FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Argentina beat Poland 2-0 to set up last 16 clash with Australia

Argentina defeated Poland 2-0 to secure first place in Group C despite Lionel Messi’s missed penalty. On a dramatic evening, Poland advanced to the round of 16 ahead of Mexico due to goal differential.

A second-place finish would have put Argentina against France in the round of 16, but goals from Alexis Mac Allister (46) and Julian Alvarez (67), scored after Wojciech Szczesny had saved a contentious Messi penalty, gave Argentina a well-deserved victory and moved them up to face Australia.

Argentina beat Poland 2-0

Czeslaw Michniewicz’s team was sensationally poised to advance on fair play points before Saudi Arabia’s stoppage-time goal in their 2-1 loss to Mexico put the Poles through on goal difference. As a result, Poland’s qualification was in the balance until the very end. Jakub Kiwior’s goal-line clearance in stoppage time kept the deficit at two as Poland played out the dying minutes of their game knowing that another goal for either Argentina or Mexico would send them home.

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The Poles did just enough to secure a matchup with the defending champions France on Sunday in what will be their first World Cup knockout game since 1986, despite a poor performance from Poland in which Robert Lewandowski did not even record a shot. Mexico ultimately won by just one goal, and despite Mexico’s performance, which included them only scoring one goal.

Messi, clearly keen to build on his game-winning performance against Mexico following the shocking loss to Saudi Arabia, forced a deft save from Szczesny with a strong early drive. Argentina completely controlled the game from the opening. The 35-year-old was also Argentina’s major source of creative energy; he frequently appeared in midfield areas and found teammates in risky situations, but the finishing was never quite there.

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Alvarez, who was chosen to start up front in lieu of Lautaro Martinez, missed a great chance after a Molina cut-back. A Poland defender blocked his low effort when he should have scored, and Marcos Acuna then narrowly missed with the follow-up.

Acuna missed two additional opportunities that came from Messi passes, and Alvarez was denied twice more in the opening period as well. The Manchester City striker had a one-on-one attempt stopped by Szczesny and another attempt parried. Argentina’s biggest opportunity, however, was lost by Messi, whose penalty kick was brilliantly saved by Szczesny after a VAR review that found the Poland goalkeeper had harshly fouled the Paris Saint-Germain striker as he headed a cross wide.

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Michal Skoras and Jakub Kaminski were sent in for the solitary Lewandowksi by Poland manager Michniewicz at halftime in an effort to alter the outcome of the match, but Argentina’s opener came within a minute. With a scuffed finish into the bottom corner after a brilliant cut-back from Nahuel Molina, Brighton’s Mac Allister scored his first goal for his country.

After that, Kamil Glik missed a rare chance for Poland to score from a free-kick, but otherwise it was all Argentina. Mac Allister threatened to score again before Alvarez finally scored by superbly curling in a pass from Enzo Fernandez. Sczesny denied the brilliant Messi, who put on a passing masterclass as he continued his pursuit of the one trophy that has eluded him, and Poland were extremely fortunate not to concede again.

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Alvarez and the substitutes Martinez and Nicolas Tagliafico also had additional chances, with the latter’s effort in the third minute of stoppage time necessitating a dramatic goalline clearance from Kiwior. Poland eventually managed to hold on, earning a spot in the round of 16 that their performance hardly deserved. If they want to stand a chance against France, they will need to significantly improve.

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