IN a game they needed to win to advance at the World Cup, Argentina had seen Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny deny their talisman Lionel Messi from the spot here at the Stadium 974 on Wednesday night.
Szczesny’s 38th-minute save after Argentina had been utterly dominant meant both teams were goalless at halftime but it took Argentina a minute into the second half to take the lead, Alexis Mac Allister turning in a cross from the left in a move that started straight from kick-off.
Once they had the lead, Argentina thrived. Julian Alvarez showed great control and shot to add a second on 67 minutes, sending thousands of Argentina fans at the venue, made up of 974 shipping containers wild with joy.
Argentina could’ve got more goals but the 2-0 victory kept alive Messi’s dream of emulating the legendary Diego Maradona by guiding the Albiceleste to the World Cup title. It also saw Argentina finish top of Group ‘C’, setting up a last-16 clash with Australia.
Holders France will meet Poland, who qualified by the skin of their teeth as runners-up behind Argentina thanks to a late goal by Saudi Arabia, who lost 2-1 to Mexico in the other group game at the Lusail Stadium.
Poland finished level on points with the Mexicans but advanced on virtue of goal difference.
Henry Martin headed the opener for the Mexicans after a corner in the 47th minute before Luis Chavez got their second five minutes later with a stunning free-kick only for Salem Al Daswari to pull a goal back for Saudi Arabia.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022