Everyone gave up on Messi after an hour of play. But he turned the match in one move
Argentina suffered a victory over Mexico.
Leo Messi after the defeat from Saudi Arabia (1:2) was resolute. “There are no excuses. We will be more united than ever. This team is strong and they showed it. This is a situation that we have not encountered for a long time. Now the Argentine national team must prove that we are a real team,” said the Albiceleste leader.
Argentine head coach Lionel Scaloni removed five people from the base – Christian Romero, Nahuel Molina, Nicolas Tagliafico, Leandro Paredes and Alejandro Gomez. Apparently, these players disappointed him more than others. Among others, the right-back Gonzalo Montiel, who was rejected by Leonid Fedun a year and a half ago, was included in the starting lineup.
The piquancy of this confrontation was added by the fact that Mexico is headed by the Argentinean Gerardo Martino, who worked with Messi in the national team and Barcelona. It is obvious that specifically for the “albiceleste” the coach changed the tactical scheme to 5-3-2. Martino blocked the center to put maximum pressure on the opponent’s defenders Rodrigo de Paul and Guido Rodriguez. And, of course, so that Messi could not freely receive the ball and dispose of it in dangerous areas. The Mexicans pushed the Argentines to the flanks.
Under these conditions, the players of the Argentina national team were required to quickly deploy attacks, drive the centre-haves and many forwards of the Martino team who worked without the ball. It turned out like that. With 70% possession of Albiceleste, there was absolutely no sharpness, as the Mexicans rebuilt well and blocked all possible ways to deliver the ball to the penalty area. Messi was looking for this ball, occasionally shifted to the right flank. In the first half, Leo made 27 touches, but there were no hits or hits in his statistics. Messi did not count as a kick even the moment with a free kick, when he rather twisted the ball into the goal than served.
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By the break, Argentina had shameful numbers – only one shot, and generally 0 on target. The Mexicans shot three times and hit the target once, when goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, in a very beautiful jump, caught the most difficult ball after a free kick by Ernesto Vega. The main trouble for Martino was the injury of the most experienced midfielder Andres Guardado, who made four selections (the most) in 40 minutes on the field.
Eric Gutierrez, who changed Guardado, missed Messi’s dash at the beginning of the second half, fouled and “sat down” on the card. Argentina earned a free kick – it was the perfect moment for Leo! But for some reason, the standards for the 2022 World Cup do not go to the star of the Scaloni team, except for the penalty kick realized in the 1st round. Messi shot well above the target, so that the goalkeeper did not even have time to get scared. However, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is so good that he can pull any ball from any player.
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However, Messi’s kick in the 64th minute still did not drag Ochoa! It seemed that the Mexicans were in control of everything, because the speeds at which Albiceleste played were completely fine with them. With such football, Argentina could only rely on the genius of Leo – they had no other tools to open the opponent’s defense. As soon as the Mexicans lost Messi for a second in front of their own penalty area, the punishment followed. The PSG forward took the ball and immediately decided to attack the goal – they simply did not have time to block his shot.
After that, the Argentines already played on hold, and Scaloni released an additional defender. It was impressive how Messi plowed the entire match for the team, even without the ball. He gave out a very powerful volume for himself. He probably did not want to win a single trophy as much as he wants the World Cup. Finished the match Leo with 64 touches, two hits and one key pass. On the counter-attacks, when the Mexicans opened up and left more space, Messi didn’t score. But he took part in an assist in the beautiful goal of Enzo Fernandez, who scored in the style of Leo himself: the young midfielder dealt well with Gutierrez and struck without a chance for Ochoa.
Mexico showed itself poorly in a situation where it was required to recoup. For the entire second half, Martino’s team struck only one blow against four from Albiceleste (on target – 0:2). In the 3rd round, Argentina needs not to lose to Poland, although it is possible that a victory will be required.