ublime strikes by Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez earned Argentina a 2-0 win over feisty Mexico in a pulsating atmosphere at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday and got the South American favourites’ World Cup campaign up and running.
Stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C match, Argentina knew defeat would send them out of the tournament but they started poorly, struggling to cope with Mexico’s high press as Messi was denied time and space to operate.
Argentina’s captain was anonymous in the first half, his sole contribution of note a header that ballooned over the bar, as his team failed to carve out a single decent chance.
But picked out by Angel Di Maria just outside the Mexico box in the 64th minute, Messi made no mistake, arrowing a low shot through a crowd of defenders into the corner. Fernandez doubled the lead in the 87th with a wonderful curling effort.
The win took Argentina up to second place on three points, one behind leaders Poland, who they play in their last group match. Saudi Arabia are third, level on points with Argentina but with an inferior goal difference.
Messi the master of moments as Argentina somehow keep dream alive
Outside the Lusail Stadium, an Argentine supporter held a banner emblazoned with a smiling picture of his hero, arms spread wide in that familiar, corner flag-bound celebration.
“I will sacrifice all my dreams for Messi’s World Cup dream,” the slogan above it read, a little clunky, perhaps, but typical of what we had been led to believe about the difference between this iteration of Argentina and its predecessors coming into the tournament.
This, supposedly, was a team not only united behind its leader but determined to uplift him, blessed by the presence of the greatest player of all-time, but determined not to be reliant solely on him for deliverance. It was, allegedly, a two-way street, all a little bit JFK: ask not what Lionel Messi can do for your country, but – at his fifth and likely final World Cup – what you can do for him.
This was, evidently, all nonsense. For having failed to create a simple opening of note in 64 minutes here, Argentina were once again left in the hands of their god.
Read Malik Ouzia’s full match report here!
Lionel Messi delivered yet another moment of magic on the World Cup stage to keep Argentina’s hopes of qualifying for the last-16 alive.
The 35-year-old’s touch and shot against Mexico was a moment of technical perfection but it came in a moment of dire need for his side, who lost to Saudi Arabia in their Group C opener.
It was a poor and nervous display from the South American giants and they still have work to do in the final match against Poland – where only a win will guarantee qualification.
Nizaar Kinsella was at Lusail Stadium to rate the Argentina players…
FT: Argentina 2-0 Mexico
Brilliant goals from Messi and Fernandez ensure Argentina’s World Cup dream is still alive.
Six minutes added time
90:00 – Do Mexico have enough to ask a question in the final few minutes? Seems unlikely.
GOAL! Argentina 2-0 Mexico
86:00 – Enzo Fernandez curls in a brilliant second to ensure three points for Argentina!
De Paul has been awul
85:00 – Better touch just now and Argentina are though on goal. Not been a good night for the Atletico star.
2014 all over again?
83:00 – Late Messi winners agaisnt Bosnia and Iran took Argentina all the way to the final…..
(Admittedly, this team look a lot worse)
Mexico don’t look likely
76:00 – Martino’s side just haven’t asked questions of the Argentina defence. Would take something special from here.
Nizaar Kinsella at the Lusail Stadium
Argentina’s fans needed something and the diminutive forward in the no10 shirt has provided. Lionel Messi has transformed the atmosphere through a moment of brilliance.
We must also credit to manager Lionel Scaloni who has seen his side improve through the latest switch of system