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World Cup 2022 - Poland 0-2 Argentina: Alvarez and Mac Allister seal win as both sides advance

Natalia Richardson

Updated: Dec 01, 2022 01:57

World Cup 2022 - Poland 0-2 Argentina: Julian Alvarez and Alexis Mac Allister seal win as both sides advance

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Goalscorer Julian Alvarez is hugged by team-mate Enzo Fernandez

Argentina defeated Poland 2-0 to secure first place in Group C despite Lionel Messi's missed penalty. On a dramatic evening, Poland advanced to the round of 16 ahead of Mexico due to goal differential.

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Match report as goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez seal a 2-0 win for Argentina over Poland; Lionel Messi shone but missed a first-half penalty; Poland advanced to last 16 on goal difference ahead of Mexico

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A second-place finish would have put Argentina against France in the round of 16, but goals from Alexis Mac Allister (46) and Julian Alvarez (67), scored after Wojciech Szczesny had saved a disputed Messi penalty, gave Argentina a well-deserved victory and moved them up to face Australia.

Czeslaw Michniewicz's team was sensationally poised to advance on fair play points before Saudi Arabia's stoppage-time goal in their 2-1 loss to Mexico pushed the Poles through on goal difference. As a result, Poland's qualification was in the balance until the very end.

The Poles did just enough to secure a matchup with the defending champions France on Sunday in what will be their first World Cup knockout game since 1986, despite a poor performance from Poland in which Robert Lewandowski did not even record a shot. Mexico ultimately won by just one goal, and despite Mexico's performance, which included them only scoring one goal.

How Argentina dominated Poland

Messi, clearly keen to build on his game-winning performance against Mexico following the shocking loss to Saudi Arabia, forced a deft save from Szczesny with a strong early drive. Argentina completely controlled the game from the opening.

The 35-year-old was also Argentina's major source of creative energy; he frequently appeared in midfield areas and found teammates in risky situations, but the finishing was never quite there.

Alvarez, who was chosen to start up front in lieu of Lautaro Martinez, missed a great chance after a Molina cut-back. A Poland defender blocked his low effort when he should have scored, and Marcos Acuna then narrowly missed with the follow-up.

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Lionel Messi reacts after failing to convert a first-half penalty

Acuna missed two other opportunities that came from Messi deliveries, while Alvarez was denied twice more in the opening period as well. The Manchester City striker had a one-on-one attempt stopped by Szczesny and another attempt parried.

Argentina's biggest opportunity, however, was lost by Messi, whose penalty kick was well saved by Szczesny after a VAR review that found the Poland goalkeeper had unfairly fouled the Paris Saint-Germain striker as he headed a cross wide.

Michal Skoras and Jakub Kaminski were sent in for the solitary Lewandowksi by Poland manager Michniewicz at halftime in an effort to alter the outcome of the match, but Argentina's opener came within a minute.

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Julian Alvarez celebrates after doubling Argentina's advantage over Poland

With a scuffed finish into the bottom corner after a brilliant cut-back from Nahuel Molina, Brighton's Mac Allister scored his first goal for his country.

After that, Kamil Glik missed a rare chance for Poland to score from a free-kick, but otherwise it was all Argentina. Mac Allister threatened to score again before Alvarez finally scored by superbly curling in a pass from Enzo Fernandez.

Sczesny denied the magnificent Messi, who put on a passing masterclass as he resumed his pursuit of the one title that has escaped him, and Poland were really fortunate not to concede again.

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Poland players celebrate after advancing to the last 16 of the World Cup despite being beaten by Argentina

What does the result mean?

Argentina go through as Group C winners with six points from their three games, while Poland go through as runners-up with four points, advancing ahead of Mexico, who join Saudi Arabia in crashing out of the competition on goal difference.

Argentina will now face Group D runners-up Australia in their last 16 game on Saturday, kicking off at 7pm, while Poland come up against Group D winners France on Sunday, kicking off at 3pm.

Argentina's dominance - Opta stats

Argentina completed 800 passes and had a pass completion rate of 92 per cent in this match - both of which were their highest in a World Cup game on record (since 1966). Alexis Mac Allister and Julián Álvarez both scored their first goals at the World Cup, with only Brazil (83) and Germany (77) now having more different scorers in the competition than Argentina (62, excluding own goals).

Poland's Wojciech Szczesny became just the third goalkeeper on record (since 1966) to save two penalties in a single World Cup tournament (excluding shootouts), after Brad Friedel in 2002 and Jan Tomaszewski in 1974.

Lionel Messi made his 22nd appearance at the World Cup in this game, which saw him overtake Diego Maradona (21) to become the player with the outright most appearances in the tournament for Argentina.

Despite their defeat in this game, Poland qualified from the group stage of a World Cup tournament for the first time since 1986. They had failed to do so in each of their previous three appearances at the tournament prior to this year (2002, 2006 and 2018).

Argentina have qualified from the group stage at the World Cup for the fifth consecutive tournament (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022), while they have now progressed from the first round group stage for the 13th time in their last 14 World Cup appearances.

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