Lionel Messi scored in the 1,000th game of his storied career as Argentina beat Australia 2-1 to advance to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Captaining his country for the 100th time, Messi sparked the last-16 tie midway through the first half, curling home cutely after some clever playmaking – his 789th career goal .
In the second half, Julián Álvarez took advantage of Australia’s keeper Mat Ryan’s slack to score his second goal of the tournament and extend Argentina’s lead.
Just when it looked as though Argentina might run away, Craig Goodwin’s shot wide of the corner from outside the box created a thrilling finish, but the Argentine held on.
Aziz Behich looked as though he might snatch an unlikely equalizer, but Lisandro Martinez’s last-minute tackle deflected the Australian defender’s shot after he dribbled past a string of Argentine defenders.
The victory means Argentina will face the Netherlands in Friday’s quarter-finals, after they beat the U.S. men’s national team 3-1 earlier on Saturday.
Messi’s quest to win that elusive World Cup title is off to a rocky start in Qatar 2022 – with Argentina stunned by Saudi Arabia in their opening group game – and La Albiceleste There was little trouble for Australia in the opening half-hour.
Many football pundits have commented on how far Messi tends to go in games of late, but that wasn’t the case when the 35-year-old closed in on Besy in an attempt to clear.
Messi and Behich engaged in a shoving match, a small act of passion that was enough to get the Argentine fans at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium back on their feet and singing again.
Those fans were soon groaning loudly when Messi fired a fine left-footed shot past Australian goalkeeper Ryan after a clever move for Argentina.
The goal was Messi’s ninth at the World Cup, surpassing Diego Maradona and Guillermostabile, who have eight each. Only Gabriel Batistuta has contributed more for Argentina with 10.
It was the highlight of even the first half, with Australia looking in order and never in awe of Argentina.
After the break, Argentina began to change style, despite the La Albiceleste The second goal came from effort and pressure.
After Ryan tried to control the return pass, he slammed to avoid the rushing Rodrigo de Paul.
Unfortunately for Ryan, Alvarez joined the media and capitalized on an error by the Australian keeper to score home his second goal in as many games.
The 35-year-old shone alongside the barrage of Australians, delighting the thousands of Argentine fans present, allowing Messi to work even more magic.
Argentina were on cruise control, but with less than 15 minutes left, a shot from Australia’s Goodwin looked safe to leave the Argentine goal before hitting Enzo Fernandez and flying past Ecuador. Migliano Martinez.
Argentina had a chance to catch Australia at half-time as Australia scored their second goal, with Lautaro Martinez missing multiple chances to seal the game.
Behich almost scored one of the game’s goals as he weaved between a series of Argentine players before United defender Martinez thwarted the Australian with a flying tackle at the last minute.
In Australia’s final win, teenager Garang Kuol – making his third Socceroos appearance – almost forced extra time, but his shot from close range was stifled by Argentine keeper Martinez.