Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina’s place at the top of Group C and their place in the round of the 16 of the FIFA World Cup. Poland also squeezed through despite losing thanks to Mexico only managing to beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.
Argentina started the game brightly, getting Lionel Messi on the ball frequently in and around the penalty area – which is always the game plan for La Albiceleste. The PSG star would have the first notable shot on goal in the 10th minute, bursting into the left hand side of the penalty area before stinging Wojciech Szczęsny’s palms with a fierce strike on goal.
La Albiceleste were able to sustain that pressure with relative ease thereafter as Poland were more than happy to sit in and defend a point that would see them through to the last 16.
Marcos Acuna was next to come close for Argentina around the half-hour mark, drilling a shot just wide of the foot of the right post.
Julian Alvarez would then force Szczęsny into a great save five minutes later, with the Juventus number one deflecting Alvarez’s effort on goal from the left side of the penalty area out wide.
Moments later we witnessed the worst refereeing decision of the tournament thus far. Argentina were awarded an egregious penalty following a lengthy VAR check after Szczęsny was adjudged to have touched (?) Messi’s face while both were up challenging for a cross into the box.
The resulting spot kick was then brilliant saved by the Poland goalkeeper, who dove to his left to tip Messi’s effort wide. Justice well and truly served.
Immediately after the second half whistle, Argentina finally got their goal. Brighton star Alexis Mac Allister would be the man to get it, latching onto a low cross from right-back Nahuel Molina to drill past Szczęsny and into the bottom right corner of the net.
That goal would finally wake Poland up as an attacking entity and, in the 49th minute, they almost grabbed an equaliser through Kamil Glik. The veteran defender rose highest to head a set piece from the right flank just wide.
After a few tactical tweaks, Lionel Scaloni’s men firmly regained control of the game. In the 67th minute they deservedly doubled their lead through Julian Alvarez. The young forward held off two Polish defenders before firing high into the net.
It was so nearly three in the 72nd minute when Messi played a wonderful through ball into the path of Alvarez again. The forward, however, could only find the side-netting with his subsequent strike on goal.
In the 85th minute, Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to nearly knock Poland out of the competition. After latching onto a loose back pass, the Inter man stormed into the penalty area but shanked his shot on goal wide of the post.
Jakub Kiwior then saved Poland from an early exit with a stunning clearance off the line in the 93rd minute. The towering defender got back well to head clear a dinked Nicolas Tagliafico finish to keep his nation in the tournament.
GK – Wojciech Szczęsny – 8/10 – Saved his second penalty of the group stages and looked generally unbeatable in the first half. He was finally beaten in the second, but by God what a performance regardless.
RB – Matty Cash – 3/10 – Didn’t get forward as Poland would’ve liked.
CB – Kamil Glik – 4/10 – The sort of game that suits him at this point in his career and yet he still wasn’t particularly good. CB – Jakub Kiwior – 7/10 – Got caught out with Molina’s cut-back cross which led to the opener. Made amends with a fantastic clearance off the line in added time.
LB – Bartosz Bereszynski – 3/10 – Struggled to defend his side.
CM – Piotr Zielinski – 3/10 – Needed to be better on the ball than he was in this one.
CM – Krystian Bielik – 4/10 – Defended quite well but generally looked hopless in possession. CM – Gregorz Krychowiak – 2/10 – Got stuck in when he could get near the ball…which wasn’t often because he can’t run anymore.
AM – Przemyslaw Frankowski – 1/10 – He did literally nothing and was subbed off at half-time.
ST – Robert Lewandowski – 2/10 – So, so isolated.
ST – Karol Swiderski – N/A – Did he play? He didn’t, did he? Surely not. SUB – Michal Skoras – 4/10.
SUB – Jakub Kaminski – 3/10.
SUB – Damian Szymanski – N/A.
SUB – Artur Jedrzejczyk – N/A. SUB – Krzysztof Piatek – N/A.
GK – Emi Martinez – 5/10 – He had zero to do.
RB – Nahuel Molina – 7/10 – His brilliant low cross from the right flank led to the opening goal.
CB – Cristian Romero – 5/10 – Dealt with the little threat Lewa posed well. CB – Nicolas Otamendi – 5/10 – An easy night at the office for Otamendi.
LB – Marcos Acuna – 6/10 – Drilled a shot just wide in the first half and got forward well.
CM – Alexis Mac Allister – 8/10 – Scored his first ever international goal at the best possible time.
CM – Enzo Fernandez – 7/10 – Another impressive performance from the young man. CM – Rodrigo De Paul – 4/10 – Sloppy on the ball again. Surely he shouldn’t start for this team.
RW – Angel Di Maria – 5/10 – Saw a lot of the ball but didn’t do a whole lot with it.
CF – Lionel Messi – 4/10 – Missed a penalty. He’s not very good at penalties.
LW – Julian Alvarez – 5/10 – Scored a great goal in the second half. Well deserved start for the Man City striker. SUB – Leandro Paredes – 6/10 – Did a decent job in midfield when he came on.
SUB – Nicolas Tagliafico – N/A.
SUB – Lautaro Martinez – 5/10 – Missed a decent chance in the 85th minute.
SUB – German Pezzella – N/A.
SUB – Thiago Almada – N/A.