Argentina officially qualified for the World Cup knockout round on Wednesday, despite Lionel Messi stopping a scoring streak. Instead, Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez scored the goals as Argentina beat Poland 2-0.
Messi failed to record a goal or assist in a game for his country for the first time in eight matches. The star, however, had a huge chance to collect his 94th total goal for Argentina. Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny collided with Messi in the 36th minute of the match after attempting to punch the ball away. While the penalty was not initially given, VAR intervened and asked the referee to take a second look at the incident.
Szczęsny shines, despite defeat
The referee gave the penalty after reviewing the collision on the monitor. Messi then proceeded to put in a fairly tame penalty kick towards Szczęsny. Despite the eventual scoreline, the Polish keeper was brilliant on the night, particularly in the first half.
Szczęsny became just the second keeper since 1974 to save multiple penalties during normal time at a World Cup. American Brad Friedel previously saved two penalty shots as well in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.
The win on Wednesday propelled Argentina all the way to the top of Group C. After suffering a huge shock defeat on their opening match of the tournament, Argentina rallied to win their next two games. Poland, despite the loss, finished second in the group ahead of Mexico.
Messi needs help for Argentina to win World Cup
Argentina will need performances like this if they are to collect the World Cup trophy. The team’s chances of potentially winning the tournament in Messi’s last World Cup will improve drastically if supporting players step up.
Everyone in the world understands what Messi is capable of; however, he can’t always be the savior. Wednesday’s win could be a very promising omen for Argentine fans around the world.
Topping Group C means that Argentina will next face Australia on Saturday. Poland plays defending World Cup champions France on the following day.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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