Argentina needed Lionel Messi more than ever on Saturday night in Mexico. The two-time FIFA World Cup champions headed into the crucial group-stage fixture against Mexico with the possibility that it could be their last night in Qatar. A loss to Saudi Arabia in their opener, and Poland’s win over the Green Falcons left Argentina on the brink of elimination. But Messi kept their hopes alive with a thunderous goal in the second half as Argentina beat Mexico 2-0 to jump to the second spot in the table.
A defeat to Mexico would have guaranteed Argentina’s exit. And a draw, would leave them hoping for other factors to fall in place. But Messi announced Argentina’s arrival at the World Cup with a brilliant touch in the second half.
The goal did not just put Argentina ahead in the match, it also helped him level Diego Maradona’s World Cup record. Both the legends now have eight goals to their name in World Cup history. It is also now as many as his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo has in five World Cup appearances. Overall, it was Messi’s second goal in the 2022 tournament, having scored a penalty against Saudi Arabia.
“We knew that today we had to win, that another World Cup started for us and we knew what to do,” Messi said after the match. “We cannot let our guard down now and we have all finals left. We knew that the response from our fans would be like this and I think we complied.”
Substitute Enzo Fernandez has scored a late goal to secure Argentina’s position in the match before it ended with a 2-0 win.
Argentina now head into the their final game, against Poland, on Wednesday. They are yet to secure their spot for the Round of 16 and hence need a win to guarantee themselves that berth.