Despite suffering one of the greatest World Cup shocks of all time in their opening game against Saudi Arabia, Argentina cruised to the tournament’s last-16 with a 2-0 victory over Poland.
Lionel Messi, who had scored in each of his previous six Argentina appearances, squandered the chance to make it seven goals in a row for the Albiceleste in a dramatic first half. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was forced to watch a poorly struck penalty tipped around the post by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczsny as the weight of a nation rested on his shoulders. Some might argue that justice was served because the penalty kick was awarded in a contentious manner,
when Messi was brought down inside the box by a light touch from Szczsny with a reprieve provided by Messi’s miss on the verge of the break, Poland failed to capitalize on the opportunity and fell behind almost immediately after the restart. Alexis Mac Allister’s first Argentina goal, a right-footed effort from inside the area, put Scaloni’s side atop Group C and in pole position to finish first.
After going through the wringer in their previous two group-stage matches, Argentine fans inside Stadium 974 and around the world were treated to a somewhat comfortable conclusion to proceedings. Julián lvarez, who had come close in the first half, shifted inside onto his preferred foot and rocketed a right-footed strike into the net.
Argentina will have clear visibility from the top corner.
With three points almost certain for Argentina, the focus shifted to who would join the Albiceleste in qualifying. Poland, who spent the majority of the second half in second place due to their superior disciplinary record, had to endure an agonizing wait for full results.
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