Argentina won 2-0 over Poland in the World Cup on Wednesday night, giving Lionel Messi a significant respite. The Paris Saint-Germain star entered the game with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. However, it was Brighton’s Alexis MacAllister and Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez who emerged as the unеxpеcted heroes in Qatar. Express Sport will now look at four lessons gleaned from the match.
Messi was apprehensive before the game, despite Argentina fans enthusiastically shouting his name and turning Stadium 974 into a blue and white cauldron before kickoff.
And his nerves looked to boil over in the first half when he missed a penalty, which Wojciech Szczesny saved.
It was justice done. Though Szczesny had caught Messi by chance with a flailing arm, it was not on purpose. He was clearly going for the ball, and the name on the back of his shirt seemed to sway the pendulum his way.
Messi wasn’t at his best for Argentina this evening, at least not in terms of getting them through. Though he caused problems as expected, his confidence appeared to have been shaken by his missed spot-kick. His passing was excellent, but he was more of a midfield master than a flashy frontman.
But he won’t care now that Argentina has completed their redemption by reaching the knockout stages.
Messi becomes next Ronaldo
Messi has now joined Cristiano Ronaldo in embroiling himself in VAR controversy at this year’s World Cup.
Previously, in Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana, Ronaldo was handed a soft penalty of his own. Unlike his long-term adversary, he took use of the opportunity, converting from 12 yards out to break the tie.
VAR needs to explain himself. Danny Murphy, who was working for BBC Sport this evening, called it “soft,” and the majority of the footballing community agreed.
Obviously, Messi’s absence didn’t have much of an impact on the game in the end.
However, if future controversy like this is to be avoided as the tournament progresses, things must be explained.
Argentina need to improve
Argentina’s goals from Mac Allister and Alvarez were enough to earn them all three points and a place in the knockout stages, but they’ll need to improve if they want to go all the way.
Australia’s next round opponent will not be easy, and after appearing to overlook Saudi Arabia early in the tournament, Lionel Scaloni’s side has every reason to be careful.
Argentina appears to be overly reliant on Messi. They frequently pass the ball to him in the hopes that he would create something, but defenders are usually able to crowd him and stеal possession.
They still appear to be exploitable at the rear as well. While talented, Nicolas Otamendi and Christian Romero’s center-back combo lacks quickness.
Argentina has yet to demonstrate why they were regarded as favorites prior to the start of the World Cup in Qatar earlier this month.
Poland is adrift, and Lewandowski has been subdued
Let’s be honest. If Poland got anything out of this game, it would be a masterclass from Robert Lewandowski. But the Barcelona striker, who joined from Bayern Munich as a replacement for Messi during the summer transfer window, can’t do it all on his own.
Lewandowski rarely had a chance to score all evening. He dropped deep throughout the match in the hopes of influencing matters, but the match passed him by for the second time this tournament.
The former Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund striker can take heart while he scored for the first time this winter at the World Cup.
That goal, against Saudi Arabia, is also likely to be his last.