- Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, defeated Poland 2-0 on Wednesday to win Group C of the World Cup and progress to the round of 16.
- Mexico defeats Saudi Arabia 2-1 but is ousted due to inferior goal difference.
Argentina topped Group C by a goal of 2-0 on Wednesday and advanced to the round of 16 of the World Cup despite Lionel Messi’s penalty being saved. Although Mexico defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the group’s other match, Czeslaw Michniewicz’s team advanced only on the basis of goal differential. Poland also qualified as runners-up. After a tense first half, Alexis Mac Allister’s goal in the 46th minute eased Argentina’s jitters. Julian Alvarez then doubled Argentina’s lead just over 20 minutes later. Wojciech Szczesny saved his second penalty of the tournament in the opening 45 minutes, but Argentina was unable to get past the Polish goalkeeper.
Messi was deemed to have been fouled by Szczesny while reaching for a cross, but he dived to his left to block the next spot kick.
Messi had missed his 31st penalty shot in his career.
Despite having a top striker in Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s attacking threat was minimal. Instead, Szczesny took centre stage for the Poles, stopping Messi twice in the opening minutes.
Before launching a shot that soared directly at the goalkeeper, Messi first was able to escape from a group of defenders. When he did, Szczesny was forced to make a save at his near post after finding space to charge into the Polish box from the left.
In the first half, Argentina continued to have the better chances, and Marcos Acuna missed a shot after Alvarez had also come near to score.
Szczesny had to make a quick stop to prevent Angel di Maria from scoring directly from a corner, and he then had to make another quick stop to stop Alvarez.
In the 39th minute, Szczesny outdid himself by diving to his left to block Messi’s penalty.
Before the halftime whistle blew, he still had more to do, blocking a shot from Alvarez and then saved Rodrigo de Paul’s follow-up. Less than a minute after the break, Mac Allister broke the deadlock, leaving him helpless.
After charging down the right, Nahuel Molina cut the ball back for Mac Allister, who drilled the ball just out of Szczesny’s reach.
Kamil Glik just missed a free-kick header shortly after the restart as Poland finally shown some attacking ambition in response to the goal.
After a good combination with Enzo Fernandez, Alvarez scored Argentina’s second goal as they pressed for more.
Starting for Argentina for the first time, Fernandez found his teammate, who evaded a defender and fired the ball past Szczesny.
On the other hand, Henry Martin of Mexico scored the game’s first goal against Saleem Al Dawsari of Saudi Arabia to put Mexico up 1-0 early in the second half. Luis Chavez then added a second goal with a long range free kick to put Mexico up 2-0, but Al Dawsari scored in the final seconds to tie the score. Mexico, after defeating Saudi Arabia 2-1, was eliminated from the competition because of a worse goal differential than Poland in Group C.