Monday, February 26, 2024

SPORTS | 30-11-2022 18:02

Argentina see off Poland 2-0, setting up last 16 clash with Australia

Albiceleste avoid the drama and ease to 2-0 win over Poland, qualifying from Group C and setting up a last-16 tie with Australia.

Argentina have qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup after a 2-0 victory over Poland.

Lionel Messi had a penalty saved but the Albiceleste were too good for their opponents. The win, which ensures Argentina advance as winners of Group C, sets up a do-or-die knockout tie with Australia on Saturday at 4pm local time.

Poland also went through as runners-up, although a 2-1 win for Mexico over Saudi Arabia in the group's other game meant Czeslaw Michniewicz's side advanced only on goal difference.

Alexis Mac Allister's 46th-minute goal settled Argentina's nerves after a tense first half, before Julián Álvarez doubled their lead just over 20 minutes later with a fantastic right-footed strike.

Messi said Argentina's 2-0 win over Mexico in their previous match had given them "serenity" and looked forward to a last-16 match-up with Australia.

"We went out there thinking we had to win," said the skipper.

Argentina had been unable to find a way past Wojciech Szczesny in an opening 45 minutes in which the Poland goalkeeper saved his second penalty of the tournament.

In what looked to be a harsh decision, Szczesny was adjudged to have fouled Messi while stretching to reach a cross. Reacting to the setback, he then dived to his left to beat away the resulting spot-kick from the PSG star. 

It was the 31st penalty Messi had failed to convert in his career.

"I'm angry at missing that penalty but the team came out stronger after my mistake," he said. "We knew that once the first goal went in it would change the game."

Poland – who now face France in the last 16 – offered little attacking threat and set up to stifle their opponents, with star striker Robert Lewandowski virtually anonymous throughout due to a severe lack of service.

Instead it was left to Szczesny to take centre stage for the Poles, denying Messi with two crucial early stops.

First Argentina's skipper wriggled clear of a pack of defenders before producing a shot that flew straight at the keeper. Then he found space to charge into the Polish box down the left, forcing Szczesny to make a save at his near post.

Argentina continued to create the better chances in the first half and Marcos Acuña flashed a shot wide after Álvarez had also gone close to breaking the deadlock.

Szczesny had to scramble to stop Ángel di María scoring direct from a corner, before the goalkeeper was again called into action to deny Álvarez.


Penalty save

Poland's goalkeeper outdid himself when he dived to his left to stop Messi's penalty in the 39th minute.

He still had more to do before the half-time whistle, punching away a shot from Álvarez before saving the follow-up from Rodrigo de Paul.

But then there was nothing he could do when Mac Allister broke the deadlock with a scuffed shot less than a minute after the interval.

Nahuel Molina charged down the right, then cut the ball back for Mac Allister to shoot just beyond Szczesny's reach.

The goal forced Poland to show some belated attacking ambition and Kamil Glik headed just wide from a free-kick almost immediately after the restart. But that was about it for the Europeans, who generally failed to threaten.

Argentina continued to go in search of more goals and Álvarez scored their second after combining well with Enzo Fernández. Both players had been brought into the team by coach Lionel Scaloni following strong performances in the last match against Mexico.

Benfica star Fernández, making his first start for Argentina, picked out his team-mate, who held off a defender before lashing the ball past Szczesny.

Poland were still walking a tightrope with yellow cards potentially crucial to their chances of reaching the last 16.

Grzegorz Krychowiak went into the book in the 83rd minute but a late goal for Saudi Arabia against Mexico saw the Poles safely through on goal difference.

"It was not a match for a striker but I knew it would be like this," Lewandowski said. "For me, for the Poland team, given the possibilities we have, it was a success. No-one will remember what this match was like – we will just be getting ready for France."

For Argentina, all eyes now turn to Australia and another crunch clash in which the national side will be strong favourites. 

Match details

Argentina 2-0 Poland

Goals: Mac Allister (46), Álvarez (67)
Stadium: 974-Ras Abu Aboud Stadium (Doha)
Attendance: 44,089
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
Bookings: Polonia – Krychowiak (78); Argentina – Acuña (49)


Poland – Wojciech Szczesny - Matthew Cash, Kamil Glik, Jakub Piotr Kiwior, Bartosz Bereszynski (Artur Jedrzejczyk 72) - Piotr Zielinski, Grzegorz Krychowiak (Krzysztof Piatek 83), Krystian Bielik (Damian Szymanski 62), Przemyslaw Frankowski (Jakub Kaminski 46) - Karol Swiderski (Michal Skóras 46), Robert Lewandowski (captain); Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz.

Argentina – Emiliano Damián Martínez - Nahuel Molina Lucero, Nicolás Otamendi, Cristian Romero, Marcos Acuna (Nicolás Tagliafico 59) - Alexis Mac Allister (Thiago Almada 84), Enzo Fernández (German Pezzela 79), Rodrigo De Paul, Lionel Messi (captain) - Julián Álvarez (Lautaro Martínez 79), Ángel Di María (Leandro Paredes 59); Coach: Lionel Scaloni.

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