Anxious and convulsive game. Then Lionel Messi stepped forward when he was needed most. You can’t help but be amazed, says Yle Sport’s expert Jani Lyyski.
Few would have thought that already the second round of the group stage would mean gas-hugging anxiety for Argentina.
But after the shock loss in the opener against Saudi Arabia, a fiasco against Mexico could mean missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Argentina, reigning Copa America champions and one of the tournament’s big early favorites, had not lost a single game in three years before the World Cup.
And in the second half, the many Argentinians in the stands in Qatar could exhale. Lionel Messi stepped forward and fired three leaden points to the football-mad nation.
The superstar accounted for 1+1 in the 2–0 victory.
– You can’t help but be amazed. He may be playing his last WC and that with enormous pressure. After such a lackluster first half, going in and lifting the team on your shoulders requires tremendous mental strength, says Yle Sporten’s expert Jani Lyyski in a live broadcast.
Woke up in second – Messi behind everything
When the anxiety meeting was underway, it was the same handbrake that haunted the second half against Saudi Arabia that permeated Argentina’s play.
But neither was Mexico on the cutting edge going forward and the product was one of the most boring halves of the tournament so far.
In others, Messi took a step back on the court and had more responsibility in the build-up phase of the Argentine attacks. It gave welcome results.
Mexico was pushed back and after just over an hour of play, Messi had a try from around 20 meters away. The low left shot drilled irresistibly past Guillermo Ochoa’s fist.
– He doesn’t need a lot of space to net. A very, very nice finish by Messi, praises Lyyski.
When the game was punctured in the final minutes, Messi acted as a forward for Enzo Fernandez, who feinted into the penalty area and lifted the second.
The final round in group C will be a raffle. Argentina are in second place with three points and face leaders Poland, who have four sticks, in the final. Saudi Arabia are level on points with Argentina and face Mexico who have a point.