Argentina is through to the round of sixteen at the 2022 World Cup for the fifth consecutive tournament after a vital 2-0 win against Poland at Stadium 974 in Doha after second-half strikes from Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester City’s Julián Álvarez sealed all three points for the South American champions.
In a tournament that started in shocking fashion for La Albiceleste after an eye-opening 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia to begin hostilities in Qatar, Argentina bounced back with a pair of wins over Mexico and now Poland to secure the top spot in Group C and a date with shock knockout stage participant Australia after their 1-0 win over Denmark.
Billed as one of the best Argentine sides in recent memory, many were hoping for Lionel Scaloni’s men to avoid relying on iconic figure Lionel Messi to push his country to success this winter, and though at times Messi has had to stand tallest during group play, tonight’s performance was a truly collective effort from the current Copa America holders. But in typical fashion, Messi once again was at the center of it all as he chases the one trophy that has eluded him across the entirety of his glistening career while attempting to emerge from under the shadow of the late, great, Diego Maradona as a World Cup winner.
Messi’s performance tonight was right out of the top drawer once again, and though he did not add to his tally of two goals in Qatar, he stood out as the most creative player on the pitch while setting multiple data markers that stand the test of time across the history of the World Cup in addition to improving upon his record of having never been eliminating during the group stage of any competition - for club or country - across his entire career.
Per data analysis firm Opta, the five chances created and five dribbles completed made Messi the oldest player since 1966 to achieve that feat, with none other than Maradona being the previous holder of that record.
Additionally, Messi moved into second on the all-time list for chances created (63) at the World Cup behind, you guessed it, Maradona, whose record stands at 67 and within striking distance of the 35-year-old. Moreover, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar is comfortably ahead on the all-time list of completed dribbles (118) on the football’s biggest stage, 13 clear of Maradona who sits in second.
There is something to be said about the fact that statistical markers between Messi and Maradona have constantly risen to the surface the longer Messi’s career has gone on, but it remains to be seen if they will matter come the end of his career should he fail to bring home the games’ top prize in Qatar.