Thursday, September 28, 2023

Argentina 2-1 Australia: Lionel Messi On Target To Set Up World Cup Quarter-final Clash With Netherlands

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Lionel Messi marked his 1000th career appearance with a goal as Argentina beat Australia 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The 35-year-old struck his third goal of the tournament to separate the sides at half-time, before Julian Alvarez pounced on a disastrous error from Mat Ryan after the break to double the lead and put Argentina in complete control.

Australia were given an injection of hope out of nowhere, as Craig Goodwin’s strike flew in after taking a massive deflection to leave Argentina facing a nervy conclusion. They came through it to set up a last-eight clash against the Netherlands, though they are still yet to consistently show why so many had them down as one of the pre-tournament favourites.

It was a largely uneventful first-half, Australia’s gameplan working almost to perfection as they nullified Argentina’s attacking threat and had the occasional moment of promise themselves from set-pieces.

Almost wasn’t enough though, as Messi burst into life. The ball was played into the box, Nicolas Otamendi’s touch fell for Messi and he passed the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal in the knockout stage of a World Cup.

Australia would have wanted to keep that deficit to just one heading into the latter stages, but they only had themselves to blame as Alvarez extended the advantage. The ball was played back to Ryan, he took a heavy touch trying to dribble his way to safety but instead was caught on the ball and the Manchester City man finished into the empty net.

With 77 minutes on the clock, and Argentina seemingly cruising into the quarter-finals, an Australian goal came out of nowhere. Goodwin’s strike from outside the box was heading high and wide, but instead found the far corner after deflecting off Enzo Fernandez.

Lautaro Martinez should really have sealed it late on, missing two huge chances after he was perfectly slipped through by Messi on each occasion, though he first blazed over before he was then denied by Ryan. It mattered not for Argentina, who surived a very late scare as Garang Kuol had an effort saved by Emiliano Martinez with virtually the final kick.

Photo Credit: Getty

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