2022 World Cup: Martinez and Argentina through to the quarterfinals

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez, Lionel Messi, and Argentina are through to the quarterfinal round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

La Albiceleste defeated Australia, 2-1, on Saturday in the Round of 16 and will face the Netherlands in the second knockout round on Friday, 9 December.

Messi gave the Argentines a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute and Julian Alvarez doubled the advantage in 57th minute as the favorites cruised through most of the match.

But a deflected Australian shot in the 77th minute beat Martinez and effectively turned the match on its head. A wild final 20 minutes nearly saw the Socceroos tie the game, but Martinez was strong and Argentina held on for a narrow victory.

DOHA, QATAR – DECEMBER 03: Emiliano Martinez (R), goalkeeper of Argentina stops the shoot by Garang Kuol (L) of Australia during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Khalil Bashar/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Argentina’s path to the knockout stage was far from clear after they dropped a shock 2-1 decision to Saudi Arabia in their opening match. But consecutive 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland steadied the ship and paved the way for the Argentines to top the group.

Poland duo crash out in Round of 16

Elsewhere in the Round of 16, Matty Cash, Jan Bednarek, and Poland saw their collective World Cup come to an end on Sunday with a 3-1 loss to favorites France.

Cash had his hands full marking Kylian Mbappe, perhaps the world’s best player. The Slough, England-born right back performed well but the PSG man proved too much to handle and scored twice.

“I spent the afternoon watching his clips and I knew it was going to be a tough test,” said Cash. “But when he gets the ball, stops and moves, he’s the quickest thing I’ve ever seen.

DOHA, QATAR – DECEMBER 04: Kylian Mbappe of France battles for possession with Matty Cash of Poland during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between France and Poland at Al Thumama Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“I said to him at the end: ‘Can I have your shirt?’ and he gave me his match-worn shirt so I’m delighted with that.”

Belgium, Dendoncker fail to reach knockout stage

One of the biggest disappointments at the 2022 World Cup was the performance of Belgium, which failed to qualify for the knockout stage after finishing third in Group F.

Despite winning their opening match, 1-0 over Canada, Belgium finished 1-1-1 and were doomed after losing 2-0 to Morocco in their second match.

DOHA, QATAR – DECEMBER 01: Leander Dendoncker of Belgium in action during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Croatia and Belgium at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on December 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

Villa midfielder Leander Dendoncker started the match against Canada as a central defender but played no part in the loss to Morocco. He played in a two-man midfield pivot in the scoreless draw with Croatia on Thursday.

A pre-tournament favorite, Belgium looked lifeless for most of the tournament and reportedly struggled with internal strife.

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