It was a goal almost out of the blue. Angel Di Maria picked up the ball on the right, cut in and shot straight at Lionel Messi. The No. 10 Argentine was, rather unbelievably, left unmarked just outside the center penalty area, about 25 yards from the Mexican goal. Messi calmly received the ball, lined up a shot and drilled one into the bottom corner to the goalkeeper’s left.
Quite rightly, well after midnight in India, ‘WHAT A GOAL’ started trending on social media.
Messi has scored much 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 even crucial among the 788 senior career goals he has to his name.
Argentina #FIFA world cup hope lives on! 🇦🇷@adidasfootball | #Qatar2022
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 26, 2022
Because until that moment – the 64th minute of the match in Pool C against Mexico – Argentina had been on the verge of an embarrassing exit in the group stage. They had described the game against Mexico as their ‘first World Cup final’. And, after a first half where they barely managed to get a shot on target, Mexico choked them for space and dictated much of the game.
Argentina needed a moment of inspiration from their captain to eventually win 2-0. Messi’s prodigious strike just after one hour was followed 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 game, this result puts Argentina’s campaign back on track. However, this was all about Messi, who looked good from the start.
A THING OF BEAUTY BY LEO MESSIpic.twitter.com/yn7xMd1l1m
— CG (@poisonivyyyyyy_) November 26, 2022
Messi draws level with Diego Maradona
One of the greatest players of this generation, who saw his first World Cup in his final appearance on the big stage, also tied with the legendary Diego Maradona in goals scored for Argentina at the World Cup. Both, Messi and Maradona, have eight goals each and coincidentally they both needed 21 games to reach this number.
Messi also has 13 goals to his credit for Argentina in 2022, the most he has scored in a calendar year for the national team and is now directly involved in 58 goals in his 46 appearances for club and country in 2022, according to the website messistats.com.
Group C scenario
Argentina will hope that their most influential player will continue his scoring touch in the games that follow.
With the victory, Argentina is now second in Group C with three points from two games, behind leader Poland who has four points from two games. Saudi Arabia is third with three points, while Mexico is at the bottom of the four-team group with just one point.
They still have a lot of work to do to reach the Round of 16. Simply put, Argentina needs to win their last group game to avoid complications.
If Argentina beat Poland in their final group game on Wednesday (Thursday 12.30pm IST), they will progress to the knockout rounds. A draw can also be enough for them to continue, but then they depend on the outcome of the match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, which is played simultaneously.