Sunday, February 5, 2023

Lionel Messi keeps World Cup dream alive with magic strike against Mexico

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LUSAIL: Lionel Messi kept his dream of winning his first World Cup alive by rifling in the opening goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Mexico in World Cup Group C, proving he was far from done in the tournament.

The Argentine, competing in his fifth World Cup at age 35, has won every other major title in his career but has failed to lift the coveted trophy despite making the final in 2014.

But his 64th minute strike that was followed by substitute Enzo Fernandez’s sublime effort three minutes from time, reignited their hopes of advancing past the group stage after their shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opener.

Messi, who equalled Diego Maradona’s Argentina record of 21 matches and eight goals at the World Cup, was nowhere to be seen for more than an hour before picking up an Angel Di Maria pass, finding just enough space and rifling in from 20 metres.

Substitute Fernandez made sure of the victory when he curled a superb shot into the top corner.

Argentina, on three points, can guarantee progress with a win over Poland, top on four, in their final game on Wednesday.

Read more: MBAPPE DOUBLE SINKS DENMARK AND TAKES FRANCE INTO WORLD CUP LAST 16

“Today starts another World Cup for Argentina,” Messi said. “I tell people the same thing, that they continue to believe. Today we did what we had to do.

“We had no other choice. We had to win so that we depended only on ourselves.

“The first half we didn’t play as we should and in the second, when we calmed down, we started to play the ball better and until the goal we went back to being what we are,” he said.

Mexico, who have now lost all four World Cup clashes with Argentina, have one point and must beat Saudi Arabia, on three, to have any chance of continuing their run of making the last 16 in the last seven World Cups, but even that might not be enough.

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