Lionel Messi came up with another crucial goal for Argentina in a 2-0 win over Mexico on Saturday that ignited the team’s World Cup chances.

Messi took a touch from Angel Di Maria’s pass and drove a low shot from 25 meters into the bottom corner of the goal in the 64th minute.

He ran toward Argentina’s fans with his arms outstretched before being mobbed by his jubilant teammates. He looked emotional as he grabbed and shook his jersey, then blew a kiss to the crowd before whirling his arms.

Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a second goal in the 87th minute.

Argentina bounced back from a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in its opening match. The team is in second place in Group C ahead of its last match against Poland on Wednesday and might need to win it to advance.

The 35-year-old Messi is likely playing in his last World Cup, which is the only major title missing from his collection.

It was an eighth World Cup goal for Messi — the same number scored in the tournament by rival Cristiano Ronaldo and also Diego Maradona, the Argentina great with whom he is so often compared.

For some, Messi needs to win the World Cup to join the ranks of Pele and Maradona as soccer’s greatest ever players. Thanks to this win, it could still happen.

Until his goal, Messi was enduring a frustrating match, finding himself with two defenders on him each time he received the ball.

Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the Saudi Arabia game in a bid to inject more energy into the team, but they initially made little difference.

The momentum of the game changed completely after Messi’s goal, his 93rd in internationals and his second of the tournament after a penalty against Saudi Arabia.

France 2, Denmark 1

Kylian Mbappe scored two goals and put defending champion France into the knockout stage of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Denmark Saturday.

Mbappe put France ahead in the 61st minute and then scored the winner in the 86th with his right thigh as Les Bleus became the first team to advance to the next round.

Denmark defender Andreas Christensen equalized for his team with a header in the 68th.

Mbappe scored four goals when France won the World Cup four years ago, including one in the final. He now has 31 goals for France, moving him one ahead of Just Fontaine — the all-time leading scorer at a single World Cup with 13 goals at the 1958 tournament.

France beat Australia 4-1 in its opening game while the Danes drew 0-0 with Tunisia. The Aussies beat Tunisia 1-0 earlier Saturday.

Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0

Robert Lewandowski at last scored a goal in a World Cup match Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.

“Today everything I had inside, the dreams, the importance of the occasion, all those dreams from my childhood came through,” Lewandowski said. “It was so significant.”

One of the best forwards in the world, Lewandowski’s barren streak at the World Cup was somewhat puzzling. Now, in his fifth match at the tournament, it’s over.

Against Saudi Arabia, Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.

Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, as enthusiastic fans pushed the Saudi team forward in what seemed like a home game. The frustration was clear on Lewandowski’s face as Poland’s yellow cards mounted.

Saudi Arabia had a chance to equalize at the end of the first half, but Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty kick. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.

Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.

Australia 1, Tunisia 0

Mitchell Duke celebrated scoring Australia’s winning goal by forming a “J” with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.

Coach Graham Arnold dragged injured winger Martin Boyle — on crutches — into the celebratory huddle as fans sang merrily along to Men at Work’s “Down Under,” blaring over the stadium speakers after the final whistle, in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

Later, Arnold wiped away tears.

It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, which beat Tunisia 1-0 Saturday for only its third win in 18 World Cup matches.

Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header.

“I actually was messaging some of my family, saying that I was going to score today, and I told my son that I was going to be able to share this moment with him and get that celebration,” Duke said. “I haven’t seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me from the stadium, which was a really special moment that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.”

Australia hadn’t won at the World Cup since beating Serbia in 2010 and it means the Socceroos still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing to defending champion France 4-1 in their opening match.

In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia will play France and Australia will meet Denmark.

 

Source: Voice of America

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