Argentina defeated Poland 2-0 to claim the top spot in Group C, qualifying for the Last 16 after a challenging start.
Despite the loss, Poland will be happy to have kept Argentina from scoring a third, as Robert Lewandowski & Co edge out Mexico on goal difference to advance into the knockout stages.
The Argentinians started the game relentlessly, creating numerous scoring chances in the first half, only to be kept at 0-0 due to Wojciech Szczęsny's spectacular performance in goal.
In the 37th minute, Lionel Messi was awarded a controversial penalty by a VAR review, but the Argentinian legend failed to convert the chance as the Polish keeper brilliantly denied the penalty.
The Poland defense could not keep Argentina scoreless, however. In the first minute of the second half, right-back Nahuel Molina played a cutback pass to an unmarked Alexis Mac Allister, who buried the ball into the bottom left corner out of Szczesny’s reach. Man City forward Julian Alvarez later secured the win and the top spot in the group with a clinical goal in the 67th minute.
Argentina and Lionel Messi continue their quest for World Cup glory in Saturday's Round of 16 matchup against Australia, while Poland has a chance to end France’s World Cup title defense in their bout on Sunday.
Expected goals (xG): Argentina 3.08, Poland 0.17
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi, Argentina
Despite his missed penalty, the Argentina captain showed his world-class quality as the best player on the pitch. He completed a game-high six dribbles out of the nine he attempted, and five of his seven shots hit the target.
Although he didn’t record an assist, Messi made a huge difference in Argentina’s attack, completing four key passes and all three through balls he attempted. He also recorded a game-high 13 line-breaking passes.
Best Passer: Rodrigo De Paul, Argentina
Argentina controlled the game with 824 completed passes, the second-most by a team in the World Cup. Contributing to the team’s dominant performance, de Paul completed a game-high 140 passes at a 96% completion rate.
He looked to find his teammates through the lines and completed all eight of his line-breaking passes and two key passes.
Best Challenger: Enzo Fernández, Argentina
Fernandez was an important part of Argentina’s midfield and kept Poland quiet by winning three out of the four tackles he attempted. He also won 55% of his challenges and successfully defended the only dribble he faced in the match.
Going into this match, Szczęsny had the highest shot-stopping grade (96.2) of all the goalkeepers in the tournament. He continued his brilliant form by saving nine out of Argentina’s 11 shots on target and now leads the tournament with 18 saves.
The Juventus goalkeeper did give away a penalty to Lionel Messi after a VAR review but made a spectacular save to show why he’s the best shot-stopper in this World Cup. He won’t be happy with conceding two goals deemed savable in the second half but won’t be able to dwell on them as he will move his focus toward his next challenge against defending world champions France in the last-16 matchup on Sunday.
On the other side of the pitch, Emiliano Martínez had a relatively quiet evening, facing four off-target shots.