Men's National Team

WC: Poland Advance Despite Outclassed Loss with Argentina

Robert Lewandowski challenges for the ball with Leo Messi / Getty
WC: Poland Advance Despite Outclassed Loss with Argentina

DOHA, Qatar. November 30 (Reuters) – Lionel Messi’s Argentina beat Poland 2:0 in their final 2022 FIFA World Cup Group C match at Stadium 974 in Doha on Wednesday. Despite this loss, the Poles will still continue in the tournament after advancing to the knockout stage.

Final score: Poland – Argentina 0:2

Argentina topped the standings on six points, while second-placed Poland, who qualified on goal difference after Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2:1, take on reigning champions France.

Midfielder Alexis MacAllister put Argentina ahead straight after the break with a low first-time shot after a flowing passing move, while Julian Alvarez shot past Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 67th minute to make it 2:0.

In the first half, Szczesny was Poland’s hero as he made a diving stretch save to deny Messi a penalty.

Poland were up in arms when Argentina were awarded the controversial penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post. But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the thousands of Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort from the spot.

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, who has 18 goals in 19 games for Barca this season, did not have a single attempt on goal.

“He was very much involved and committed. I’m not attacking anyone in the team, but we didn’t help him score,” Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said.

“If our team had a higher percentage of possession, if Messi played with us and Lewandowski played with Argentina, he would score five goals… Messi didn’t score, did he?”

At the other end, Szczesny had been kept busy the entire half with the Poland defence breached time and again but the Juventus keeper stood firm to deny Argentina who grew more confident with every attack. He first denied Alvarez when the Manchester City forward broke through the offside trap before he tipped Angel Di Maria’s cross over the bar when his Juve team mate attempted to score directly from a corner kick. But Szczesny could do nothing but scramble helplessly when Mac Allister took his shot even before Poland could settle down after the restart while Alvarez’s shot for the second goal was too good for any keeper.

Argentina nearly made it 3-0 in second-half added time when Nicolas Tagliafico was released down the left and he chipped the ball over Szczesny, only to see Jakub Kiwior track back to make a timely intervention and head the ball off the line. But Argentina got what they wanted — leapfrogging Poland to take top spot in the group and avoid an early knockout fixture against the mighty France.

Poland, meanwhile, will be relieved to reach the last-16 by the skin of their teeth for the first time since 1986.

_____________________________

Poland – Argentina 0:2 (0:0)
Goals: Mac Allister 46′, Álvarez 67′

Yellow carded: Krychowiak – Acuña
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
Attendance: 44 089

Poland: 1. Wojciech Szczęsny – 2. Matty Cash, 15. Kamil Glik, 14. Jakub Kiwior, 18. Bartosz Bereszyński (72, 3. Artur Jędrzejczyk) – 20. Piotr Zieliński, 10. Grzegorz Krychowiak (83, 23. Krzysztof Piątek), 6. Krystian Bielik (62, 8. Damian Szymański), 16. Karol Świderski (46, 26. Michał Skóraś), 24. Przemysław Frankowski (46, 13. Jakub Kamiński) – 9. Robert Lewandowski

Argentina: 23. Emiliano Martínez – 26. Nahuel Molina, 13. Cristián Romero, 19. Nicolás Otamendi, 8. Marcos Acuña (59, 3. Nicolás Tagliafico) – 7. Rodrigo De Paul, 24. Enzo Fernández (79, 6. Germán Pezzella), 20. Alexis Mac Allister (84, 16. Thiago Almada) – 11. Ángel Di María (59, 5. Leandro Paredes), 10. Leo Messi, 9. Julián Álvarez (79, 22. Lautaro Martínez)

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