Wed, 01 Feb 2023

Argentina Outclasses Poland Despite Messi Penalty Miss to Advance

Voice of America
01 Dec 2022, 08:06 GMT+10

DOHA, Qatar - Argentina advanced to the knockout stages of the World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Poland in their final Group C match on Wednesday even though skipper Lionel Messi saw a first half penalty saved at Stadium 974.

Argentina's victory moved the South Americans to the top of the group, and they will face Australia while second-place Poland takes on reigning champions France.

Argentina took the lead one minute into the second half when Alexis Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina's cross and, despite making weak contact, his shot went over the line, beating Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny.

The goal was a just reward for Argentina who had dominated possession while Poland barely managed to get out of their own half.

The second goal came after some patient buildup where Argentina knocked the ball around before Enzo Fernandez unlocked the defense with a through-ball for Julian Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner.

Earlier, Poland was up in arms when Argentina was awarded a controversial penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny's glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the thousands of Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi's effort from the spot.

Mexico 2, Saudi Arabia 1

Mexico scored twice in five second-half minutes in a thrilling last-ditch effort to stay in the World Cup on Wednesday, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 but missing out on the last 16 on goal difference.

Goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez soon after the interval catapulted Mexico back into contention, but a string of superb saves by Saudi keeper Mohamed Al-Owais and two disallowed efforts denied the South Americans the elusive goal they needed to advance.

The match went right down to the wire and at one point looked like Mexico would miss out to Group C rivals Poland by virtue of having accrued more yellow cards, but Saudi striker Salem Al-Dawsari netted in stoppage time to make goal difference the decider.

Mexico's exit ended a run of seven successive last-16 appearances at the World Cup and the defeat for Saudi Arabia killed off what had looked to be a realistic chance of advancing from the group stages for the first time in 28 years.

Having failed to score in their opening two Group C matches, Mexico's chances of progressing had looked slim going into the match, hinging on the outcome of the game between Argentina and Poland.

Urgently needing to beef up their goal difference, Mexico took the game to Saudi Arabia from the start and never stopped running, peppering the goal with long-range efforts in a desperate bid to wrest control of their own fate.

Australia 1, Denmark 0

Australia upset Denmark 1-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the World Cup knockout phase for the first time in 16 years thanks to a fine solo goal from Mathew Leckie.

Australia contained Denmark at the Al Janoub Stadium before stinging the Scandinavians on a counter-attack in the 60th minute when Leckie burst into space, wrong-footed defender Joakim Maehle and fired low past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand brought on all the attacking firepower he could muster as he desperately sought the goals that have eluded his side in Qatar.

But Australia held on to claim second place in Group D, behind France but ahead of Tunisia who were leading the French 1-0 in the dying stages of Wednesday's other game. Denmark finished bottom with one point.

Tunisia, 1, France 0

French-born Wahbi Khazri scored the only goal of the game as Tunisia upset World Cup holders France 1-0 at the Education City Stadium on Wednesday, but the shock victory was not enough for them to join the defending champions in the last 16 of the tournament.

Khazri steered home a 58th-minute winner amid a cluster of defenders for only a third victory at six World Cup tournaments for Tunisia but they were still eliminated.

France, who made nine changes for this match from the team that beat Denmark and had already booked their place in the knockout stages, finished top of Group D on goal difference from runners-up Australia.

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