Lionel Messi shot Argentina into the World Cup quarter-finals in their 1000th competitive game. However, the 2-1 win against Australia was a nail-biter.
Lionel Messi beamed all over his face, he directed his teammates on the pitch as well as at the victory celebration – and sang with tens of thousands of euphoric Argentinian fans about the glory of their homeland and about the hope of the third World Cup title.
In his 1000th competitive game, the superstar scored as befitted his status and paved the way to 2-1 (1-0) against underdog Australia in the World Cup round of 16. The long-awaited golden trophy is only three wins away. And yet the road seems rocky.
“We could have scored one more goal – to be on the safe side. But we did it, that’s the main thing,” said Messi, who scored the opening goal in the 35th minute with his 789th competitive goal, and warned: “We have to keep standing together, it won’t get any easier now.” On the way to the third title after 1978 and 1986, the Albiceleste have to improve, on Friday (20.00 CET) the Netherlands are waiting.
Argentina-Australia: Lionel Messi strikes out of nowhere
The Australian footballers, at best fourth fiddle at home behind cricket, Australian football and rugby, fought passionately but missed out on making it into the top eight teams for the first time. The second World Cup Round of 16 after 2006 remains a success for the Socceroos around Mathew Leckie. “We can be proud. I hope that we made people happy,” said Jackson Irvine of second division FC St. Pauli.
Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni almost trusted the winning team, who had played really convincingly for the first time in this tournament against Poland (2-0). Only Alejandro Gomez replaced the ailing Angel Di Maria (thigh problem).
However, the young guard behind Messi around Alexis Mac Allister, Fernandez and Alvarez found it extremely difficult. A lot of possession, few ideas and no wit – the South Americans couldn’t think of anything against the massive, deep Australian defensive block.
Messi, who passed Diego Maradona with his ninth World Cup goal, remained pale for a long time and trotted across the field with sagging shoulders for long stretches of the first half. Out of nowhere, however, the six-time world footballer struck ice cold, his well-considered low shot to take the lead made the Argentine supporters dance.
Messi and Co. didn’t do any magic even after the break. The party in blue and white continued immediately, however, because Mathew Ryan made an inexplicable mistake. The Australian keeper frittered away the ball in his own six-yard space, Alvarez thanked him and pushed in.
Argentina: E. Martinez – Molina (from 80th Montiel), Romero, Otamendi, Acuna (72nd Tagliafico) – E. Fernandez – de Paul, Mac Allister (from 80th Palacios) – Gomez (50th Martinez), Messi, J .Alvarez (71st Martinez). – Trainer: Scaloni
Australia: Ryan – Degenek (72nd Karacic), Souttar, Rowles, Behich – Baccus (58th Hrustic), Mooy – Leckie (72nd Kuol), McGree (58th Goodwin) – Duke (72nd Maclaren), Irvine. – Coach: Arnold
Argentina – Australia: The voices on the game
Gates: 1-0 Messi (35′), 2-0 J. Alvarez (57′), 2-1 E. Fernandez (77′, own goal)
Viewers: 45,032 (in Ar-Rayyan)
yellow cards: – Irvine (2), Degenek (2)