Argentina beat Australia 2-1 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, surviving a late comeback to advance to the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals. Lionel Messi marked his 1000th appearance with a trademark goal to keep his dream of World Cup glory alive in Qatar.
Argentina, having advanced from the group stage for the ninth time in their last ten World Cups, had every chance of retaining their title against an Australia side playing in the Round of 16 for the second time in tournament history. And with that difference in paper quality came a laborious start to the pitch, as the Socceroos allowed Argentina possession. Even as the first half progressed, the lack of urgency remained, with both goalkeepers remaining untested.
It wasn’t until the 35th minute that a true moment of quality arrived, and it came, of course, from Messi. In his 100th appearance as Argentina’s captain, the Argentine magician was perfectly placed to pick up the ball inside the area before curling a pinpoint effort into the bottom right corner for his first ever goal in the World Cup knockout stages.
The second half began similarly, with Australia showing more intent and giving Argentina more space than they had in the first. Within five minutes of the restart, Lionel Scaloni changed the system and his team used a rare high press to force a costly mistake and double their lead. It was goalkeeper Mathew Ryan who had a forgettable moment, as he was dispossessed just outside the six-yard box, allowing Julián lvarez to steal in and cleverly tuck away his second goal of the tournament, seemingly putting Graham Arnold’s men out of the game
Argentina, on the other hand, did not have it all their own way. To cut the deficit against the run of play, substitute Craig Goodwin’s long-range effort took a wicked deflection and left Emiliano Martnez stranded. There were more scares on the way, with only a last-ditch block from Lisandro Martnez preventing Aziz Behich from scoring a World Cup wonder goal after the full-back produced a Messi-esque run.