Even as the news came in the dying minutes that that Mexico were beating Saudi Arabia, and they can’t afford to give a goal to Argentina, Poland footballers started to sweat. Their main concern was Leo Messi.
Midfielder Piotr Zielinski, speaking to the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, would share details of the instructions from their coaching group from the dug out.
“The wait was not easy. They yelled at us from the substitute bench not to receive yellow cards and not to receive another goal, because that could decide the classification. But what can be done with Messi ahead? We avoid fouling him and receiving yellow cards , and fortunately we were able to qualify for the round of 16,” Zielinski told the newspaper.
Zielinkski even thought, he says, about approaching a few Argentine players he knows personally to tell them to go easy.
“At one point I wanted to ask the Argentines I know from the Italian league to slow down. They already had first place for sure,” he said.
“But I held back because it would be unsportsmanlike and I don’t like situations like that ,” confessed Zielinkski.
Argentina, who won Group C, will face Australia on Saturday and Poland faces France on Sunday.
The Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni has already aired his anger at the schedule.
“I think it’s absolute madness to play in nearly two days and a bit when we are top of the group. I can’t understand it,” Scaloni told media after their last game ended just before midnight.
“What time is it? Nearly one o’clock in the morning … Thursday, the next day is for preparation and then we play. Those aren’t good conditions but it’s the same for everyone. We’re first in the group. We could have had more rest.”