After the failure with Saudi Arabia, Argentine head coach Lionel Scaloni made adjustments to the starting lineup. Of the back four, only Nicolás Otamendi retained his seat. But Acuña replaced Tagliafico on the left, Lisandro Martinez appeared in the center instead of Romero, and Montiel replaced Molina on the right. Only De Paul and Di Maria remained in the middle line. But instead of Paredes and Papu Gomez, Guido Rodriguez and Allister came out. A couple of Messi and Lautaro Martinez in the attack Scaloni did not touch.
Decisive rearrangements, however, did not give much effect. The Argentines did not become more creative and sharper. Perhaps they were even lost in the structure of the attack, in its organization. With the same Saudis, as we remember, in the first half, Argentina scored four times, but three goals were canceled due to most often very thin offside. That is, in general, the scheme worked. Now there was none of that.
It is also worth noting here that not everything depended on Argentina. We have described the feature of Saudi Arabia in defense with a high defensive line and offside catching. Mexico, of course, acted differently, shutting themselves tightly at their gates and, apparently, initially counting on a goalless draw. The first half pointed to it. For him, Argentina struck only one shot on goal with the efforts of Lautaro. He didn’t hit the target. The Mexicans responded with three attempts, one of which hit the target. Perfect preconditions for another goalless draw at this World Cup.
And in the second half, something happened that is expected from any stellar team when the game as a whole does not add up. The leaders took over the issue. The match with the Saudis did not work. And here, already after the 60th minute, when Rodriguez and Lautaro were removed from the field, releasing Enzo Fernandez and Julián Alvarez, the bet worked. Messi has spoken.
Lionel took advantage of the fact that the Mexicans momentarily lost their compactness in front of their penalty area. Messi grew up there and from 24 meters he put the ball into the bottom corner from the left. The Mexicans began to change the scheme and rebuild since they could no longer bet on a goalless draw. But it’s worth saying right away that it didn’t add sharpness. Mexico had four shots on goal from the 50th minute, and they remained. Thus one hit on target from the first half.
And already in the last minutes, Messi, after a corner kick, rolled the ball to Enzo Fernandez, who also showed that he knew how to accurately put it into a corner. But now to the top. The individual skill of the performer worked again. The score seems to be comfortable, but the victory of Argentina does not look even a tenth as convincing, for example, as the victory of Brazil over Serbia with the same score. Actually, only two assists hit the target for the whole game in Argentina. And the total number of attempts is also extremely small – five
The Argentines are still suffering an attack, on construction. There is no lightness in the attack, no non-standard moves and flights of fancy, which is expected from such a team and such performers. Perhaps this is a temporary blue, due to some psychological problems. Indeed, Argentina approached the World Cup, demonstrating just an extravaganza in the attack. But there is another level of responsibility and tension. On the other hand, you can’t call Argentine stars youngsters, so it somehow puts pressure on them. In general, the Argentines approach the decisive group match with Poland with a lot of questions about their condition.
Argentina’s match against Mexico cannot be called ideal, nor can Messi’s performance be called exemplary. However, Lionel made a decisive contribution. And this is the main thing at the moment for the team. In this meeting, he has a goal and an assist. Thus, he scored in the sixth match in a row for the Argentina national team: in matches with Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jamaica, Honduras, and Estonia. In total, Messi has made 24 appearances for the national team and PSG this season, scoring 19 goals and making 16 assists. This is not to say that productivity is low.
If we talk only about the national team, then Lionel has had a very productive year. In 2022, in which Argentina suffered only one defeat to Saudi Arabia, Messi scored 13 goals. And this is the best annual result in his career. And 2022 isn’t over yet. His previous achievement – 12 goals per year in the national team – Messi had exactly ten years ago.
In total, Lionel has already scored 93 goals for the Argentina national team. According to this indicator, he is in third place. Second-place Ali Daei, who no longer plays for the Iranian national team, has 109 goals, while the leader Cristiano Ronaldo has 118. At the same time, the Portuguese can still replenish his account. So Messi needs to be pushed.
Where Messi is on par with Ronaldo in World Cup goals. Both have eight balls. And the record, we recall, belongs to Miroslav Klose. The ex-forward of the German national team scored 16 times in the world championships. But in this era, Messi is the best in the world championships in terms of the number of goals from outside the box. He has four of them in total. And this is the best result for the last five world championships.