World Cup: Lionel Messi lifts Argentina’s hopes, dashes Mexico’s
Lionel Messi has spent his career dribbling his way out of Diego Maradona’s sizable shadow.
Messi has scored more goals, won more titles, participated in more World Cups and been arrested less often than Maradona. But Maradona has won a World Cup, the only prize Messi lacks.
On Saturday, as his time window quickly closed, Messi again found magic in his powerful left foot, scoring in the 64th minute to launch Argentina into a 2-0 win over Mexico that increased his chances Teams on elimination revived the group stage while Mexico is almost dashing.
“It was a burden off our shoulders,” said Messi.
If lost, Argentina would likely have been eliminated in the first round of a World Cup for the first time in six decades. And no one felt that burden more than Messi, who couldn’t escape the specter of Maradona even in Qatar.
Friday marked the second anniversary of Maradona’s death and thousands of Argentinian fans gathered in Doha’s old Souq Waqif to commemorate him. Another makeshift shrine was created in front of the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Saturday, where “Life is Life” – known unofficially as the Maradona song – was played over the stadium’s PA system just before kick-off.
“Diego is immortal. He’s still with us,” said embattled FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “What this man did to make people fall in love with this sport, maybe no one else has.”
This World Cup is the first without Maradona since 1978 and it was probably a good thing he wasn’t there for the opening game in Argentina La Albiceleste lost to Saudi Arabia in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. So Messi & Co. needed a win against Mexico.
Mexico also needed a win, so coach Tata Martino changed tactics and used a five-man defense to slow down Argentina. However, the defensive stance also slowed Mexico’s attack, with the teams averaging 15 fouls but just four shots combined in the first half, the fewest in the first half of a World Cup game since 2014.
At half-time, Messi urged his teammates to show patience.
“And then you know what happened,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni. “No. 10 scored. He’s doing what he does best. He scored one goal.”
With Mexico rushing up to six players in the box, Messi moved well outside the box where Ángel Di María, who helped Messi to his only international league title at the 2008 Olympics, found him. After collecting Di María’s pass about 30 yards away, Messi took the ball with one touch to his left foot, then skipped a shot just outside of the reach of Mexico keeper Memo Ochoa at the right post.
With arms outstretched in joy and relief, Messi raced towards the Argentine fans behind the goal, where he was soon surrounded by team-mates.
“We already know that he is the best player in the world,” said Scaloni. “Messi should enjoy this World Cup. And the fans should enjoy watching him play.”
⚽ World Cup 2022 in Qatar
The goal was Messi’s eighth in 21 World Cup appearances and eerily fitted Maradona’s numbers.
“In 30 seconds he can be very damaging,” Martino said of Messi.
This one took less than four from the moment the ball left Di María’s foot until it hit the net. But it changed everything for Messi and Argentina – and for Mexico. For Argentina, who scored an Enzo Fernández insurance goal in the 87th minute – following an assist from Messi – the win put them second in the group, a point behind Poland, and left them in control of their own destiny: Poland beat the last game of the group stage on Wednesday and Argentina are in the next round for a 13th straight World Cup.
The scenario is a bit more complicated for bottom-placed Mexico. El Tri need to beat Saudi Arabia in their last game and get a good result in the Poland-Argentina game while equalizing a sizeable goal difference. That last bit could be difficult for a side that haven’t scored in the last 384 minutes at the World Cup since the second group game in 2018, when Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored.
None of the players were selected for the Qatar team.
“We’re injured, but as long as there’s a chance we have to keep fighting,” said defender Nestor Araujo. “As long as there is a chance, we will fight.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/story/2022-11-26/world-cup-lionel-messi-stars-argentina-beats-mexico-recap World Cup: Lionel Messi lifts Argentina’s hopes, dashes Mexico’s