A day filled with upsets and chaos was nearly topped off by a fair play tiebreaker or drawing of lots, only for a late stoppage time goal by Saudi Arabia to settle matters for the two teams above them.
ARGENTINA 2, POLAND 0
Argentina tops the group and advances to the 2022 FIFA World Cup knockout stage— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 30, 2022
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Lionel Messi and Argentina won Group C thanks to a comprehensive victory over Poland in their group stage finale yesterday.
But it was Wojciech Szczesny who stole the show in the first half, denying Messi in the 10th minute from a tight angle. In the 35th, it was Julian Alvarez in through the Polish defense only to see Szczesny have his near post covered once again.
But on the recycled ball off that save back into the far post, Szczesny was called for (in this referee’s opinion) a ridiculous penalty as his outstretched arm missed the parry and made contact with Messi inside the box. The contact was minimal and should have been judged as any defender contesting a normal header and didn’t affect Messi’s header which went well wide but after VAR review, the penalty kick was awarded.
Another remarkable VAR decision, and quite simply not the kind of incident the system was brought in for -- it didn't require the intervention of the VAR.#POLARG #FIFAWorldCup https://t.co/obytLyx6m8— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) November 30, 2022
Szczesny however saved the ensuing penalty from Messi and an olimpico attempt from Angel Di Maria minutes later to see the Poles through to halftime with no score.
Poland however was unable to hold back the tides of the Argentina attack forever though, as moments after the halftime restart Alexis Mac Allister hit a perfect screwball changeup into the bottom corner after a cross from Nahuel Molina on the right wing.
In the 67th minute, Argentina doubled their advantage through Julian Alvarez who received an Enzo Fernández pass at the top of the box and was able to fight and turn to pick out the top far corner.
A late Messi shot went wide and Poland late cleared a soft shot heading towards goal to maintain the 2-0 scoreline, something that would be important due to the simultaneous events of the other match.
MEXICO 2, SAUDI ARABIA 1
This game was absolutely CHAOTIC— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 30, 2022
Mexico falls one goal short of advancing to the knockout stage after a thriller vs Saudi Arabia!
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Going into the match, El Tri needed a win, a Poland loss, and at least a four goal swing in goal differential to advance in second place. If Poland and Mexico both finished on four points, a net zero GD, and level on fair play points, a drawing of lots would determine Group C’s second place finisher.
After a goalless first half, Mexico also got their breakthrough just after halftime, when Henry Martin crashed the net off a corner to finish off César Montes’ redirect at close range in the 47th minute. Just five minutes later, Luis Chávez took a long free kick and picked out the top corner over the wall past a helpless Mohammed Al-Owais in goal.
Knowing they would need a third, Mexico nearly had it in the 55th but a quick combination from Martin and Chucky Lozano was judged offside despite Mexico slotting home what they thought was another goal. Uriel Antuna also slotted home a goal underneath Al-Owais in the 87th minute only to have the flag go up again and replays confirm the Mexico attacker a yard offside.
With chaos set to rule and the fair play tiebreaker about to be used (Poland having fewer yellow cards would have advanced), Saudi Arabia made it academic in stoppage time with a consolation goal to end any hope Mexico had of making another knockout stage.
Salem Al Dawsari played a nifty one-two combination with Hattan Bahbri at the top of the box and slotted home past Memo Ochoa to send Poland through in second place on goal difference. The loss ended the tumultuous tenure of Tata Martino as El Tri head coach as well as Mexico’s seven straight appearances in the group stage dating back to the 1994 World Cup.
Group C kept us on the edge of our seats! #ARG and #POL are heading to the last 16.— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 30, 2022
Elation for Lewandowski and Poland as they make their first knockout stage since 1986 and a date with France on Sunday, December 4th at 10am EDT on FS1. Argentina has a quicker turnaround to face Australia on Saturday, December 3rd at 2pm EDT on FOX.