After a horrendous start to their World Cup, Lionel Messi & Co. held their nerve to beat Mexico 2-0 in a must-win game for Argentina.
Both teams failed to create high-quality chances, and after a scrappy first hour, it was Messi who broke the tie in the 64th minute when his 20-yard strike found the bottom corner of the net. A moment of individual brilliance saw Enzo Fernández curl one in from the edge of the box to make it 2-0 in the 87th minute.
Not only does the win keep Argentina’s World Cup hopes alive, but their positive goal difference now strengthens their case. With this result, all four Group C teams can still qualify for the Round of 16, but Mexico has to hope for other results to go their way while the Argentines hold their fate in their hands.
Expected goals (xG): Argentina 0.30, Mexico 0.20
This game produced the lowest xG total of any match so far, as there weren't a lot of shots and both goals came from difficult chances.
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi, Argentina
With Argentina staring at a shock exit from the World cup, the stage was set for Messi. And the Argentina captain duly delivered.
Mexico kept Argentina at bay for about an hour, and just as the game started to enter panic mode, Messi latched on to an Ángel Di María pass and fired the ball low in the bottom corner to open the scoring.
As always, he supplemented his goal with eight line-breaking passes, showing his creative side, and he provided the assist for Fernandez late on. He also completed four of the six dribbles he attempted and won five fouls.
Best Passer: Guido Rodríguez, Argentina
Rodríguez was at the heart of the midfield battle, which was the highlight of the game, as both teams vied for ascendancy in the middle of the park.
The Real Betis man completed 56 of his 66 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 84.8%. But what set him apart from others was his nine completed line-breaking passes, the most of any player in the game.
Best Challenger: César Montes, Mexico
Montes was rock solid. He won five of his six challenges and his lone tackle attempt and went 4-of-5 on his aerial duels. These solid numbers reflect an excellent defensive performance that required two moments of brilliance to breach.
It was a relatively quiet day for the keepers, as the teams combined for just nine shots over the entire game. Argentina managed two shots on goal, with Messi’s goal deemed unsaveable. Mexico tested Emiliano Martínez just once from a free kick, with the Aston Villa goalkeeper comfortably saving it.