By Andrew Cawthorne
AL RAYYAN, Qatar (Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored on his 1,000th career start in Argentina’s 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar on Saturday to surpass Diego Maradona’s tally of goals. in the tournament and set up a quarterfinal duel against the Netherlands.
Seeking his first World Cup title in his fifth appearance at the tournament, the mesmerizing Messi edged past Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan with a curling finish from just inside the penalty area in the 35th minute to send the legions of Argentina fans into a frenzy at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium .
Julián Alvárez scored the second from close range 12 minutes into the second half, after Ryan hesitated fatally with the ball at his feet after receiving a kickback.
Australia, who did an excellent job to reach the round of 16 and are 35 places below the two-time World Cup champions in the Fifa rankings, defended valiantly with the imposing Harry Souttar. They set up a nervy finish after Craig Goodwin’s shot deflected off Enzo Fernández to close Argentina’s lead in the 32nd minute.
The 35-year-old Messi’s goal was his third at the Qatar tournament and his ninth at a World Cup, one more than Maradona.
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