Argentina complete the turnaround from the shock opening World Cup loss to Saudi Arabia by qualifying for the last 16 in impressive style against Poland
The basic facts state Argentina's 2-0 win over Poland completed another stage of their rehabilitation from the shock of that opening loss to Saudi Arabia.
The night Saudi Arabia played at full strength to defeat Poland was the night that the real Argentina emerged—the agile and combative team that had gone 36 games unbeaten.
Here, they played at a higher tempo and intensity, with Messi dazzling with those mazy dribbles, even hearing his name chanted when he had a first-half penalty brilliantly saved by Wojciech Szczesny.
This was Messi's 22nd World Cup appearance, overtaking the great Diego Maradona with the most outright appearances for Argentina in the finals.
Messi could not celebrate the landmark with a goal but it would have left a sour taste had he done so with a penalty awarded in such a way.
The only surprise was the breakthrough took 46 minutes before Brighton's Alexis Mac Allister broke the deadlock Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez completed the formalities with a fine second.