Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has claimed that his missed penalty in Wednesday night’s crunch World Cup win over Poland ended up galvanising the team and was on course for victory as soon as Alexis Mac Allister broke the deadlock.
La Albiceleste, one of the pre-tournament favourites, were in danger of a shock group stage elimination ahead of kick-off and had it all to play for against Robert Lewandowski’s Poland.
When Lionel Scaloni’s team were awarded a first half penalty and Messi stepped up, it looked as though it would be business as usual. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was looking to score in a seventh consecutive Argentina appearance, something he had never done before. But Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was equal to his spot-kick and confidently palmed the ball away.
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“Having missed the penalty, the team came out stronger from that,” Messi told TyC Sports.
“The team was convinced that we were going to win, it was a matter of the first one coming in. Once we scored the goal, the game was going to be played the way we wanted.”
After Mac Allister found the key first goal, Julian Alvarez eventually got the second.
Neither Alvarez nor Enzo Fernandez, who assisted the second goal, had started either of the first two games. Yet they came in to make a critical impact. Mac Allister, meanwhile, hadn’t featured in the opening defeat to Saudi Arabia, before starting back-to-back wins.
Messi went on to praise the ‘strength of this group’ which makes that possible.
“We said it from the beginning. The players who come in know what they have to do and are always fully prepared. It is the strength of this group, the union and that when a player has to, he responds,” the 35-year-old explained.
With the group stage now over, Argentina will face a plucky Australia side that qualified from a very challenging Group D ahead of Denmark. That game will be played on Saturday.
“We know it's going to be very tough,” Messi assessed.
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