Argentina turned in their best performance thus far at the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday, beating Poland 2-0 to conclude Group C play and finish top of the group after a tournament-opening defeat to Saudi Arabia.
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Poland (4 points) will join Argentina (6) in the round of 16 by way of their superior goal difference (0 to -1) to Mexico (4). For nearly 45 minutes, the tiebreaker in question was fair play points (yellow and red cards) with the sides matching one another identically at this World Cup.
A pair of Premier League stars — Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez — got the goals for Argentina, in a must-win game to reach the knockout rounds for their 17th straight World Cup appearance.
Lionel Messi was denied from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, perhaps delivering a bit of karmic justice following a questionable decision via video review. Wojciech Szczesny undoubtedly made contact with Messi’s face as they both went for the ball in the air, but the contact was minimal and the ball had already been headed away (and out of play) by Messi when it came.
The penalty was quite poor — nowhere near the post and at a comfortable height for Szczesny to get a hand to and bat it away.
Poland got to halftime at 0-0 — their desired result after 90 minutes — but couldn’t complete the first 60 seconds of the second half before Mac Allister took Nahuel Molina’s cut-back cross the first time and softly guided it just inside the far post.
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Goal no. 2 came right at the midway point of the second half, as Alvarez turned and fired a rocket after receiving the ball from Enzo Fernandez.
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How to watch Poland vs Argentina live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday, Nov. 30
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
The storyline for every Argentina game this tournament from this point forward — and really since the lead-up to the Mexico match — is that any loss means the end of Lionel Messi’s World Cup career (at least according to the living legend). The Albiceleste would be thrilled to get something more out of Lautaro Martinez, while Paulo Dybala’s yet to make his tournament debut.
Robert Lewandowski finally has a World Cup goal on his resume, while Piotr Zielinski has been very good for Poland. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sensational in the win over Saudi Arabia.
Poland quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 26
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski
Argentina quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez