Argentina, Poland Advance to World Cup Round of 16; Mexico, Saudi Arabia bow

Lionel Messi saved a penalty but Argentina still advanced to the round of 16 of the World Cup as the top team of Group C after a 2-0 win over Poland on Wednesday. Poland also progressed as runners-up although Mexico’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in the other group game meant Czeslaw Michniewicz’s side only advanced on goal difference. Alexis Mac Allister’s 46th-minute goal eased the tension for Argentina after a tense first half, before Julian Alvarez doubled the lead just over 20 minutes later. Argentina couldn’t get past Wojciech Szczesny for the first 45 minutes when the Polish goalkeeper saved the second penalty of the tournament.

Szczesny is said to have fouled Messi while stretching for a cross, but he dashed to the left to beat the penalty.

It was the 31st penalty that Messi failed to take successfully in his career.

Poland posed little attack threat, with star striker Robert Lewandowski virtually unknown throughout the game.

Instead, Szczesny was assigned to the Poles taking center stage, stopping Messi with two crucial early saves.

First, Messi wriggled past a series of defenders before launching a shot straight at the opponent’s goalkeeper.

He then found space to dive into the Polish penalty area on the left, forcing Szczesny to make a save from his close corner.

Argentina continued to create better chances in the first half and Marcos Acuna fired a shot wide after Alvarez had also nearly broken the deadlock.

Szczesny struggled to stop Angel di Maria from scoring directly from a corner, before the goalkeeper was again called in to deny Alvarez.

– Rescue –

Szczesny overcame himself when he dived to the left to save Messi’s penalty in the 39th minute.

He still had a lot of work to do before the half-time whistle blew, parrying Alvarez’s shot before saving Rodrigo de Paul’s save.

There was nothing he could do when Mac Allister broke the deadlock less than a minute after the interval.

Nahuel Molina attacked on the right, then cut the ball back to let Mac Allister drill in just out of Szczesny’s reach.

The goal forced Poland to show late attacking ambition and Kamil Glik headed home from a free kick almost immediately after restarting play.

Argentina continued to search for goals and Alvarez scored the second after a good combination with Enzo Fernandez.

Fernandez, on his first start for Argentina, picked up his teammate, who blocked a defender before kicking the ball past Szczesny.

Poland are still struggling with yellow cards that are likely to be crucial to their chances of reaching the round of 16.

Grzegorz Krychowiak scored in the 83rd minute but a late goal for Saudi Arabia against Mexico helped Poland pass safely on goal difference.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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