In the second Round of 16 match of the day Argentina defeated Australia 2-1 in Qatar’s World Cup 2022. The match was lost by Australia, not earned by the Argentines. The entire match could be boiled down to three moments of inattention by the Aussies.
But first, kudos to the Australians for keeping the Argentines at bay for 30 minutes, twenty longer than the USA was able to keep the Dutch off the scoreboard. And kudos again for their dogged comeback which put their betters in a bind for 22 minutes.
In the 35th minute, Lionel Messi started a move from right to left, a bit ahead of the Aussie penalty box, parallel to its line but moving into the box as the Australians ceded ground instead of contesting his progression. And then came the first moment of inattention. The diminutive Argentine kept on his route and unleashed a left-footed placed shot through three Australian defenders and past their hapless keeper Mathew Ryan. The strategic issue was that this is the move from which Messi has scored 99.9% of his goals, so to speak, with Barcelona. So, knowing this and stopping this should not have been a rocket science issue for the Aussies—but it was.
The second moment of Aussie inattention was provided by keeper Ryan who decided dribbling out two Argentines who were within a few feet of his goal was the thing to do—but it wasn’t. So, Rodrigo De Paul intercepted and Julian Alvarez gratefully rolled the ball into the Australian goal for the 2-0 lead in the 57th.
Argentine coach, Lionel Scaloni, figured his team had the game in the bag in the 72nd minute so he made his first set of subs. Eight minutes later he would need to make another set as the game had gotten away from his team.
Twenty minutes after conceding their second unforced-error goal, Australia scored a fluky goal when Enzo Fernandez attempted to block a Craig Goodwin shot from distance and redirected the ball well past the frozen Emiliano Martinez in the 77th minute. What ensued was a back-and-forth match for 22 minutes wherein each team had a chance to score—the Argentines maybe six chances to the Aussies’ two.
The third moment of inattention occurred at the 90+7 of the 90+7 the ref allowed. An Australian cross to the far post was controlled just outside the Argentine goal area by the 18-year-old substitute Aussie Garang Kuol who had enough time to turn and fire point-blank at goal. The ball got through the legs of the surprised Martinez but hit both legs as he tried to close them to stop the shot. The ball got on the other side of the keeper who turned and dropped theatrically—almost as if to provide cover should the ball have entered the goal—only to surprisingly find the ball had not progressed past his goal line, and then he grabbed it and smothered it, and lay on top of it while two of his teammates hugged him (wasting time) for the “save!”
Poor Kuol must not have seen Takuma Asano’s winning goal against Germany, or he might have decided shooting through the keeper would be more difficult than shooting away from him, say toward the roof of the goal, since he had all the time in the world to pick his spot. Oh well, maybe next time for the Aussies, right?
In the end, the better team won, but not by much, and had Australia drawn even, the Argentines, who would have had to play thirty-plus minutes of extra time, might have been depleted for their encounter with the Dutch. As it was, a relatively unnerving but utterly easy win for the Albicelestes ensued. A lucky break for Messi and company who did not have to play tougher competition to progress and were able to rest many starters.
Photo: Australian keeper Mathew Ryan, Shutterstock ID: 536435104, by mooinblack.