Alexis Mac Allister

Argentina Advance From Group C in Victory Over Poland

Argentina overcame Lionel Messi’s first-half penalty miss to seal a World Cup round-of-16 clash against Australia after goals by Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez clinched a 2-0 win against Poland on Wednesday.

The victory ensured top spot in Group C for Argentina, but despite their defeat, Poland sneaked into the knockout rounds for a meeting with France after edging out Mexico on goal difference to finish second in the group.

Messi Bailed Out by Argentina’s Supporting Cast

This could have been one of the worst nights of Messi’s glittering career: he saw a penalty saved by Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny and you can only imagine how crushing it would have been for the Argentina star if his (probably) last shot at a World Cup ended because of his missed spot kick. For once, though, Messi had his teammates to thank, rather than the other way around, for helping Argentina to the win that secures a place in the round of 16 and a clash against Australia.

Messi had won his first-half penalty in dubious circumstances when a VAR review highlighted an apparent foul by Szczesny, but justice was done when the Poland keeper saved. Before any tension set in for the two-time world champions, though, Mac Allister scored a crucial opener in the first minute of the second half. With Argentina still wary of being caught by the sucker punch of a Poland equaliser, Alvarez finally made the game safe with a classy finish on 67 minutes to confirm victory.

Messi, obviously, is still Argentina’s key figure and he ran the game for his team, constantly looking to creating an opening or shot at goal. But this time, his younger teammates carried the load and showed that Argentina can win without their superstar getting on the scoresheet.

Poland Cling to Second in Group After Nervy Second Half

Never before has a Saudi Arabia goal been celebrated with such relish by a group of Polish footballers, but Salem Al Dawsari’s injury-time goal for the Green Falcons in their 2-1 defeat against Mexico was enough to confirm Poland’s qualification as Group C runners-up.

With Argentina winning 2-0 in Stadium 974 and Mexico leading 2-0 at Lusail Stadium for the latter stages of the second half, Poland were stuck between contrasting approaches against Lionel Scaloni’s team. They could go for broke and chase the equaliser that would guarantee top spot and a place in the next round, but by doing that, they risked conceding a third goal that would then move Mexico clear on goal difference in second place.

This article was originally published on ESPN.

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