The second kick-off of the 2022 World Cup’s Round of 16 stages featured the unlikely combination of Argentina and Australia – with many not expecting the latter to go so far in the tournament. As such, Australia came into the game with less pressure.
Notably, the tie at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium happened to be Lionel Messi’s 1000th game, and he lived up to the occasion.
While Australia set the ball rolling, Argentina gradually eased into control of the game by making more passes and recording light attempts at goal. Nothing of note ensued in the opening ten minutes, with Australia remaining compact and defending well. Australia’s Jackson Irvine received the first booking of the game for a foul on Argentina’s Marcos Acuña in the 14th minute.
The first corner of the game came in for Australia in the 23rd minute but amounted to nothing. Eight minutes later, Australia won another corner—a testament to their growing hold on the game.
This continued with a freekick in the 31st minute, which sailed off for an Argentina throw-in. Argentina won a freekick of theirs in the 34th minute, which led up to the opening goal by Argentine captain Lionel Messi in the 35th minute. It was a routine finish that did enough to set the game rolling.
Argentina maintained control of the game at the restart of proceedings but suffered a slight scare when Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez nearly gifted the Australians a way back into the game. Argentina made the first substitution in the 49th minute, with Alejandro Gomez coming off for Lisandro Martinez.
his was nearly followed up with a second goal, but Messi’s effort was well saved by Australia’s goalkeeper Mathew Ryan. Again, Argentina nearly gifted the Australians from close range in the 52nd minute but came out alive.
Ironically, Argentina squeezed out a goal from close range in the 57th minute. This was courtesy of Julian Alvarez, who also notched Argentina’s second goal in their preceding game against Poland. Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul must also be credited for his role in the goal.
Australia had a freekick in the 61st minute, but Argentina were able to steer clear of danger. Lionel Messi mustered a moment of brilliance in the 64th minute, charging forward in a move that nearly culminated in a third goal, but for a timely Australian intervention. Australia had another freekick in the 67th minute, but Emiliano Martinez did the needful for Argentina.
In an interesting turn of events, Australia pulled one back in the 77th minute when Craig Goodwin’s shot took a deflection off Enzo Fernández (minutes later, it became credited as an Enzo Fernández own goal). Instantly, the pressure undeniably resurged in the hearts of the Argentine faithful – knowing too well that Australia needed just one flash of brilliance to throw the game wide open.
This flash of brilliance almost arrived in the 80th minute, but for yet another timely intervention by Emiliano Martinez. The Argentine defence was rendered undone, and the pressure was on.
Argentina had a string of chances in the 87th and 88th minutes – the latter of which saw Lautaro Martinez (who came in for Julian Alvarez in the 71st minute) sending Lionel Messi’s pass into the stands. Seven minutes were added, the second and third of which saw three more opportunities go begging for Argentina—one for Lautaro Martinez and two for Lionel Messi.
They were almost punished by Australian substitute Garang Kuol barely twenty seconds to the 7th additional minute, but Emiliano Martinez became the hero at Argentina’s most dire moment.
Relief came for Argentina seconds later, with the final whistle sound. It was a nervy encounter with a worthy opponent.
While the Australians bow out with their heads held high, Argentina would be bracing up for the biggest of the tournament yet: a Quarter Final date with the Netherlands.