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.
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.
“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.
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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