Argentina & Poland qualify from Group C; Mexico fall short in thrilling fashion

Jamie Spencer
Argentina & Poland are both into the World Cup last 16
Argentina & Poland are both into the World Cup last 16 / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Argentina ensured that Lionel Messi's last ever World Cup wouldn't end with the embarrassment of a group stage exit, while Mexico failed to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 1978 on what was an utterly manic night of action in Group C.

Argentina's victory over Poland ensured they recovered from a shock earlier defeat to Saudi Arabia, but the Poles still also scraped through to the last 16 of the competition themselves on goal difference - they haven't been this far on the global stage since 1986.

Mexico had needed to win and engineer a goal difference swing in their uphill battle - at one stage it threatened to come down to yellow cards or even the drawing of lots as tiebreaker criteria was increasingly exhausted. But a stoppage time Saudi Arabia strike as El Tri were searching for the goal that would have sent them through ultimately gave Poland the marginally superior edge.

Poland 0-2 Argentina

Prior to kick-off, there was no guarantee that Argentina would go through to the next round. In fact, a defeat or draw could very easily have seen them knocked out embarrassingly early. Messi even missed a first half penalty on what was not a great night for him to pile on the pressure.

Eventually, the breakthrough came for the pre-tournament favourites. Brighton's Alexis Mac Allister struck within moments of the second half kicking off, while Manchester City forward Julian Alavrez made it 2-0 with just over an hour played to givem them breathing room.

Jakub Kiwior cleared a would-be third Argentina goal off the line in stoppage time that, combined with Saudi Arabia's late goal in the other game, kept Poland in the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico

Mexico took their time to get going in this World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Poland and 2-0 defeat to Argentina, but were electric in the second half here against Saudi Arabia. It was just a bit too late.

A tap-in from Henry Martin and a stunning free-kick from Luis Chavez put Mexico into position, but the third goal they needed to get above Poland on goal difference wouldn't come.

Martin was guilty of missing a great chance, while two goals were ruled out for offside and Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais made save after save. Even 2-0 wouldn't have been enough because of Poland's fewer yellow cards in the tiebreaker criteria, but the neat stoppage time finish from Saudi skipper Salem Al-Dawsari firmly ended Mexico's chances anyway.

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