Argentina vs Mexico 2-0: Messi Wakes Up the Albiceleste

And then, along came Lionel Messi once again. When things were getting complicated for a confused Argentina side, their long-time captain broke the deadlock against Mexico with a clinical strike and chased away the ghosts of a goalless stalemate that would have put them at serious risk of elimination from the World Cup.  

Enzo Fernandez set the score at 2-0 for the Albiceleste but it was La Pulce‘s opener that completely changed the momentum of a tense game where no space was being left to initiatives and creativity. 

Messi’s leadership was what seemingly lacked a few days ago when the South Americans unexpectedly went down to Saudi Arabia in their tournament opener. Tonight, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner acted like a true captain, finding the winning strike after one hour in which the Albiceleste repeatedly slammed into a solid Mexican side and was desperately running out of ideas.  

Mexico defended themselves well but ultimately paid the price for their lack of offensive options and, perhaps, for having approached the game with the clear intent of keeping the score at nil-nil. Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez enjoyed a quiet night and was really the only one among the Argentine lines to do so.  

“Tata” Martino’s side still have some dim chances to qualify but will now need to hope that Poland beat the Albiceleste in the last Group D encounter while they take the three points on offer against the Saudis. 

For the six-pointer at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, coach Lionel Scaloni placed Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria to support Messi upfront. Leandro Paredes and Alejandro Gomez dropped to the bench for Alexis Mac Allister and Guido Rodriguez, and so did three of the defenders that had started against Saudi Arabia.

Martino lined up Mexico in a conservative 5-3-2 fashion where Alexis Vega and Napoli’s Hirving Lozano spearheaded the attack. Let’s say that his intent seemed clear. 

The match pace very high from the start but the tension was palpable. The encounter was nervous and scoring chances were nowhere to be seen. Argentina had a bit more initiative but were slow, while Mexico were composed at the back and waited for the right chance to hit on the counter, which never came. 

The only noteworthy thing in the first half was the entrance of Erick Gutierrez for El Principito Andrés Guardado, who picked up an injury. Messi tested Guillermo Ochoa from a free kick but the Mexican goalie didn’t have to pull off any miracle to block the ball. Nor did Emiliano Martinez have to to defuse a Vega set piece.  

The second half seemed to follow the same trend. Scaloni reshuffled his cards, bringing in Enzo Fernandez, Nahuel Molina and Julian Alvarez for a disappointing Lautaro. However, it was not his substitutions to change the history of the match.

It was, surprise, surprise, Leo Messi. With 64 minutes on the clock, La Pulce received the ball from Di Maria and, 20 meters away from the goal, hit the right spot past Ochoa with a brilliant left foot strike. Simply put, he did the right thing at the right time as his side was literally gasping for breath. 

With Mexico now scrambling to organize a counteroffensive, the Albiceleste were pushed by their renewed confidence and could play with more focus. The result was Fernandez’s beautiful double step over to pass Gutierrez, followed by a fine strike in the top right corner of the net that got the job (hardly) done for Argentina. 

The Albiceleste supporters on the stands of the Lusail Iconic Stadium could rejoice. Their World Cup dream is still alive. El Tri, on the other hand, concluded their fourth World Cup game in a row without scoring. And that is perhaps where their biggest problem lie. 



November 26, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group C

SCORERS: 64′ Messi, 87′ Fernandez 

ARGENTINA (4-3-3): E. Martinez; Montiel (63′ Molina), Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Acuna; De Paul, G. Rodriguez (57′ E. Fernandez), Mac Allister (69′ Palacios); Di Maria (69′ Romero), Lautaro Martinez (63′ J. Alvarez), Messi (Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Tagliafico, Paredes, Pezzella, Correa, Almada, A. Gomez, Dybala) Coach: Scaloni
MEXICO (5-3-2): Ochoa; Araujo, Montes, Moreno; Alvarez (66′ Jimenez), Herrera, Guardado (41′ E. Gutierrez), Gallardo; Chavez; Vega (66′ Antuna), Lozano (73′ Alvarado) (Talavera, Cota, E. Alvarez, Vasquez, Arteaga, Romo, C. A. Rodriguez, Funes Mori, Pineda, J. Sanchez, Martín) Coach: Martino
REFEREE: Mr. Orsato (Italy)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Montiel (A), Araujo, Gutierrez, Herrera (M); Added Time: 1st Half 5′, 2nd Half 6′
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