Lionel Messi will grace the World Cup stage at least one more time.
The Argentina great had a penalty saved but his team still beat Poland 2-0 on Wednesday after second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez and advanced to the last 16.
Argentina finished in first place in Group C to set up a match against Australia, a surprise qualifier for the knockout stage.
It's a strong position for Argentina to be in, especially considering the team opened the World Cup with a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in one of biggest upsets in the tournament's history. Messi's likely final World Cup rolls onto Saturday.
He will be relieved after failing to score a penalty for the second straight World Cup. It was awarded after being hit in the face by the flailing hand of Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who made amends by diving to his left to block Messi's kick.
Mac Allister converted a cross from Nahuel Molina inside the first minute of the second half and Alvarez – selected ahead of Lautaro Martinez – curled the second into the top corner in the 67th minute.
Argentina World Cup 2022 squad
Goalkeepers: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Franco Armani (River Plate) and Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal)
Defenders: Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Nicolas Tagliafico (Olympique Lyonnais), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla)
Midfielders: Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Forwards: Paulo Dybala (AS Roma), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City).
Who are their key players?
Until the day he retires from international football (which for a short time in 2016 seemed to have been the case), Messi will always be the standout name in Argentina’s squad. While he didn’t enjoy the most fruitful of campaigns with new club PSG in 2021-22 – at least by his superhuman standards – he is always one of the most dangerous players at the tournament who can produce the moment of magic his country needs.
As well as the captain, Martínez was also weighing in with his fair share of goals in the lead-up to the World Cup. He has bagged 21 goals in 39 appearances since earning his first Argentina cap back in 2018 and will be hoping to build on a successful domestic season with Inter Milan; Martinez scored 21 goals in 35 Serie A appearances in 2021-22.
One of the more crucial defensive players for Argentina is Cristian Romero. The 24-year-old made an instant impact in north London after signing for Tottenham in the summer of 2021, making 22 league appearances last season and simultaneously cementing his place as a regular in the national side.
Who, where and when do Argentina play?
Argentina are in Group C along with Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Argentina’s Group Stage fixtures
What is Argentina’s World Cup record?
Argentina have been World Cup winners on two occasions: 1978 and 1986. The latter, won in Mexico is one of the most iconic triumphs in the tournament’s history with La Albiceleste captained by Diego Maradona, who was at the height of his powers.
In the midst of his successful seven-year spell with Napoli, he created five and scored five, including the infamous Hand of God goal and the mazy 60-yard run later voted ‘Goal of the Century’ in a 2-1 quarter-final win over England.
They also finished runners-up in both 1990 and 2014, losing to Germany, in one form or another, in the final on both occasions.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
What are the latest odds?
Argentina are currently a best price of 13/2 to win the World Cup.