Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the first goal at the Lusail Stadium in Doha. AP
Sublime strikes by Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez earned Argentina a 2-0 win over feisty Mexico in a pulsating atmosphere at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday and got the South American favourites’ World Cup campaign up and running.
Stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C match, Argentina knew defeat would send them out of the tournament but they started poorly, struggling to cope with Mexico’s high press as Messi was denied time and space to operate.
Argentina’s captain was anonymous in the first half, his sole contribution of note a header that ballooned over the bar, as his team failed to carve out a single decent chance.
But picked out by Angel Di Maria just outside the Mexico box in the 64th minute, Messi made no mistake, arrowing a low shot through a crowd of defenders into the corner. Fernandez doubled the lead in the 87th with a wonderful curling effort.
The win took Argentina up to second place on three points, one behind leaders Poland, who they play in their last group match. Saudi Arabia are third, level on points with Argentina but with an inferior goal difference.
Emiliano Martinez; Gonzalo Montiel, Lisandro Martinez, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Acuna; Rodrigo De Paul, Guido Rodriguez, Alexis Mac Allister, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi (capt), Lautaro Martinez
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Guillermo Ochoa; Jesus Gallardo, Hector Moreno, Cesar Montes, Nestor Araujo, Kevin Alvarez; Luis Chavez, Andres Guardado (capt), Hector Herrera; Alexis Vega, Hirving Lozano
Coach: Gerardo Martino (ARG)
Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA)
'In five minutes of mistakes that we made, we went 2-1 down and then it was really tough and we lost organisation and started punting the ball,' says Messi
"I love soccer, what I do. I enjoy being part of the national team, the group. I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion.” Messi has won the Ballon d'Or award for the best player in the world on seven occasions.
On Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain has the chance to fill the last remaining hole on his CV: a World Cup winners' medal.
Taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, the event will be contested by 17 teams with some of the top names in the badminton world including Olympic medallists to lead their respective teams.
Aurelien Giraud, the French skateboarder, won the men’s Street 2022 World Championships at Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah, while Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal claimed gold in the women’s event.
The defending champions are alleged to have breached league rules requiring provision "in utmost good faith" of "accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club's financial position".