Doha, Nov 30 (EFE).- Argentina blanked Poland 2-0 here Wednesday to move into the knockout stage of World Cup 2022 as Group C winners, setting up a clash with Australia.
Despite losing, the Poles finished second in the group thanks to a better goal difference than Mexico and are headed to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986. They will face defending champions France on Sunday.
Captain Lionel Messi was in the thick of things for Argentina in the match at Doha’s Stadium 974, but the seven-time Ballon d’Or’s best scoring chance was a penalty kick stopped by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who made 11 saves in all.
Argentina’s goals came from youngsters Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez.
And the other super-striker on the pitch, Robert Lewandowski, was never a factor on a night when Poland conceded 74 percent possession and were outshot 23-4.
Szczesny had already stopped 5 shots – including Angel Di Maria’s attempt at an Olympic goal – when a VAR review resulted in a penalty for Argentina in the 38th minute after the keeper’s hand came into contact with Messi’s face as the Pole was trying to clear a cross into the box.
Reacting to the penalty call with a wry smile, the Juventus man proceeded to deny Messi from the spot and went on to make three more stops to keep it 0-0 at the break.
But the 23-year-old Mac Allister broke the game open in the first minute of the second half, redirecting a cross from Nahuel Molina.
Manchester City’s Alvarez, 22, doubled the advantage in the 68th minute with an assist from Enzo Fernandez. EFE sa/dr