With the eyes of the footballing world firmly fixed on Argentina this weekend, La Albiceleste claimed what was a crucial 2-0 victory against Mexico on Saturday night.
Opening their World Cup adventure with an infamous 2-1 loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, Lionel Scaloni’s men knew that another defeat here would see their Middle Eastern campaign come to a stunning end at the group stages.
However, although Argentina might have largely struggled to find top gear, it was their attacking icon who dragged the South American giants over the finish line in Qatar.
Producing a sublime driven strike just after the hour mark and now bagging back-to-back World Cup strikes, Lionel Messi will undoubtedly steal all of the headlines after a famous second-half performance on Saturday night.
With Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez eventually wrapping up all three points with a wonderful whipped effort in the dying minutes, we have taken a look at the main talking points.
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man
Suffering that stunning 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia in midweek and coming under a huge amount of scrutiny back home, Argentina had little to cheer about after opening their World Cup adventure with a nightmare display.
However, with Messi bagging what eventually turned out to be a consolation strike earlier in the week, it was no secret that Scaloni’s attacking superstar would have to play a crucial role in Argentina’s charge for glory this year.
Expected to be the 35-year-old’s final appearance at a World Cup finals, it was the PSG icon that dragged his nation over the finish line on Saturday night after producing a moment of brilliance just after the hour mark.
Producing a trademark left-footed finish from the edge of the box and breaking Mexico’s hearts in Lusial, neutrals across the globe are hoping that Messi can put the cherry on top of his legendary career next month.
Now bagging back-to-back World Cup strikes and desperate to finally get his hands on a maiden world crown this year, Saturday’s moment of brilliance deserves its place in Messi’s famous highlight reel.
Scaloni still has questions to answer
While Argentina might have eventually dragged themselves over the finish line on Saturday night following two moments of individual genius, La Albiceleste still failed to find top gear with much fluidity here.
Coming under a huge amount of scrutiny earlier in the week after getting hit with that infamous 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia, Scaloni’s side also watched their remarkable 36-match unbeaten run come to an abrupt end.
However, opening this year’s World Cup adventure tipped as one of the leading contenders – alongside fellow South American giants Brazil – Argentina still have the feel of a squad who are seeking some much-needed stability in Qatar.
Although Scaloni’s superstars might now know that they should punch their knockout stage ticket and avoid a major banana skin, the 44-year-old is still trying to find his ideal starting XI.
Making five changes from their 2-1 loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia, the likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Angel Di Maria have struggled to stake their claim.
Knowing that tougher tests are waiting down the line, they face another huge showdown when they meet Poland next week.
More attacking struggles for Mexico
While Mexico might have opened their Middle Eastern adventure looking to extend on their remarkable record of reaching the knockout stage, Gerardo Martino’s men have failed to make any kind of statement in Group C.
Eventually having to settle for a toothless 0-0 stalemate against Poland earlier in the week and lucky to have seen Robert Lewandowski miss a crucial penalty, the one-time Barcelona boss does find some real pressure on his shoulders.
Now sat rock-bottom of the Group C table and needing a minor miracle if they’re to find a route to the knockout stage, Mexico have also gained somewhat of a reputation for their extended struggles in the final third.
Failing to make any real clear-cut chances on Saturday night and yet to bag a single World Cup strike since opening their Qatar quest, it’s also worth noting that Mexico have now drawn a blank in each of their previous four World Cup appearances continuing on from 2018.
With the likes of Hirving Lozano and Raul Jiminez failing to offer Martino’s side any kind of clinical edge, Mexico are desperate to find some kind of boost.
Argentina: Martinez, Montiel, Otamendi, L. Martinez, Acuna, Di Maria, De Paul, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Messi, L. Martinez
Subs: Alvarez, Romero, Palacios, Fernendez, Molina
Mexico: Ochoa, Alvarez, Araujo, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo, Chavez, Herrera, Guardado, Vega, Lozano
Subs: Antuna, Alvarado, Gutierrez, Jiminez
Goals: Messi (64′), Fernandez (87′)
Yellow Cards: Argentina: Montiel – Mexico: Herrera, Araujo, Gutierrez
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Daniele Orsato