Without shining, the ‘Albiceleste’ beat the ‘Socceroos’ 2-1 and got into the top 8 in the World Cup. Lionel Messi -in the 1,000th game of his career- and Julián Álvarez put Lionel Scaloni’s team ahead, who seemed to relax before their time and suffered in the final minutes with several wasted chances and a saving save by Emiliano Martínez.
Argentina went through a rollercoaster of emotions until Szymon Marciniak’s final whistle, which led to a much-relieved celebration. The ‘Albiceleste’ beat Australia 2-1 without showing their best version, but with a development that did not foresee the suffering of the final minutes.
The Australian intensity demanded an Argentine team that looked tired and with little inventiveness. But a flash from Lionel Messi and the cunning of Julián Álvarez led to a victory that he felt closed before its time. A fortuitous goal returned Australia to a game that Argentina did not kill on the counterattack and almost escaped in the final play.
The saving hands of Emiliano Martínez allowed those led by Lionel Scaloni to secure the quarterfinal duel against the Netherlands, an old acquaintance whom they will face for the sixth time in a World Cup.
Meanwhile, the cast of Graham Arnold concluded a historic World Cup, centimeters from reaching the quarterfinals. Even so, the two victories achieved against Tunisia and Denmark allowed him to score his best task in a World Cup.
A decisive Messi illuminates Argentina in the Australian labyrinth
From the start of the match, Argentina took greater control of the ball, but suffered the same problems that it showed against other rivals with conservative approaches: little mobility of the receivers in midfield, lack of variants to break the line in speed or with dribbles and Fear of losing the ball due to counterattack.
The negative Argentine signals encouraged Australia, which raised the pressure line and, little by little, made it difficult for the ‘Albiceleste’ to leave the bottom.
In a context of few situations, a header from Harry Souttar that hit Cristian Romero was the most dangerous approach for the ‘Socceroos’.
But after 35 minutes, Lionel Messi appeared to break the schemes. A triangulation in a second play after a free kick found him at the door of the area and he placed a low left foot to make it 1-0. The best way to commemorate his 1,000th game as a professional.
In the plugin, Australia tried to continue with the high pressure and, on a couple of occasions, was about to force the error of Emiliano Martínez.
Paradoxically, it was Mathew Ryan who succumbed to the mistake first. Rodrigo de Paul forced it, who squeezed a bad start and made the Australian goalkeeper uncomfortable. That’s where Julián Álvarez arrived to steal the ball and define the free goal to sign the 2-0 and the Argentine tranquility.
The ‘Albiceleste’ seemed to relax prematurely against an opponent who did not worry them, until Craig Goodwin took advantage of a rebound and took a shot that decisively deflected past Enzo Fernández for the 1-2 at 76′.
Revitalized, Aziz Behich launched an offensive adventure at 80′: he eluded two players and, when he defined, collided with Lisandro Martínez’s closing time.
That move woke up Argentina from its lethargy. With a matched rival, Scaloni’s men generated several chances to settle the game, but Lautaro Martínez once again showed that he is fighting with the goal: twice Messi left him face to face with Ryan, but in one he defined very deviated, and in another the Australian goalkeeper prevailed. Leo also had his with a left foot that went very close to the angle.
And in the last outing, Australia was about to reach equality: Garang Kuol gained position in the area, turned and defined but Emiliano Martínez drowned out his cry with a quick start, not without suspense because he had to control in two periods.
With the end of the match, the celebration arrived mixed with the relief of the Argentine players, who waved their shirts to the rhythm of the thousands of fans in the stands. A sign of communion with the ‘Scaloneta’, which is still far from the performance that made the fans fall in love but maintains its big dream in Qatar.
Function number 1,000 of Messi, with a pending account settled
It’s a long career full of milestones, but Lionel Messi will hardly forget his 1,000th game as a professional. Against Australia, the Argentine star was once again decisive with a goal that opened the way to victory and that allowed him to cross out one of the few musts of his career: he had never scored a goal in a knockout phase of a World Cup.
At 35 years old and in his fifth World Cup, the ’10’ continues to demonstrate a validity only reserved for the best in history. Unbalancing in the final meters, his classic left foot allowed him to score 1-0 and guide many of the most dangerous attacks of the ‘Albiceleste’. In addition, he put the team on his shoulder in the most pressing moments. Hence, he accumulated a new award for the best man of the match.
With the joy of qualifying, Messi acknowledged that the duel against Australia “was a very physical game”, which made it difficult considering that they only had 48 hours of rest after the 2-0 draw against Poland. “We were tired, we couldn’t recover well,” he admitted.
Leo -who scored his ninth goal in World Cups against Australia, beating Diego Maradona and falling one behind Gabriel Batistuta, the top Argentine scorer in World Cups- described that “they marked us and complicated us a bit at the end, but this is a World Cup and that’s how it is”.
Finally, Messi acknowledged the support of the Argentine public because “we know the effort they made to come here” and anticipated a difficult duel against the Netherlands. “We’re going to have a very tough crossing, I think it’s going to be very difficult, they’re going to want to get the ball out of us. At this point the World Cup is getting even tougher,” he said.
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