for his thousandth game, Lionel Messi led Argentina to the quarter-finals
It is often written that the World Cup begins in the round of 16. That the group stage is to competition what the test run at the price of the Arc de Triomphe: pleasant training. In this unique World Cup with so many points – a city to bring together all the participants, a staggered season and countless controversies – Argentina took a different path. Defeated when they entered the competition with Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi’s teammates have played (and won) 32e in the final against Mexico, then a 16e final against Poland. For their third consecutive meeting in which they would have suffered a loss, the Albiceleste won on Saturday, December 3, against Australia (2-1).
In an Ahmad Bin Ali stadium in Doha dedicated to his goal, and echoing the chorus of tens of thousands of Argentines, everyone focused only on him: the “little” Lionel Messi, who once again brought his team to next round. For the thousandth game of his career, the seven-time Ballon d’Or once again led his team. Determined, even going as far as finding an Australian defender, angering him and recovering a good touch, the Flea opened the scoring with a forest of Australian legs (1-0, 35).e). His ninth World Cup goal – so he joins Cristiano Ronaldo – and, more surprisingly, the first in a knockout phase. Applied, if not very inspired, the Albiceleste have not been the surprise guests of this round of 16 for nothing.
Lionel Scaloni warned his troops. “To believe that Australia will be easy is a mistake. In the World Cup, you represent your country and it increases your strength”, warned the Argentine coach, relieved, after the qualification of his players against Poland. If France came back from Australia’s opening score to finally win (4-1), neither Tunisia nor Denmark was able to divert the players of the island-continent from their game plan. “We are not candidates for anything, we are favorites for nothing. We are a team that will fight but we shouldn’t believe that we are going to be world champions because we won tonight.continued the Argentinian technician.
Australia is uninhibited again
Because against his team, Australia, one of the little thumbs of the tournament, has no complications. “We play 11 against 11. There is no eleven Messi, there is only”, Australian defender Milos Degenek insisted before the meeting. A fan of Lionel Messi but determined to cut short – if possible – his international career, the side of Socceroos made sure his team had ” learned a lot “ of their debut against the French. “We showed them a little respect in the first game. » Expecting to face an Albiceleste level up a notch from the first round, Milos Degenek has made no secret of Australia’s new ambitions.
Undeterred, the Australians started the meeting like the previous three. As they announced. “I don’t think anyone expected us to win one game, so two in the same World Cup is crazy”, coach Graham Arnold said Friday. Second presumed competition knife, the Socceroos are not intending to come down from their cloud anytime soon. Aziz Behich’s partners are not a team with the technical ability to dominate their opponent, but their physical impact and their way of presenting themselves without multiplying the ball’s touches gives them the ability choose any opponent, as long as he leaves him some space.
The French – who could have found themselves trailing 0-2 -, the Tunisians and then the Danes saw that fortune smiled on the brave. Aussies. The Argentines also, like Craig Goodwin’s goal, took over without asking for the ball which was returned by the Argentine defense from outside the penalty area. Countered, the strike from the Australian substitute, who was a scorer against the Blues, left goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez without reaction (2-1, 77e). And ushered in an uncertain endgame.
A quarter-final against the Netherlands
Fortunately for the South Americans, Rodrigo De Paul’s partners knew how to pick their opponent when he showed his edge. Taking advantage of the Atletico de Madrid midfielder’s lead on the Australian goalkeeper, Julian Alvarez scored the Argentinian’s second goal (2-0, 57).e). At the end of the game, the Albiceleste could take shelter. But neither Lautaro Martinez nor Messi, on several occasions, were able to turn the Australian defense upside down. And they might have regretted it, had Martinez not interfered in the last minute, with a point-blank shot from Garang Kuol.
Milos Degenek was right: on Saturday, his team did not face “eleven Lionel Messi”. But only one is enough to give this rivalry of the southern lands in favor of Argentina. Pulga’s thousandth appearance as a professional player was not his last at the World Cup. With the stadium ablaze in the second half after a 40-metre foray in which he dribbled past five Australians into the penalty area, before being caught in a scrum, Lionel Messi put Argentina on their feet. In 2018, his team lost at this stage of the competition after a thrilling match against France by Benjamin Pavard (3-4); Determined to conquer the one title that is missing from him, the Paris Saint-Germain player did not let the Australians crush his dreams.
“It is a great joy to have passed this milestone and taken another step towards the goal”, enjoying the player, named man of the match. For him, the Argentines controlled the game, and could seal the fate. “The ending was complicated because we conceded that goal and we suffered a bit. But it’s the World Cup, it’s normal to have difficulties. »
Failing to be brilliant in the game, his Argentina are piling up the pressure, and shaping up to be tougher opponents as the elimination rounds go by. For his thousand and first meeting, the Argentina captain has an appointment on Friday in the Netherlands (8 pm, metropolitan time). Facing an opponent of a different caliber (winners of the United States on Saturday, 3-1), the Albiceleste will once again be keen to extend the chorus of their supporters into the Qatari night.