lothar Matthaus’ record with Germany.
what will happen next
La Albiceleste, champions in 1978 and 1986, finished first in their zone and will face Australia at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium on Saturday – second in Group D and 38th in the FIFA rankings. This is the second time Socceroos has reached this level in their history.