Lionel Messi surpassed Diego Maradona’s all-time mark for goals in an Argentina shirt in another great performance.
The second match of the round of 16 was one of the most unbalanced matches at this World Cup in terms of the difference between the teams on a technical level. Argentina went in with huge favourites against Australia to progress to the quarter-finals.
In relation to Australia, the biggest change in the line-up was Baccus, increasing protection on the defensive front, inheriting Goodwin’s place. As a result, Irvine played further up the inside, being targeted for direct free kicks and aerial play.
For Argentina, there was the necessary change of Papu Gomez in place of Rodrigo De Paul, sidelined by muscle problems. For the rest, manager Lionel Scaloni repeated the starting line-up from the win over Poland.
Australia’s first-half attitude was astonishing, with their high-tempo, dangerous lines, even when they did not have possession of the ball. With a 4-4-1 formation, they avoided any crosses and defended the area from crosses.
The Australians managed to slow the pace of the first half, even in possession, exchanging passes and controlling the tempo of the game. Argentina did not raise their game to avoid direct links.
The script of the match was getting complicated for the Argentines, but Lionel Messi opened the score in a sensational fashion. Messi’s free-kick was flicked on and off in the final third of the attack, he took advantage of a cross and slipped the ball into the penalty area to gather the rebound.
With the game totally under control in the second half, everything looked set when Rodrigo De Paul put pressure on the opposing goalkeeper to force a mistake on the break, allowing Julian Alvarez to spin and finish in the goal.
One of the greatest assets of modern world football, the short touch exit is always valid, provided the goalkeeper has the perception of danger. In these moments, it is ideal that the goalkeeper gives a firm shot to prevent the opponent’s chance of scoring.
Australia seemed to have the game under control until the final whistle, but Emiliano Martinez denied Enzo Fernandez has deflected shot from Goodwin.
Australia gave up their tactical positioning in midfield to take up more of the attacking option, in disorganised attempts to search for an equaliser in the unlikely prospect of extra time.
The disorganization in the Argentine defensive system in most pressure moments almost caused extra time, as Australia had their last chance in the 97th minute. In the quarterfinals, the world football classic against the Netherlands will be Lionel Scaloni’s biggest challenge of his life in football.
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