Argentina’s hopes of advancing out of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup hang on a thread tonight as a second-half strike from none other than Lionel Messi put the South American champions 1-0 over a dogged Mexico at Lusail Iconic Stadium at the time of writing.
With their backs against the wall after their shock loss against Saudi Arabia to open group stage play, a loss tonight against Gerardo Martino’s El Tri would have consigned La Albiceleste to an early return home and elimination after just two matches.
Despite Messi once again producing the goods when under pressure in the 65th minute, the first-half display saw Argentina struggle in the opening forty-five minutes after Lionel Scaloni made sweeping changes to his XI in order to right the wrongs of four days ago.
Their performance brought considerable criticism from pundits Gary Neville and Roy Keane during the half-time interval, with Keane’s salvo claiming that Argentina performed like a team from the Championship.
It wasn’t any better from Neville, who claimed that opponents are no longer afraid to go toe-to-toe with Messi on the international stage as Mexico were stout in the face of the Argentine legend while keeping him off the scoresheet as long as they possibly could, with Messi’s second-half strike coming from his first shot from open play.
Regardless of the criticisms, Messi still has bagged both of Argentina’s goals at the tournament thus far. Though this was billed as one of the best sides the nation has taken to a World Cup tournament in decades and capable of producing results without heavily relying on arguably their greatest-ever player, that narrative has yet to be written this winter.