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Dhaka Tribune

Talking points: Messi emulates Maradona, France fire title warning

Lookback at the last day of the Qatar WC's 1st week

Update : 27 Nov 2022, 05:23 PM

Matchday seven rounded off the week's action at the Qatar World Cup. Starting from Australia's joy to Robert Lewandowski breaking the World Cup duck, followed by France advancing to the last 16 as the tournament's first team and finally, Lionel Messi's Argentina injecting life into their campaign. Here are the talking points from an action filled day of Group C and D action:   

Argentina come to life, all to play for in Group C

Facing group stage elimination in the Russia World Cup, Argentina were rescued by a Messi strike and assist against Nigeria. Diego Maradona's rightful successor inspired his country once again, coming up with a clutch goal and yet another assist to enhance the two-time champions' prospects of getting out of the group. The last few days at the Albiceleste camp was filled with apprehension in the aftermath of the shocking loss to Saudi Arabia, while the crucial Mexico clash happened to take place only a day after the second death anniversary of one of Argentina's greatest sons, Maradona. It was a poignant time for Messi, who idolized the 1986 World Cup hero, and also played under him. With enormous expectations and the weight of the nation riding on his shoulders, the seven-time Ballon d'Or unleashed a screamer from outside the Mexico box with his customary left foot after an assist from long-time Argentina colleague Angel di Maria from the right flank following the hour mark. This was Messi's eighth World Cup goal in 21 appearances, exactly the same as Diego. The duo are Argentina's record cap-holders in the World Cup, and alongside Guillermo Stabile at joint second with eight goals, trail Gabriel Batistuta, who has the highest 10. Mexico were content to sit back and let Argentina dictate possession to the tune of 60-40%, while there were a total of 32 fouls committed in the cagey affair. In the end, Messi made all the difference, and confirmed the three points by assisting Enzo Fernandez's fine curler. Argentina thus continued their winning run against Mexico – 6-3 in 1930, 2-1 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2010. That Andres Guardado featured in his fifth World Cup (joining Lothar Matthaus, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and his compatriots Antonio Carbajal and Rafael Marquez) was a mere Mexican consolation at the end. Poland lead the group with four points, followed by Argentina and Saudi Arabia on three points, and Mexico on one. The Poles opened their win account against the Saudis with Barcelona star Lewandowski bagging his first ever World Cup goal after Piotr Zielinski broke the deadlock. The game also had a missed penalty by the Green Falcons' man of the moment, Salem Al-Dawsari. An Argentina win, or even a draw against Poland will see the Sky Blues through, provided the game between Saudi Arabia and Mexico end in a stalemate, or Mexico do not win by a big margin.  

Mbappe in esteemed company, Socceroos dream repeat of 2006 run

If the veteran Olivier Giroud was the architect of their opening game win over Australia, the victory over Denmark was marked by the youthful exuberance of Kylian Mbappe, who finds himself in esteemed company after his latest heroics. The 23-year old is now the tournament's joint highest scorer with three goals, alongside Ecuador's Enner Valencia, and with a total of seven World Cup goals in nine games, he is ahead of French legends like Thierry Henry (six), Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini (five each). The Paris Saint Germain forward also has the same amount of goals in the greatest show on earth as Pele before turning 24. When Andreas Christensen equalized Mbappe's opener, Group D followed a similar path to that of Group A and B where none of England, the Netherlands and Ecuador were able to register their second consecutive win and qualification. But Mbappe had other ideas, scoring in the 86th minute to take the world champions to the last 16. Mbappe now has 31 goals in 61 international appearances. The Socceroos are second with three points following their win over Tunisia, thanks to a solitary strike by Mitchell Duke, who plays second-tier football in Japan. It was a long time coming, Australia's first World Cup victory in 12 years, ending a run of seven winless games. Coach Graham Arnold was the assistant manager in the 2006 World Cup where the Aussies registered their best ever finish – round of 16 – with Premier League stars like Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell at the helm. The booters from Down Under got out of a group containing Brazil, Croatia and Japan, and only a highly-contentious penalty given away by Lucas Neill brought an end to their dream run against Italy in the dying stages of the game. Arnold witnessed the controversial events unfold before him, which he will no doubt remind his charges as they bid to repeat their best ever performance. They face the Danes, who are on the brink with just one point, same as Tunisia, who face Les Bleus in the last group stage match.

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