Messi And Alverez Guides Argentina Into Q’finals With 2-1 Victory Over Australia
Argentina survived a late scare to hold onto a 2-1 victory against Australia on Saturday night, 3rd-December-2022 booking a place in a World Cup quarter-final against Netherlands who earlier had a 3-1 victory over U.S.A.
Most importantly, it was Lionel Messi’s 1,000th career appearance and the inspiring captain of the side did not disappoint his nation as he provided the spark his side desperately needed. Julian Alvarez doubled Argentina’s advantage after the break as the pre-tournament favourites clicked into gear.
Enzo Fernandez’s 77th-minute own goal provided a flicker of doubt which swelled to a thunderous tremor as Emi Martinez was forced into a crucial smothering stop deep into stoppage time.
Graham Arnold promised to make the match a ‘war’. His troops were in their action stations from the first whistle as Australia sat off in a compact and narrow 4-4-2, stuffing the central slice of the pitch with gold and more green.
Three days after their final group game, Lionel Scaloni’s side was pedestrian on the ball and desperately sluggish when trying to win it back.
Argentina’s skipper and saviour broke out of a stroll to close down Aziz Behich, winning a throw-in with a rare burst of urgency which stoked the flames of an already boisterous crowd.
At the second phase of a set piece which swiftly followed, Messi punched a square pass to Alexis Mac Allister with an extra zip before darting into the box. Taking the ball off Nicolas Otamendi’s toes, Messi stroked a 35th-minute opener underneath Mat Ryan’s dive, scoring the 789th goal of his career but his first in the knockout stage of a World Cup.
That energy proved to be infectious. Ten minutes after the interval, Rodrigo De Paul hared after Behich, following the ball as it was played to Kye Rowles and back to Ryan. The Australian goalkeeper managed to sidestep De Paul’s maniacal charge but Alvarez sped out of his blind spot to pinch possession, swivelling to roll Argentina into a 2-0 lead.
With the extra layer of security, a second goal provides, Argentina played with the swagger which underpinned the 36-game unbeaten run they took into the tournament.
Utterly against the run of play, Craig Goodwin swung his boot through a wild shot which was flying well wide before it cannoned off Enzo Fernandez. The wicked deflection bamboozled Martinez and set up an intriguing final 13 minutes.
Imbued with an added sense of urgency, Behich slalomed forward from left-back, weaving into the box until Lisandro Martinez firmly – and crucially halted his progress. With just seconds left, the ball broke to substitute Garang Kuol but Martinez was swiftly off his line to preserve Argentina’s advantage and send them into the final eight.