04/03/2024

Lionel Messi did what he does best, dominating in the late stages to give Argentina the win. (Image: FIFA World Cup - Twitter)

Lionel Messi has put on a dominant display, registering a goal and an assist in the late stages against Mexico to keep Argentina’s World Cup dream alive.

Neither side took much control in the early stages, with just four shots between them in the first half. It was a back-and-forth affair with a nice-looking free kick from Mexican attacker Alexis Vega being the closest either team came to scoring, although it was comfortably saved by Emiliano Martinez.

It would take a special player to make something out of a game that was largely void of any decent chances. Lionel Messi was always going to be that special player.

Collecting an Ángel Di Maria pass on the edge of the box and firing an impossible shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal past three defenders. The goal flattened Mexico, as it failed to mount any challenge to the Argentinian defence for the remainder of the game.

The win was sealed 23 minutes later, as Messi then laid the ball off to Benfica youngster Enzo Fernández, who dribbled skilfully and placed a brilliant shot into the far side of the goal.

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The game put Messi into the history books once again, as his contributions made him the first player to assist at five FIFA World Cup tournaments. He is also the oldest player to ever score and assist in a single World Cup game, having already held the title of being the youngest as well.

The wonderful attacking display from Messi and his teammates in the last half an hour ensures that their dream of delivering the little master an elusive World Cup victory remains firmly intact.

The loss to Saudi Arabia was a huge shock, and presumably, put a massive dent in the team’s confidence. However, this win squashed any doubt that the team may have had though, as they were challenged throughout the game but fought hard to pull off the victory.

Going into their final group game against Poland, a draw may be enough to see them through to the knockouts providing other results go their way. However, they will be gunning for a win to claim the top spot in Group C and carry enormous momentum into the Round of 16.

Mexico’s goal difference may work against them now. However, a win against Saudi Arabia will see it claim a spot in the Round of 16 if Poland manages to win against Argentina or if the Argentines win with a margin substantial enough to send Poland crashing out.

There is all to play for in this group, with all four teams still having a chance to go through. The final two games will be enormous, and the world will have their eyes glued to their screens to see who will scrape through.

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