Global Soccer

Group C: Thriller until the final whistle

It is finally the last matchday of the Group Stage, which means the World Cup will have to bid farewell to half of the teams. And congratulations to the other half. Your journeys for glory continue.

Group C was the most challenging group to predict the outcome. Poland, with 4 points, stood in first place. Saudi Arabia got three points like Argentina but fell to third place because of the goal difference. And Mexico, with only one point, bottomed the group. All four teams got legitimate chances to advance into the next round. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Argentina won the group

Argentina beat the odds to advance. Photo Credit: Sporting News

La Albiceleste started the campaign on a sour note with a baffling defeat to Saudi Arabia. But a win against Mexico in the second leg got them back on track. Meanwhile, Poland was off to a possibly personal-best start at the competition.

However, any tactics avid can see multiple holes in the Polish counter-attacking system. Poland uses defense as the core, but let’s just say they aren’t very good at it. Their backline always seems shaky; without Wojciech Szczęsny‘s brilliance, they would have conceded multiple times. 

The Argentinians also took advantage of their lack of control in midfield and their low block in the first half. Because Poland left too much space, Lionel Messi made many key passes from 100ft out because the Polish showed no pressure. I cannot tell you how many times Szczęsny had to step up to save Poland. The highlight of the first period was when he pushed Messi’s penalty away, his second penalty saves in two games.

But the fans know Argentina’s scoring was only a matter of time, considering the game flow. Less than 60 seconds into the second half, Alexis Mac Allister perfectly placed the ball into the net. Twenty minutes later, Julian Alvarez cleanly loosed the defender and put the ball into the top corner, a natural striker finish. Since Poland continued their dreadful performances, the two goals were enough for Messi and company to go to the round of 16 as a group winner, facing Australia. And Poland would have to hold their breath for the result of the concurring match between Mexico and Saudi Arabia to see if they can continue to pursue their World Cup dream.

World Cup – Heartbreak for Mexico

This one will hurt Mexico fans for a long time. Photo Credit: Goal.com

Mexico and Saudi Arabia both came off a loss on matchday 2. Mexico fought hard against Argentina but came up short because of two moments of genius. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia played a more dominant game against Poland but slipped up in deciding moments.

A win for Saudi Arabia would guarantee them a spot in the next stage of the competition. While a victory for Mexico was a must if they wanted to continue their journey. With that in mind, both teams threw everything at each other on the attack. Mexico had some fantastic chances to open the scoreboard but could not do so. Saudi Arabia had fewer chances but shared the same result as the players headed to the tunnel without a score.

Tata Martino directed the players to increase the pressure in the second half. And from a corner, Henry Martin tapped the ball in from close range, putting Mexico ahead. El Tri did not have to wait long to be able to celebrate again. Just five minutes later, Luis Chavez made it two-nil with a rainbow freekick of his own. An absolute banger entered Chavez’s name into contention for the best goal of this World Cup. Golazo!

With that goal, Poland and Mexico were leveled in points, goal difference, and total goals scored. Since they tied in their direct match-up, fair-play aspects were put in for tie-breaker. Because Mexico had received more referee bookings, they would have to score one more goal to take second place.

Hirving Lozano and Uriel Antuna put the ball in the back of the net. But both goals were ruled offside. Frustrating scenes for Mexico! They continued to soar on the attack, but that meant leaving open spaces behind. Salem Al-Dawsari took the ball from midfield before playing a lovely one-two ball at the edge of the box, setting him for a one-on-one with Ochoa. Salem put it into the near post and scored. Nothing Ochoa could do there. However, if Mexico scored another, they still would have advanced. But the timing was limited, and they failed to pull through. Michael Oliver’s full-time whistle ended the Mexicans’ hopes and dreams. They played their heart out but couldn’t take second place away from Poland. Poland will take on France in the last 16.

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