The tense Group C finale went as what spectators would have expected; Both fixtures were filled with dramas and controversies, which saw both Argentina and Poland book a spot in the last 16 stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, while the team that caused the biggest upset in the history of the World Cup against La Albiceleste, Saudi Arabia and the one that registered a win and a draw in three matches, Mexico, sadly had to bow out from the quadrennial competition.
Let us first talk about the match between Argentina and Poland.
Messi Missed a Penalty
Poland went into the game as the provisional group leader of Group C, with a draw would ensure them qualification to the next round, but Argentina had different ideas. Bouncing back from the shocking comeback defeat to the Falcons, they demonstrated the class that many fans anticipated prior to the World Cup and beat Mexico 2-0, and the momentum was carried to the Poland clash. A total of 23 shots and a 74% ball possession were registered against Biało-Czerwoni, a clear sign that La Albiceleste was not letting the chance of making it into the Round of 16 slip away.
Argentina was awarded a spot kick in the 38th minute, after video assistant referee (VAR) indicated that former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny committed a foul on the Argentina captain Lionel Messi. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner missed from the spot and became one of only two players in the history of the World Cup to have multiple spot kick misses (Excluding penalty shootouts). The score remained 0-0 until the end of the first half.
The Sky Blue and White put their fruitless first 45 minutes behind their backs and drew first blood as soon as play resumed, with Brighton & Hove Albion’s Alexis Mac Allister scoring his first and probably his most important international goal for Argentina. Manchester City’s Julián Álvarez then doubled Argentina’s lead 20 minutes later, with his shot that hit the top right corner of the Poland goal. The win allowed Argentina to win Group C and advance to the second round of the World Cup Finals.
Poland Made It into the Knockout Round After Saudi Arabia Broke the Mexican Dream
Despite the loss, Poland was still in contention for a last 16 stage spot, as El Tri’s hopes were shattered by the Falcons in the 95th minute, in which the match ended with Mexico as the 2-1 winner. An initial 2-0 victory would have made Mexico tie with Poland on points, goal differential (0) and goals scored (2), but still it would not allow El Tri to advance to the Round of 16 as Mexico’s fair play points were inferior to that of Poland’s. Mexico falling short of a knockout stage spot meant we might not get to see global fan-favourite Guillermo Ochoa again in the World Cup.
Read how a rejuvenated Marcus Rashford helped England beat Wales to reach the Round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup here.
(Photo Credits: RNZ)