Pre-tournament favorites Argentina secured a well-deserved 2-1 win over Australia in their last-16 clash at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Saturday night (3 December). Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez found the back of the net for La Albicelste while Enzo Fernandez’s own goal counted in Australia’s favor. The South American giants will take on Netherlands in a mouth-watering quarter-final clash on 9 December.
Argentina were not in a hurry in their 2022 FIFA World Cup last-16 match, playing slow, safe passes for most of the first half. Skipper Messi did not get inside the Australian box until the 35th minute, but he made sure to make the opportunity count. Receiving a neat layoff from Nicolas Otamendi, Messi expertly found the bottom left corner of Matthew Ryan’s goal.
The Copa America holders doubled their advantage in the 57th minute, with Alvarez making the most of a mistake from Ryan inside his own box. Australia won themselves a lifeline 20 minutes later, courtesy of Craig Goodwin’s ambitious outside-the-box effort. His strike took a wild deflection off Fernandez and slotted into the left side of the Argentine goal.
ARGENTINA ARE THROUGH TO THE QUARTER-FINALS
Five minutes later, Australian left-back Aziz Behich took a page out of Gareth Bale’s book and went on a dizzying run. Using his pace and close control, Behich beat four Argentina players before cutting in and going for goal. Lautaro Martinez put in a vital block to keep him from testing Emiliano Martinez.
In the third minute of added time, Messi released Martinez down the left inside channel. The Inter Milan striker fluffed his lines and directed his effort straight at Ryan.
Australia nearly equalized in the seventh minute of injury time. Garang Kuol superbly controlled a long ball inside the Argentine box, turned, and got his shot away from close range. The Aston Villa goalkeeper made a vital block to seal Argentina’s passage to the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.
Here are three Argentine players who impressed and two who failed to live up to their billing at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium on Saturday night:
Performed: Julian Alvarez
Julian Alvarez scored an excellent goal in his second start at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Intercepting the ball from Ryan in the 57th minute, the Manchester City man swiveled to position himself and competently found the bottom left corner.
Julián Álvarez scoring in World Cup knockout games with Lionel Messi
Rewind a few years and he was just a kid trying to get a picture with his hero 🥺
His pressing was also on point, he played a few neat passes to his teammates (14 completed with 82.4% accuracy), and always looked to slide behind the opposition’s defense. He should be one of the first names on Lionel Scaloni’s teamsheet in the quarter-final clash against the Netherlands on 9 December.
Underperformed: Nahuel Molina
Argentine right-back Nahuel Molina, who provided an assist in the 2-0 win over Poland, had a forgettable night against Australia. He was practically a passenger, watching the game pass him by. Molina did not offer anything going forward and failed to produce anything remarkable at the back as well. Given his quality, we believe he could have brought more to the game against Australia.
I’m really frustrated with the complete mishandling of Nahuel Molina. Argentina have isolated Molina yet refuse to use him as an outlet, use local combinations, prevent his wonderful and varied deliveries. Argentina sees him as a liability when he’s a gem.
On Saturday night, Molina lost possession 10 times, lost both his duels, did not play any key passes, and misplaced one of his two attempted long balls.
Performed: Rodrigo De Paul
After failing to put his best foot forward in the group stage, Rodrigo De Paul came on his own in the last 16. He kept the ball moving in the middle of the park, created chances, and relentlessly pressed the Aussies, hoping to draw a mistake or two. In fact, it was his pressing that unnerved Ryan, causing him to lose possession to Alvarez in the 57th minute.
Que nadie les diga que los sueños no pueden cumplirse, no se detengan y cada vez que se caigan levántense y sigan peleando.
SOÑEMOS, que orgullo vestir estos colores y ser parte de este grupo, LOS AMO 🤍🤍🤍
Against Australia, De Paul played three key passes, accurately delivered three long balls, won four of five ground duels, and completed 73 passes (83.9% accuracy). De Paul also cleared the ball once, made two interceptions, and attempted two tackles.
Underperformed: Lautaro Martinez
Coming off the bench for Julian Alvarez in the 71st minute, Lautaro Martinez got plenty of opportunities to make his case in front of Scaloni. The Inter Milan forward popped up in the right place at the right time quite a few times but did not manage to apply the all-important finishing touch.
Martinez missed two big chances to score against Australia, and the first one, which came in the 88th minute, was remarkably disappointing. Messi found Martinez in acres of space on the left side. With the goal gaping in front, Martinez went for a curling effort, but somehow lost his balance and hit it miles off target.
How many more times does Messi have to put it on a plate for Lautaro Martínez before he scores his first World Cup goal?
In the last 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Martinez completed only eight passes (72.7% accuracy), lost three duels, ceded possession eight times, and failed to pull off two of three attempted dribbles.
Performed: Lionel Messi
Appearing in the 1000th professional match of his career, Lionel Messi delivered a performance to remember. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was head and shoulders beyond every other player on the pitch, creating chances at will and scoring a sensational goal to open the scoring for his team in the 35th minute.
From the right, Messi delivered a curling free kick into the box, which was cleared out of the box by an Australian defender. The ball came to Papu Gomez, who squared it back to Messi. The PSG man came inside and passed the ball to Alexis Mac Allister, who fed Otamendi inside the box. The defender teed Messi up with his first touch, who found the bottom-left corner of Ryan’s goal to mark his first knockout goal at the FIFA World Cup.
Messi is the man.
The stunning goal aside, the Argentina no. 10 played four key passes, created two big chances, won four ground duels, and drew two fouls.
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