It was a goal virtually out of nothing. Angel Di Maria took the ball on the right, cut inside and squared it towards Lionel Messi. The Argentine No. 10 was, rather unbelievably, left unmarked just outside the box in the centre, roughly 25 yards from the Mexican goal. Messi calmly received the ball, lined up a shot and drilled one into the bottom corner to the left of the goalkeeper.
Quite rightly, well past midnight in India, ‘WHAT A GOAL’ started trending on social media.
Messi has scored far better goals in his career. But this one was significant and one of the most crucial of the eight World Cup goals he has now scored or, for that matter, crucial even among the 788 senior career goals he has to his name.
Because until that moment – the 64th minute of the Pool C encounter against Mexico – Argentina were on the brink of an embarrassing group-stage exit. They’d described the match against Mexico as their ‘first World Cup final’. And, after a first half where they barely managed a shot at goal, with Mexico stifling them for space and were dictating much of the play.
For Argentina, it required a moment of inspiration from their captain to eventually win 2-0. Messi’s wonder strike just after an hour mark was followed up by an even better finish by Enzo Fernandez in the 87th minute to give Argentina their first win of the World Cup.
After a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in the opening match, this result brings Argentina’s campaign back on track. This, however, was all about Messi who looked pumped right from the beginning.
Messi goes level with Diego Maradona
One of the greatest players of this generation, eyeing his first World Cup in his last appearance on the big stage, also went level with the legendary Diego Maradona in terms of the number of goals scored for Argentina at the World Cup. Both, Messi and Maradona, have eight goals each and coincidentally, they both took 21 games to reach this tally.
Messi also has 13 goals for Argentina to his name in 2022, the most he has scored in a calendar year for the national team and now been directly involved in 58 goals during his 46 appearances for club and country in 2022, according to the website messistats.com.
Group C scenario
Argentina will hope their most influential player will continue his scoring touch in the games to follow.
The win means Argentina are now second in Group C with three points from two matches, behind leaders Poland who have four points from two matches. Saudi Arabia are third with three points while Mexico are at the bottom of the four-team group with just one point.
They still have a lot of hard work to do to reach the Round of 16. Simply put, Argentina must win their final group game to avoid any complications.
If Argentina beat Poland in their final group game on Wednesday (Thursday, 12.30 IST), they will progress to the knockout rounds. A draw, too, could be enough for them to go through but they’ll then have to depend on the outcome of the match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, which will be played simultaneously.