Argentina went to the round of 16 as a group, and on Saturday it faced Australia, who advanced from the group stage in the World Cup in Qatar. Argentina captain Lionel Scaloni chose this evening to start without superstar Angel Di Maria, and instead Papu Gomez got the chance – and he was directly involved in danger.
In the fourth minute, Gomez tried to play the ball inside the penalty area, but the ball instead took Keanu Backos’ hand on the line of the penalty area. Gomez demanded a penalty, but it was refused. Argentina then had a lot of the ball, but to no avail at first.
It took until the 35th minute for Argentina to get a reward.
Then Lionel Messi drove the ball into the penalty area and slotted it into the net to make it 1-0. It was his third goal in Qatar, ninth overall in the World Cup and first World Cup playoff goal. In doing so, he surpasses Diego Maradona (eight goals) in the list of those who have scored the most goals in World Cup finals ever.
– The man is a genius. He can roll it, he can hit it hard, said Pat Nevin, the former player, and this time it moved between the player’s legs.
In the second half, Argentina extended their lead to 2-0. Australia goalkeeper Matthew Ryan made a powerful save when he lost the ball in the penalty area to Julian Alvarez, who kicked the ball into the goal to double the lead.
– Matthew Ryan is a good goalkeeper in many ways, but he’s not very good with his feet. I don’t think he looks comfortable. You can’t do that, it’s too bad. Nevin said Ryan killed the match for Australia, according to the BBC.
But Australia did not give up and pulled one back in the 77th minute when substitute Craig Goodwin fired past Enzo Fernandez. Aziz Behesh then got into a good position in the penalty area but failed to put the ball into the net. Argentina shook then and there.
Australia tried to make a breakthrough in overtime, getting close to the talent of Garang Cole, but at the same time it was Argentina who created the best and most chances for another goal, eventually winning 2-1.
– I am very happy that we have taken another step forward and achieved another goal. It was a very tough, tough game, and we knew it was going to be. We didn’t get much time to rest, and we were worried it would be a very physical match, because they are so strong. Fortunately, we scored a goal and went 1-0 and 2-0 up. Then we had a setback in their goal, but that’s what happened in the World Cup. The matches are always difficult and the most important thing is to win, Messi said during the press conference.
On the great support of the Argentine fans in the stands, he said:
– Those are great feelings. I am so happy to share these wonderful moments with them. I know what they sacrificed to be here with us in every game. I know all of Argentina would have liked to be here, but it is not possible.
Argentina will now meet the Netherlands on Friday in the quarter-finals of the Qatar World Cup.
Argentina: Martinez – Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna – De Paul, Fernandez, McAllister – Alvarez, Messi, Gomez.
Australia: Ryan – Degenek, Souttar, Rolls, Behesh-Leckie, Backus, Moy, McGarry – Duke, Irvine.
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