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Ready for Hollywood, Messi averts the debacle with Argentina

The motto of the evening was a thoroughly heroic one: There can only be one.

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Ready for Hollywood, Messi averts the debacle with Argentina

The motto of the evening was a thoroughly heroic one: There can only be one. Argentina with Lionel Messi vs Poland with Robert Lewandowski. "Ever since the groups were drawn, the whole world has been waiting for this game," said Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz before kick-off.

And indeed, the container stadium 974 in Doha was well filled about half an hour before the start of the game. The Argentine supporters, clad in sky blue and white, clearly outnumbered the fans. Just as if they wanted to give their big darling the last impetus from the stands so that he doesn't fail in the preliminary round at his last World Cup participation: For Messi, the 35-year-old superstar of the industry, who, together with Cristiano Ronaldo, There was far more at stake than for Lewandowski in the last decade in football.

After Portugal had already qualified for the round of 16 with Ronaldo, Brazil without the injured Neymar and France with the strong Kylian Mbappé, Messi also wanted to take the step towards the knockout round and do the same as the other world stars. After all, the only thing missing from his comprehensive collection of titles is this one triumph: World Champion with the Albiceleste. Without him, it was said before the global title fights in Qatar, he would go down in history as an incomplete man.

For Lewandowski, who is a year younger, an end would have been personally painful, but unlike Argentina, Poland was not one of the favorites for the title in the run-up. However, he was able to look back on a better starting position with his team: With four points, Poland ranked in Group C ahead of Argentina (three), Saudi Arabia (three) and Mexico (one point). With a draw, that much was certain, he would definitely go into the round of 16.

When both captains then met at 9:58 p.m. local time on the halfway line to draw the kick-off, everything was set for the showdown – a spectacular two hours were to follow. Because what happened on the field afterwards definitely had a Hollywood character. Messi immediately tried to show who would leave the pitch as the winner. He fired the first shot on goal after 6.30 minutes and the second after 9.56 minutes. Both still without success. But Lewandowski hadn't even been close to the Argentine's penalty area.

When Messi's team-mate Alexis Mac Allister failed with the greatest chance of the first half to Wojciech Szczesny and the Poland goalkeeper hit Messi in the face with his fist in the subsequent attempt to defend himself, referee Danny Makkelie (Netherlands) actually gave a penalty kick according to the video images. A tough decision, but somehow it fit the picture. Messi (does it get any more cheesy?) came on – and missed. His attempt into the right corner wasn't bad and also reasonably hard, but Szczesny was there and was able to save the ball for a corner (39').

Afterwards it was noticeable all the way up to the stands how much this missed shot gnawed at the man with the gifted left foot. It was goalless at the break.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni in particular may have found the right words there. Because his selection needed just 54 seconds after the restart to transform the stadium into a madhouse. Mac Allister found Nahuel Molina in the bottom left corner. 1-0, the result Messi and his devoted supporters so desperately needed. A liberation. And when Julian Alvarez scored with a shot from twelve meters in the 67th minute, Argentina's happiness was complete. Shortly thereafter, Messi himself then awarded the possible 3-0.

On the other hand, there was hardly anything to be seen of Lewandowski, in injury time he fought a private duel with Messi on the center line, which he won, as did the game. Messi can continue to dream of his first world title, and Lewandowski was even happy in the end. Because Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the parallel game, he reached the round of 16 as group runners-up with Poland thanks to the better goal difference. A truly Hollywood evening in Doha.

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