In Lionel Messi’s 1,000th career match, Argentina beat Australia 2-1 to secure a place in the quarter-finals and send the Socceroos home.
Both teams got off to a slow start, but in the 35th minute, Messi brilliantly placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net, scoring his first-ever goal in the World Cup knockout stages.
In the 57th minute, Australian goalkeeper Matt Ryan was caught on the ball in his own box by Rodrigo de Paul’s aggressive press, which allowed forward Julian Alvarez to tap the ball into an empty net to provide a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The Aussies didn’t give up hope, however. In the 77th minute, Craig Goodwin's strong strike from outside the box took a major deflection off midfielder Enzo Fernandez and beat Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez, keeping their World Cup hopes alive.
For the remainder of the second half, the Argentinians created more goal-scoring chances, but the Aussies found themselves with arguably the best chance to equalize in the last minute of the game. Garang Kuol desperately took a turning shot from outside the 6-yard box, but Emiliano Martinez stepped up big to make the difficult save and secured Argentina’s ticket into the next round.
Lionel Messi and Argentina move on with confidence into the Round of 8, where they will face the Netherlands on Friday.
Expected goals (xG): Argentina 1.67, Australia 0.48
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi, Argentina
The Argentina legend did not disappoint in the 1,000th match of his career — not only did he get his first-ever goal in the World Cup knockout stages, but he also recorded his ninth career World Cup goal, passing up Diego Maradona for the second-most in Argentina history.
Aside from getting on the score sheet, the no. 10 was a massive threat in Argentina’s attack. He recorded a game-high four key passes and went 3-of-4 on through-balls, creating goal-scoring chances throughout the match. The Argentina captain also constantly gave the Australians trouble with four completed dribbles out of the six he attempted and kept them on their toes with a game-high seven possessions in Australia’s penalty area.
Breaking personal and national records on the biggest stage, Lionel Messi continues to prove why he is one of the greatest to grace the game. The world now awaits for Messi to show another spectacular performance against the Netherlands on Friday.
Best Passer: Rodrigo de Paul, Argentina
The Argentina midfielder once again was a key component in Lionel Scaloni’s attacking strategy, recording three key passes and completing two out of his four through-ball attempts. He displayed his passing expertise through the lines of Australia’s defense, completing nine line-breaking passes, one of which broke the defensive line. The Atletico Madrid midfielder also was a constant threat between the lines, receiving a game-high 13 line-breaking passes.
Best Challenger: Cristian Romero, Argentina
In his post-game interview accepting the Player of the Match Award, Argentina captain Lionel Messi praised Cristian Romero as one of the key players in the match.
The metrics agree. Romero won 67% of his challenges throughout the match and won all three of his 50/50 duels. The Tottenham defender was also a force in the air, winning four of the seven aerial duels he contested.
Despite saving three of the five on-target shots he faced and denying the Argentinians from getting their third goal, Ryan bows out of the tournament hoping to forget about the crucial mistake he made on the ball in the 57th minute that led to Argentina’s second goal.
Emiliano Martinez couldn’t do much about Enzo Fernandez’s own goal, which took a major deflection from Craig Goodwin’s off-target shot in the 77th minute. Aside from conceding the goal, Martinez had a relatively quiet evening until Australia’s first and only on-target shot in the last minute of the game, which required the Aston Villa goalkeeper to make an incredible save to secure the Round of 16 win for his country.