Argentina bounced back from their
opening-day defeat to Saudi Arabia to soar into the round of 16 of the 2022
FIFA World Cup in Qatar with a 2-0 victory over Poland at Stadium 974. Polish goalkeeper
Wojciech Szczesny saved a Lionel Messi penalty and produced some more
second-half heroics, but goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez were
enough to secure the top spot in the group for the Copa America winners.
Despite their loss to Argentina, Poland
snuck into the knockout rounds as the runners-up in the group due to a slightly
better goal difference over Mexico.
Lionel Scaloni made two major changes to
the Argentine XI for this fixture, with Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez
replacing Guido Rodriguez and Lautaro Martinez. The South American side
dominated the possession from the first whistle and instantly pinned the Poles
into their own half.
Lionel Messi had an early effort saved by
Wojciech Szczesny, and the PSG forward orchestrated the play for the South
Americans as he dropped deep into midfield. Julian Alvarez also had a shot on
goal blocked by a Polish defender before Marcos Acuna’s strike off the
resulting rebound narrowly missed the far post.
Wojciech Szczesny made another couple of
saves to deny Julian Alvarez, but his biggest contribution of the night came
towards the end of the half as he produced a magnificent save to keep out
Lionel Messi’s penalty. Argentina were controversially awarded the spot-kick
following a VAR check, but Messi’s penalty was brilliantly stopped by the
outstretched arm of Szczesny to keep the scores level.
Argentina didn’t have to wait too long to
eventually find an opening, and seconds after the second-half whistle, the
South Americans found the back of the net through Alexis Mac Allister. The
Brighton midfielder found a yard of space in the penalty area and neatly
redirected a Nanuel Molina cross to send Argentina to the top of the group.
Julian Alvarez doubled the scores 20 minutes later, receiving a pass from Enzo
Fernandez before curling in a shot into the corner to put the game to bed.
Argentina should have had a third goal in
the closing stages, but Wojciech Szczesny continued to bail out his defence
while Jakub Kiwior made a late goal-line clearance to keep the score-line at
2-0. This result sees Argentina qualify for the knockout stages and set up a
meeting with Australia in the round of 16.
Poland, meanwhile, will face the defending
champions France on Sunday after their narrow escape from the group stages on