Sun, 27 Nov 2022 09:51 AM IST
Lionel Messi on Saturday with his majestic goal to clinch a 2-0 victory over Mexico kept his dream of winning his first World Cup alive and proved that he was far from done in the tournament. The Argentine, competing in his fifth World Cup at age 35, has won every other major title in his career but has failed to lift the coveted trophy despite making the final in 2014.
But his 64th-minute strike which was followed by substitute Enzo Fernandez's sublime effort three minutes from time, reignited their hopes of advancing past the group stage after their shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opener.
Watch Messi's Goal here:
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Messi, who equalled Diego Maradona's Argentina record of 21 matches and eight goals at the World Cup, was nowhere to be seen for more than an hour before picking up an Angel Di Maria pass, finding just enough space and rifling in from 20 metres.
Argentina, on three points, can guarantee progress with a win over Poland, top on four, in their final game on Wednesday.
"Today starts another World Cup for Argentina," Messi said. "I tell people the same thing, that they continue to believe. Today we did what we had to do.
"We had no other choice. We had to win so we depended only on ourselves.
"The first half we didn't play as we should and in the second when we calmed down, we started to play the ball better and until the goal, we went back to being what we are," he said.
With the prospect of an Argentina elimination, tensions were high on and off the ball in a scrappy first half but the two sets of fans created an electric atmosphere in the stadium.
Neither team wanted to commit too many players forward and apart from a free kick by Mexico's Luis Chavez in the ninth minute that sailed past the goalmouth, there were few chances.
Mexico's high-pressing game stifled most of their opponents' attacks and Messi struggled to find any space to manoeuvre in a congested midfield.
Apart from a Lautaro Martinez effort that was well off the mark and another from Messi, Argentina was toothless up front.
But in a major blow to Mexico, skipper Andres Guardado, a veteran of five World Cups who until then had been a commanding presence in midfield, had to be taken off injured in the 42nd.
The Mexicans still carved out two more chances with Alexis Vega before the break but the tables would turn in the second half. The South Americans looked more determined after the break and their captain and talisman dragged them out of trouble with his second goal of the tournament.
The stadium erupted in cheers once more with Fernandez's late strike which sealed Argentina's first win in the tournament and rekindled Messi's hopes of a first-ever World Cup title that would match that of the late Maradona from 1986