Football   |   January 9, 2023

Lionel Messi Thrilled by Argentina’s Destiny, but Didier Deschamps Sabotages France’s Momentum

Argentina defeated Poland despite Lionel Messi missing a penalty but otherwise displaying a fantastic performance. Didier Deschamps’ lineup decision prompted the attention of the France manager.

Argentina Finish Top of Group C in Victory Over Poland

Argentina advances to the knockout phase of the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Poland. They will face Australia in the 16th round.

Alexis Mac Allister scored the game’s first goal after Wojciech Szczesny saved Lionel Messi’s penalty kick. Julian Alvarez scored a second goal.

Lionel Messi did not score a goal against Poland even though they took seven shots (and Wojciech Szczesny made a fantastic save on a penalty kick). However, based on this performance, Messi may be set to lead Argentina to the greatest trophy.

The 35-year-old put on his best performance of the tournament, scoring a fantastic long-range goal that helped Lionel Scaloni’s team beat Mexico in their previous encounter and making the missed penalty kick a blemish that ultimately didn’t matter.

Messi had nothing to do with the goals since Enzo Fernandez & Nahuel Molina were the ones who assisted Alexis Mac Allister & Julian Alvarez. Messi was involved in nearly every attack, even if he did not always provide the killer pass.

He had previously struggled to impose his customary impact against Saudi Arabia and Mexico but has yet to do so. Lionel Messi recorded 98 touches, which is about 50% more than he had in any of Argentina’s previous matches; 13 of those touches happened within the Poland penalty area.

Despite their loss, Poland advanced to the knockout stage by a decent goal difference from Mexico. Poland progressed for most of the final 20 minutes due to a superior disciplinary record than Mexico, who finished in third place. 

Poland finished with the same number of points, goals scored, and head-to-head record after a 0-0 stalemate earlier in the group stage. Mexico received seven group stage bookings compared to Poland’s five. 

Poland only controlled the ball for 27% of the game and managed nil shots on goal against Argentina. They only recorded four shots and one corner, demonstrating their lack of penetration into the opposing half.

Mexico defeated Saudi Arabia by 2 – 1 in the other match in their group. Poland’s next opponent will be the defending world champions, France.

How Did Argentina Discover Their Tempo?

This tournament debut has been an emotional roller coaster for Argentina. Saudi Arabia’s defeat was a wake-up call. The relief came following the victory over Mexico. Lionel Scaloni cautioned they couldn’t play every game like it’s their last. Argentina had to strike a balance. 

Argentina had their most excellent opening of the competition. The team’s performances in Qatar didn’t reveal much of the animosity that plagued them earlier. Newbies Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez appear more relaxed by expectations than many of the Copa America champions on the squad. Likewise, for Mac Allister.

The rejuvenation these three have given Argentina is altering the team’s balance. Players like Cuti Romero and Lionel Messi, who did not appear to be in peak condition earlier in the tournament, appear to have recovered from their shock.

Argentina appeared most motivated by the possibility that a victory would allow them to finish first in the group and face Australia in the round of 16. Most people predicted that Argentina would face either Denmark or, much worse after Saudi Arabia’s loss, France, in the World Cup’s opening round. They appear to be making progress in the competition now.

Has Deschamps Derailed France’s Progress?

Unexpected problems can arise even if you win your first two matches in a major tournament’s group stage. Didier Deschamps learned this the hard way against Tunisia. Do you stay hot by continuing to play the same stars that brought you here, or do you give your star players a break? You can do a little bit of both. That’s how managers often tackle such a situation.

Deschamps shattered his team with a sledgehammer, making nine substitutions with the hopes of his peripheral players. They froze, resulting in a sluggish, unbalanced performance that did not come alive until 25 minutes when Kylian Mbappe came on.

France is favored to reach the finals of this tournament. However, if you look at France’s main competitors, Brazil and the Three Lions (England), both squads feature X-factor bench players. From the looks of things, France will need to lean on a key group of four to five players to make a deep run in the 2022 World Cup.