Messi saves Argentina’s World Cup hopes, Mexico tactics fail

LUSAIL, Qatar — Goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez saved Argentina from World Cup elimination, beating Mexico 2-0 in Group C on Saturday.

In front of 88,966 fans at Lusail Stadium, the game was initially a nerve-racking game with many fouls but no chances by either side. Then, in the second half, Messi opened the scoring charts with an inch-perfect opportunity in the 64th minute that put the South Americans 1-0 ahead.

Fernandez made it 2-0 in the 87th minute with a fine shot that slipped past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

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Fast reaction

1. Argentina bounces back with first win to keep World Cup hopes alive

After a shocking 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in the first game of the group stage, Argentina failed to lose to Mexico and responded with a remarkable result at the Lusail Stadium.

Initially encountering hurdles with El TriUsing his defensive game plan through a 5-3-2 formation, Messi eventually rushed for a second-half shot that sent the Lusail Stadium into a frenzy. El Tri seemed at a loss after the goal and later gave Fernandez an inevitable chance to make it 2-0 in the dying moments.

The result is much more than just the three points won. Had Argentina lost, the title contenders would have earned a shocking early elimination from the group stage. Most importantly, Messi would also have gone home empty-handed, having previously commented that this would be his last World Cup.

For the time being, the hopes of the Argentine sporting nation live on.

2. Martino’s tactical experiment for Mexico fails

Mexico coach Tata Martino raised a few eyebrows when he decided to abandon his usual 4-3-3 formation and instead play a 5-3-2 against Argentina.

The strategy of putting more numbers on defense seemed frustrating at first La Albiceleste, which just took a little time to figure out. However, in the second half Argentina put Mexico on the ropes with goals from Messi and Fernandez and left El Tri with a more worrying path to the knockout stages.

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Even if Mexico defeat Saudi Arabia in the final game of the group stage, Martino and his men will have to hope the result between Poland and Argentina goes in their favour.

Would have El Tri Having only drawn against Argentina on Saturday, they would have needed just three points against Saudi Arabia and not have to rely on the other result.

3. After a quiet start, Messi turns out to be a hero

where is messi That was the question asked by many in Saturday’s game and even in the first half – but he was there at Lusail Stadium and scored one of Argentina’s most important goals at the 2022 World Cup.

Playing with the zeal and drive of a player who didn’t want his swan song to end in the group stage, the superstar shone with his movement and goal in the second half. Then, minutes before the end of regular time, the No. 10 reappeared with an assist for Fernandez.

Messi and his team still have a lot to do in the group stage but it will be a huge relief for the fans to see him score again and provide an assist in Qatar.


Player Ratings

Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa (5), Kevin Alvarez (6), Nestor Araujo (5), Cesar Montes (6), Hector Moreno (5), Jesus Gallardo (5), Hector Herrera (6), Andres Guardado (7), Luis Chavez (6), Hirving Lozano (6), Alexis Vega (6).

Subtitle: Erick Gutierrez (6), Raul Jimenez (6), Uriel Antuna (6), Roberto Alvarado (5).

Argentina: Emiliano Martinez (7), Gonzalo Montiel (6), Nicolas Otamendi (7), Lisandro Martinez (7), Marcos Acuna (7), Rodrigo de Paul (6), Guido Rodriguez (7), Angel Di Maria (7), Lionel Messi (9), Alexis MacAllister (7), Lautaro Martinez (6).

Subtitle: Enzo Fernández 8, Julian Alvarez 7, Nahuel Molina 7, Cristian Romero 7, Exequiel Palacios 6


Best and worst performers

BEST: Lionel Messi, Argentina

Goal, assist and the deserved Man of the Match winner: the global superstar is the reason Argentina are still fighting for a place in the knockout rounds.

Worst: Jesus Gallardo, Mexico

The full-back looked overwhelmed when Argentina roamed into his defensive perimeter and often had no trouble getting past him. He hasn’t done much for the future.


Highlights and notable moments

There were no highlights or significant moments in the first half.

Don’t you believe us? Only three shots were fired total (one for Argentina, two for Mexico) and expected goals, or xG, were the lowest in a half at the 2022 World Cup. Mexico registered just 0.07 xG and Argentina fared even worse at 0.05.

The second half seemed to drag along in much the same vein until Lionel Messi hit the back of the net for Argentina seemingly out of nowhere.

We can’t stress enough how little happened for the other side in attack and how Messi just turned and shot from well outside the box in a split second and somehow managed to place it perfectly. That was the goal that saved Argentina’s World Cup.

With the 1-0 win for Argentina, the situation changed – everything opened up and Argentina was suddenly ahead.

Enzo Fernandez dashed Mexico’s hopes of a comeback with a sensational flick from the inside corner of the box. It was a beauty to give Argentina a 2-0 lead.


After the game: What the players and coaches said

Argentina’s Lionel Messi on the result: “After the goal we became what we are again. So, it’s great – we needed that result, we needed that euphoria in this game that we had to win.”

Messi on the game changer: “…It all came down to two singles games. We knew we had to win today, that another World Cup was about to start for us and we knew what to do. We can’t be on our guard now.”

Messi on rumors he’s injured: “I don’t know why so many things were said about it. The other day everyone was talking about my ankle and I had nothing wrong with it. But then in the last minute (against Saudi Arabia) I rolled it over. It seemed like it was Intention. I said all week that I had nothing wrong with it and then I twisted it at the last minute. But it’s fine. I was able to train normally with the team right after that and I never trained alone .”


Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Messi has scored 13 goals for Argentina in 2022, his most in a calendar year. (Next best: 12 goals in 2012.)

  • Messi has scored six goals in a row for Argentina, making it his longest scoring streak for Argentina Albiceleste (from November 2011 to September 2012).

  • At 21 years and 313 days, Fernandez is the youngest player to score for Argentina at the World Cup since Messi’s against Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 (18 years and 358 days).

  • The last time Mexico had 1 or fewer points after two World Cup group stage games was in 1978 when Mexico lost all three games in the group.

  • Mexico are now goalless for the first time in El Tri’s history in four straight World Cup games, starting with the last World Cup. The only time Mexico went goalless in the first two group games of a World Cup was in 1962.


Next

Mexico: A game remains in Group C for El Triand they meet Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, November 30 at 2pm ET, which will decide whether or not Mexico advance to the knockout rounds. El quinto partido (a coveted, long-awaited fifth game in the quarterfinals) hangs in the balance – they must achieve it el cuarto (the fourth game) first.

Argentina: Likewise, La Albiceleste Complete Group C against Poland on Wednesday, November 30 at 2pm ET. Now that they haven’t lost to Mexico, Argentina are still in the knockout stages.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4815180/messi-saves-argentinas-world-cup-hopes-mexico-tactics-fail Messi saves Argentina’s World Cup hopes, Mexico tactics fail

Emma Bowman

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