Argentina progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup after picking up a hard-fought 2-1 win against Australia today.
The game started slowly, with the Socceroos intent on sitting back and restricting their opponents. Papu Gomez registered the first attempt of the game, firing an effort miles over the crossbar from distance. Down the other end, Harry Souttar had a header blocked from a corner.
Despite the lack of action, the deadlock was broken in the 35th minute – and it will come as little surprise who provided it.
Nicolas Otamendi laid the ball off for Lionel Messi, and he took one touch before placing it into the far corner. It was his ninth World Cup goal and his first in the knockout stage.
And Argentina managed to double their lead after the break, thanks to an awful mistake by Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
He carelessly had the ball stolen off him by Julian Alvarez, who turned and finished into an empty net for his second of the tournament.
La Albiceleste looked on course for a comfortable evening but were given a shock when Australia pulled one back.
Substitute Craig Goodwin fired a speculative long-range effort which took a huge deflection off Enzo Fernandez and flew into the far corner. The goal was later credited as an own goal.
Just moments later, they almost grabbed themselves an unlikely equaliser. Aziz Behich embarked on an incredible run, taking on four players and bursting into the box before being thwarted by a brilliant tackle by Lisandro Martinez.
Things were getting nervy for Lionel Scaloni’s men, who pushed in search of a third to kill the game off. Messi twice fed Lautaro Martinez, but the Inter Milan forward was unable to convert either opportunity.
In the dying seconds, Australia had a huge chance to take the game to extra time. The ball fell kindly to Garang Kuol in the box, but the teenager’s shot on the turn was well saved by Emiliano Martinez.
Argentina held onto the victory, sealing their place in the quarter-finals. They will face Netherlands, who beat the United States earlier today.
Emiliano Martinez (7/10) – Made one vital save right at the death. Good with his handling, although sometimes shaky with the ball at his feet.
Nahuel Molina (7/10) – Energetic down the right, and rarely beaten at the back.
Cristian Romero (7/10) – Kept Duke quiet, although not given much of a test by a defensive Australia side.
Nicolas Otamendi (7/10) – Got the assist for the opener. Reasonably solid at the back.
Marcos Acuna (7/10) – Rarely tested defensively. Showed some attacking threat.
Rodrigo De Paul (8/10) – Controlled things in the middle of the park. Kept running until the end.
Enzo Fernandez (7/10) – Offered something at both ends of the pitch. Unlucky with the own goal.
Alexis Mac Allister (7/10) – Helped Argentina dominate possession and contributed to the opening goal.
Papu Gomez (5/10) – Wasn’t able to do much against a stern Australian defence. Substituted early in the second half.
Lionel Messi (9/10) *MOTM* – Near-perfect with every touch. Scored with his first sight of goal, and ought to have got himself an assist or two.
Julian Alvarez (8/10) – Worked hard and relentlessly pressed. Rewarded with a goal.
Lisandro Martinez (7/10)
Nicolas Tagliafico (6/10)
Lautaro Martinez (5/10)
Gonzalo Montiel (6/10)
Exequiel Palacios (6/10)
Mat Ryan (3/10) – Arguably could have done better with Messi’s goal. Made a huge error for Alvarez’s. Didn’t make any impressive saves of note. Dreadful performance.
Milos Degenek (6/10) – Effectively managed Gomez in the first half. Struggled a bit more after half time.
Harry Souttar (7/10) – Battled hard and helped keep Argentina at bay for much of the game. Won a couple of headers from corners.
Kye Rowles (6/10) – Had a good first half, but fell off somewhat after the break.
Aziz Behich (6/10) – Conceded a needless free kick in the lead up to the opener. Almost scored the goal of the tournament with a mazy run late on.
Keanu Baccus (7/10) – Helped restrict Argentina’s attacking threat. Substituted in the second half.
Aaron Mooy (6/10) – Battled hard in the first half, and put in a couple of good set pieces. Couldn’t deal with Messi in the second half.
Jackson Irvine (5/10) – Picked up an early yellow card which limited his influence. Generally had little impact.
Mathew Leckie (5/10) – Offered something defensively, but didn’t show much in attack.
Mitchell Duke (4/10) – Completely isolated up front. Easily dealt with by Argentina’s centre-backs.
Riley McGree (5/10) – Had very few opportunities to contribute going forward. Substituted on the hour mark.
Ajdin Hrustic (5/10)
Craig Goodwin (7/10)
Garang Kuol (6/10)
Jamie Maclaren (5/10)
Fran Karacic (6/10)
- Barcelona to take further legal action as they risk losing Gavi for free in the summer
- Bayern set condition to sign Joao Cancelo permanently
- Arsenal set to face MLS All-star team coached by Wayne Rooney in US summer tour
- Roma open to Tammy Abraham departure with Aston Villa keen
- Barcelona and Bayern Munich tracking Bundesliga sensation Florian Wirtz