By AP and published by ABC News
Lusail, Qatar – Lionel Messi came up with another crucial goal for Argentina in a 2-0 win over Mexico on Saturday that ignited the team’s World Cup chances.
Messi took a touch from Angel Di Maria’s pass across the face of the area and drove a low shot from 25 metres into the bottom corner in the 64th minute.
He ran toward Argentina’s fans with his arms outstretched before getting mobbed by his jubilant teammates. He looked emotional as he grabbed and shook his jersey, then blew a kiss to the crowd before whirling his arms.
Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a second goal in the 87th minute.
Argentina bounced back from a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in its opening match. The team is in second place in Group C ahead of its last match against Poland on Wednesday and might need to win it to advance.
The 35-year-old Messi is likely playing in his last World Cup, which is the only major title missing from his collection.
It was an eighth World Cup goal for Messi — the same number scored in the tournament by rival Cristiano Ronaldo and also Diego Maradona, the Argentina great with whom he is so often compared.
For some, Messi needs to win the World Cup to join the ranks of Pele and Maradona as soccer’s greatest ever players. Thanks to this win, it could still happen.
Until his goal, Messi was enduring a frustrating match, finding himself with two defenders on him each time he received the ball.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the Saudi Arabia game in a bid to inject some more energy into the team but they initially made little difference.
The momentum of the game changed completely after Messi’s goal, his 93rd in internationals and his second of the tournament after a penalty against Saudi Arabia.
Mbappe scores 2, France reaches knockout stage of World Cup
The French became the first defending champions to reach the round of 16 at the World Cup since Brazil in 2006, beating Denmark 2-1 on Saturday with Mbappe scoring both goals.
“Kylian is an extraordinary player. He has the ability to make the difference at any time no matter what the other team plans to contain him,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “In addition to his great ability he is totally invested in the team and he’s made it an objective of his to win the World Cup.”
Mbappe put his team in front in the 61st minute and then scored the winner with his right thigh in the 86th as Les Bleus became the first team at this year’s tournament to advance from the group stage.
The France forward swapped passes with Theo Hernandez down the left flank and poked the ball past Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for the first goal. He then jumped acrobatically to guide in the second after a cross from Antoine Griezmann — who adapted well in a midfield role and provided his 26th assist for the national team.
Denmark defender Andreas Christensen equalised for his team with a header in the 68th.
Mbappe scored four goals when France won the World Cup four years ago, including one in the final. He now has 31 goals for France, moving him one ahead of Just Fontaine — the all-time leading scorer at a single World Cup with 13 goals at the 1958 tournament.
He joined another France great, playmaker Zinedine Zidane, with 31 goals. Zidane scored twice in the final when France won its first World Cup against Brazil in 1998 and one goal when Les Bleus lost in the 2006 final to Italy on penalty kicks.
“There are different types of leaders,” Deschamps said. “Mbappe’s a leader, he sets the example with what he shows on the field.”
France beat Australia 4-1 in its opening game while the Danes drew 0-0 with Tunisia. The Aussies beat Tunisia 1-0 earlier Saturday.
“We’re in an ideal position. It makes you feel very calm to be qualified after two games,” Deschamps said. “There’s a strong chance we’ll finish first in the group.”
No other defending champion had made it out of the group stage since 2002 champion Brazil managed to advance four years later. Italy, Spain and Germany all were eliminated early four years after winning their titles.
The first time the French won the World Cup, they also went out early four years later.
With Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema missing from the tournament with a leg injury, Mbappe has taken charge. He has 14 goals in his past 12 games for France, including three so far in Qatar.
“Mbappe played a great match,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “He’s a fantastic player, that’s it.”
The Danes beat France twice this year in the Nations League but looked tame in attack at Stadium 974 — on the rare occasions they even got near France’s penalty area.
“We knew it would be a tough match. We had lost twice to them before,” Griezmann said. “We worked hard and we worked well together. So it was a great win for us.”
Central defender Raphael Varane returned to France’s defence for his first game since sustaining a hamstring injury playing for Manchester United on Oct. 11. The 2018 World Cup winner made his 88th international appearance and played 75 minutes before being replaced.
Forward Marcus Thuram came on in the second half as his father, Lilian Thuram, watched from the stands. The elder Thuram was a standout defender who helped France win its first World Cup in 1998.
The final Group D games are scheduled for Wednesday, when France will play Tunisia and Australia will face Denmark.
Top: Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Photo: AP /Ariel Schalit and published by ABC News
Insert: France’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup group D soccer match between France and Denmark, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis and published by ABC News
Front Page: Argentina’s Lionel Messi scores his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Photo: AP and published by VOA News