Argentina completed the turnaround from the shock opening World Cup loss to Saudi Arabia by qualifying for the last 16 in impressive style against Poland – who went through on goal difference having finished level on points with Mexico.
Lionel Messi was the catalyst for the crucial win against Mexico that got Argentina’s campaign back on track after their opening defeat to Saudi Arabia, and he was instrumental again as they illustrated why they were regarded as one of the tournament favourites, ahead of a second-round match against Australia.
Poland were set to progress on the FIFA Fair Play rule for having fewer yellow cards than Mexico – until Saudi Arabia pulled one back deep into stoppage time in their 2-1 loss to the Concacaf side – and will now face France after surviving an incredibly dramatic finale where another goal for Argentina or Mexico would have knocked them out.
Argentina ran out comfortable winners with second-half goals from Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez but the game still held real drama and jeopardy in the closing stages as Poland knew another goal conceded, or another goal for Mexico against the Saudis, would send them out on goal difference.
Argentina dominated throughout but had to wait until after the break to make the breakthrough after Messi saw a first-half penalty saved by Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny after the pair had collided in an aerial challenge, a harsh award after a video assistant referee consultation.
Mac Allister gave Argentina the lead they deserved when he swept home Nahuel Molina’s cross a minute after the break and Alvarez sealed victory with a fine finish into the top corner in the 67th minute.
Permutation for Dec 1 Fixtures
- Croatia and Belgium meet for the first time in a tournament setting to contest a place in the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Croatia will secure a round-of-16 berth if they avoid defeat, while Belgium can only be sure of progressing with a victory. If Morocco lose to already-eliminated Canada, it is possible that both these European teams could advance.
- With defeats in their opening two FIFA World Cup 2022™ matches, Canada are already out, but Morocco, who are second in the group on four points, are well placed to seize one of Group F’s two qualifying berths. A draw will be enough to see them through as group runners-up – as will a defeat for Belgium against Croatia in the group’s other final fixture – while a win could see them secure top spot. The countries’ respective captains, Atiba Hutchinson and Romain Saïss, are team-mates at Turkish club Beşiktaş.
- Japan’s momentous 2-1 victory over Germany in their opening game was offset by a 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica, and they can only be certain of prolonging their stay at the FIFA World Cup 2022™ if they win their final Group E fixture against Spain, who will go through if they avoid defeat and are guaranteed top spot if they win. This is the first competitive meeting between the teams.
- Germany, who have failed to win either of their first two FIFA World Cup group fixtures for the first time, prop up Group E, but if they beat Costa Rica by two or more goals, they can only be eliminated if Japan defeat Spain. Costa Rica will go through if they beat Germany, or with a draw if Spain beat Japan.
Australia 1-0 Denmark
Tunisia 1-0 France
Poland 0-2 Argentina
S’Arabia 1-2 Mexico
Canada Vs Morocco-4pm
Croatia Vs Belgium-4pm
Japan Vs Spain-8pm
C’Rica Vs Germany-8pm