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Argentina beat Poland despite Messi penalty miss to go ahead – SABC News

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Lionel Messi missed a penalty in the first half, but Argentina’s Alexis McAllister and Julian Alvarez scored in a 2-0 win over Poland at the 974 Stadium on Wednesday as both teams booked their places in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Argentina’s win put Lionel Scoloni’s side top of Group C and they will face Australia in the last 16, while second-placed Poland, who qualified on goal difference after Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 , will face defending champion France.

Argentina took the lead just one minute into the second half when Mc Allister latched on to Nauel Molina’s cross and, despite taking little contact, saw his shot fly over the line and Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was beaten.

The goal was just reward for Argentina, who dominated possession, while Poland barely managed to get out of their own half and South American goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was a spectator for most of the game.

The second goal was the result of some patient build-up as the Argentina international cleared the ball before Enzo Fernandez unlocked the defense to slide the ball to Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner.

CONTROVERSIAL PENALTIES

Poland were up in arms earlier when Argentina were awarded a controversial penalty following a VAR review for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove touched his face as the Paris Saint-Germain forward rose to head home at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and, despite thousands of Argentina fans turning up the decibel level in the arena, he kept his composure and guessed right, diving to his left and one-handed Messi’s effort from the spot.

Despite the miss, Messi ran the show for Argentina in a match where the two captains represented Barcelona’s past and present.

With a place in the last 16 and potential elimination both on the cards in a tight group, it was Barca’s record goalscorer Messi who was at the heart of Argentina’s attacks, dictating play as he darted deep and tormented the Polish defence.

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, who has 18 goals in 19 games for Barca this season, has not had a single shot on target.

At the other end, Szczesny was kept busy throughout the half as Poland’s defense broke through again and again, but the Juventus keeper stood firm to deny Argentina, who grew more confident with each attack.

He first denied Alvarez when the Manchester City forward broke through the offside trap, before tipping Angel Di Maria’s cross over the bar as his Juve partner tried to score directly from a corner.

‘DREAMS COME TRUE’

But Szczesny could do nothing but fight back as McAllister saved his shot before Poland could settle after the restart, while Alvarez’s shot for the second goal was too good for either keeper.

“It’s very emotional for me, for the whole team. This is a dream come true,” Mc Allister told reporters. “I made my debut with this team, I am very proud of it. And now I managed to score at the World Cup – I’m very happy.

“(After Messi’s penalty) we tried to stay positive, stay calm. We didn’t feel overwhelmed. We tried to be optimistic… Fortunately, we managed to win and pass.”

Argentina almost made it 3-0 in second-half added time when Nicolas Tagliafico was released down the left and he slotted the ball past Szczesny, only to see Jakub Kiwior drop back, intervene in time and head the ball off the line.

But Argentina got what they wanted, overcoming Poland to top the group and avoid an early knockout against powerhouse France.

Meanwhile, Poland made it to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

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