3 February 2023
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At the start of the night, perhaps Lionel Messi and Argentina were under the most pressure… intangible as that might be, you could say that statement with a fair amount of conviction. Failure is simply not an option at the World Cup for that football-mad nation, but a group stage exit? That would be disastrous.

And it was a real possibility when the night started. Not just a mathematical, hypothetical situation that we all come up with when discussing these scenarios. They faced a defensively tight opponent in Poland, with the potential to frustrate them all night. And what happened between Mexico and Saudi Arabia would have decided their fate if they were unable to find answers against the Europeans. Or worse, if Argentina lost, their tournament was over anyway. Lionel Messi’s last dance at the World Cup would have been an ignominious group stage exit.

But what transpired in the end, after some dramatic moments, was Argentina cruising through as group winners with a polished performance over 90 (and some) minutes while Poland were left hanging on to a thread and biting the nails, while Mexico (and Saudi Arabia too) endured heartbreaks.

Poland pip Mexico on goal difference to join Argentina in last-16 on dramatic night

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Abdul Gh Lone

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