DOHA ( Associated Press) – Argentina’s young blood came to the rescue after Lionel Messi stumbled and beat Poland 2-0 to advance to the last 16 of the World Cup.
Midfielder Alexis McAllister and striker Julian Alvarez, who was not debuting for Albiceleste before the World Cup, scored the winning goals on 46 minutes and 67 minutes at the 974 stadium on Wednesday, with Albiceleste fans dominating its 40,000 seats.
Argentina, who suffered an unexpected shock in their debut against Saudi Arabia, lead Group C with six points and will play Australia in the last 16 on Saturday, thus avoiding a clash with defending champions France, their executioner four years ago. Save
Despite the loss, Poland – with four points – also made it into the top 16 of the tournament for the first time since 1986. Mexico (4 points) beat Saudi Arabia (3) 2–1, but was eliminated due to low score. Goal difference in their favor.
Messi was saved from a penalty in the 39th minute by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. 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.
Poland guessed and gave the initiative to Macy & Co. It was the Albiceleste monologue, but the goal was long in coming.
After a timely overflow from full-back Nahuel Molina at the start of the plug-in, McAllister received and beat Szczecny with an incised left-footed shot.
Álvarez, who replaced regular starter Lautaro Martínez in the game, scored the second goal after an assist from midfielder Enzo Fernández, another Argentine rookie who joined the squad for the decisive game.
Although it was presented as a clash of stars between each team’s historic top scorers, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski, neither of them found the net. The first penalty was missed and Pole didn’t even complete the goal.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni kicked the board and ordered four changes to the team compared to the eleven that beat Mexico 2–0 in the second game of the zone.
Defender Cristian Romero and full-back Molina replaced the tall first two Lisandro Martínez and Gonzalo Montiel to control the Poles’ passing game.
Fernandez, the author of one of the goals against the Mexican, displaced Guido Rodríguez. While the biggest surprise was in attack, with Manchester City betting on the young striker instead of Martinez, the second-highest scorer in the Scaloni cycle behind Messi but who has yet to score at the World Cup.
In the third World Cup meeting between the two teams, Albiceleste justified the victory with a lot of arguments, but thanks to Szczecin, who came before this duel with an unbeaten fence.
After ten minutes, the Juventus goalkeeper got in the way of Díaz’s left footed cross. He then saved Ángel Di María’s corner kick which was an Olympic goal. And he saved Messi’s penalty to crown himself a hero.
On minute 36, McAllister assisted on “Spider” Álvarez, who was facing the goal and finished. Szczesny counterattacked, which the young attacker once again took advantage of to launch a cross into the six-yard box. Messi jumped over his head and the goalkeeper hit him in the face.
After a VAR review, Dutch referee Danny Makeli called a penalty. Messi followed up with a mid-height shot that Szczecny cleared with his right hand.
This is the second penalty that the 35-year-old Messi has saved in the World Cup. The first was against Iceland four years ago. The Paris Saint-Germain star scored a penalty in his unsuccessful debut against Saudi Arabia.
The Argentine fans, who were the majority in the stadium, immediately tried to boost their captain’s morale by shouting “Messi, Messi, Messi”.
The crash of his top figure did not demoralize the men led by Scaloni, who just introduced supplements which he took advantage of.
Romero advanced to opposite field and partnered with Molina, who assisted and tripled McAllister. The midfielder beat Szczecin with an incised left-footed shot.
Fernandez and Alvarez rekindled the successful partnership they had recently shared at River Plate and sealed the classification. In the counter-attack, the current Benfica midfielder from Portugal left Álvarez facing only the goal and he fired into the goalkeeper’s left corner.