20/04/2024

Messi and Argentina defeat Australia (Photo: FIFA World Cup)

A World Cup campaign never to be forgotten has come to an end for Australia, going down to Argentina 2-1 in a fighting display at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Argentina have prevailed in an intense battle against Australia to progress to the next stage of the FIFA World Cup. In a result many expected around the world, Australia had full belief they could cause an upset on the world stage.

The Australians were appearing in their first World Cup knockout match since 2006 and just the second in six tournament appearances. They weren’t going to go down without a fight, pushing Messi and his counterparts right to the end.

With the crowd in full voice, majority Argentinians, the match started with a tempo controlled by the Australians. A strong defensive set up complimented with good movement through the midfield allowed Graham Arnold’s men to stop any forward movement by their opponents whilst also spreading on the counter attack.

Australia looked to have good control and momentum throughout the first half but a foul by Aziz Behich on Lionel Messi provided a set piece. From there the script was written and Messi did what he does best, sending the ball into the box before it spilling back out, allowing Messi to put the ball in the back of the net. A left foot finish that only a few can produce, creating history by scoring his first ever World Cup knockout stage goal on his 1000th game for Argentina to surpass Diego Maradona in the all-time scoring list for his country.

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Unfortunately for Australia things only got worse after half-time with a Mat Ryan mistake proving costly gifting Julian Alvarez with a simple chance to make it 2-0 after 57 minutes, seemingly giving Argentina an inevitable result.

However as mentioned right throughout the tournament, Australia’s prominent never say die attitude proved dividends once again with a magnificent strike by Craig Goodwin in the 77th minute. The substitute who came on for Riley McGree in the 58th minute found the back of the net thanks to a helping deflection from Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez.

For the next 20 minutes Australia showcased to the world its true fighting spirit and never give up attitude. The game seemingly opened up with Graham Arnold launching an all out attack plan, as a magnificent run by Aziz Behich nearly levelled the game. On the counter, Messi was also starting to flex his muscles with beautiful moves and excellent passing which was piercing the Aussie defence and creating many an opportunity for Argentina.

The final few minutes were basically the last round of a boxing match with both teams trying to score. Further efforts in both goal-mouths ramped up the tension in the dying minutes, and amid late pressure from the Australians, there was a chance in the final seconds for Garang Kuol to send the game to extra time, only to have his shot was smothered by Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez.

Graham Arnold and his men thank the Australian fans (Twitter – @Socceroos)

Ultimately the final whistle blew and Australia were left falling short, a 2-1 defeat at the hands to one of the tournaments favourites is by no means nothing to be embarrassed about.

Some Messi brilliance was the difference and while Argentina will progress to the next stage and try to complete their fairy tale, Australia will come home with a country who have fallen in love with them.

Australia exit Qatar with their equal best ever result in a FIFA World Cup whilst Argentina have now set up an intriguing clash against the Netherlands in the quarter finals.

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