Argentina outclass Poland despite Messi penalty miss to advance
DOHA — Lionel Messi missed a first-half penalty but Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez scored in a 2-0 victory over Poland at Stadium 974 on Wednesday as both teams booked their places in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Argentina’s victory propelled Lionel Scaloni’s side to the top of Group C and they will face Australia in the last-16 while second-placed Poland, who qualified on goal difference after Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1, take on reigning champions France.
Argentina took the lead just one minute into the second half when Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross and, despite making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.
The goal was just reward for Argentina who had dominated possession while Poland had barely managed to get out of their own half, with the South American side’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez a mere spectator for the majority of the game.
|Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group C – Poland v Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha, Qatar – November 30, 2022 Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after the match as Argentina qualify for the knockout stages. Photo: Reuters|
The second goal was the result of some patient buildup where Argentina knocked the ball around before Enzo Fernandez unlocked the defence with a through-ball for Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner.
“We are satisfied with the match we played. It wasn’t easy, it was a must-win match,” Scaloni said.
“I think that we read the match very well, my players did a great job. They played very well and I’m very happy. Sometimes you’re not happy, but today I am.”
|Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group C – Poland v Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha, Qatar – November 30, 2022 Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister celebrates scoring their first goal with Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi. Photo: Reuters|
Poland were up in arms in the first half when Argentina were awarded a controversial penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.
But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the thousands of Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort from the spot.
Despite the miss, Messi ran the show for Argentina in a match where the two skippers represented Barcelona’s past and present.
With a last-16 spot and potential elimination both on the cards in a close group, it was Barca’s record goal scorer Messi who was at the heart of Argentina’s attacks, dictating play by dropping deep and tormenting the Polish defence.
|Nov 30, 2022; Doha, Qatar; Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez (24) passes the ball to forward Julian Alvarez (9) during the second half against Poland in a group stage match during the 2022 World Cup at Stadium 974. Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports|
Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, who has 18 goals in 19 games for Barca this season, did not have a single attempt on goal.
“He was very much involved and committed. I’m not attacking anyone in the team, but we didn’t help him score,” Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said.
“If our team had a higher percentage of possession, if Messi played with us and Lewandowski played with Argentina, he would score five goals… Messi didn’t score, did he?”
At the other end, Szczesny had been kept busy the entire half with the Poland defence breached time and again but the Juventus keeper stood firm to deny Argentina who grew more confident with every attack.
He first denied Alvarez when the Manchester City forward broke through the offside trap before he tipped Angel Di Maria’s cross over the bar when his Juve team mate attempted to score directly from a corner kick.
|Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group C – Poland v Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha, Qatar – November 30, 2022 Argentina’s Julian Alvarez celebrates scoring their second goal with Enzo Fernandez. Photo: Reuters|
‘Dream come true’
But Szczesny could do nothing but scramble helplessly when Mac Allister took his shot even before Poland could settle down after the restart while Alvarez’s shot for the second goal was too good for any keeper.
“It’s so emotional for me, for the whole squad. It’s a dream come true,” Mac Allister told reporters. “I debuted with this team, I’m so proud of that. And now managing to score in a World Cup – I’m so happy.
“(After Messi’s penalty) we tried to stay positive, to stay calm. We did not feel down. We tried to be optimistic… Fortunately we managed to win and go through.”
Argentina nearly made it 3-0 in second-half added time when Nicolas Tagliafico was released down the left and he chipped the ball over Szczesny, only to see Jakub Kiwior track back to make a timely intervention and head the ball off the line.
But Argentina got what they wanted — leapfrogging Poland to take top spot in the group and avoid an early knockout fixture against the mighty France.
Poland, meanwhile, will be relieved to reach the last-16 by the skin of their teeth for the first time since 1986.
National Wrestling Championship opens in Thanh Hóa
THANH HÓA — The National Wrestling Championship opened in the central province of Thanh Hóa on Monday.
This year’s tournament attracted the participation of about 300 athletes from 19 clubs across the country, competing in the women’s and men’s freestyle and classical events for 33 sets of medals.
The event’s best athletes will be selected for the upcoming SEA Games 32 in Cambodia in May.
The event was co-organised by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, National Sports Administration and Việt Nam Wrestling Federation.
It will last until March 18. VNS
The Local Game:I love to say I told you so
The phrase “I hate to say I told you so” has never really resonated with me.
One of my many flaws is I love being right and have no hesitation when it comes to letting others know that, and it’s happened again.
My last column sang the praises of the Viet Nam Football Federation (VFF) for hiring Philippe Troussier as the new head coach of the national team, though I also mentioned he’ll need to be backed to the hilt to succeed.
Surprise surprise, one of the things he said he needs to build a strong national team is a strong domestic league which if you read these pages regularly, is something I’ve been banging on about forever.
“I think it is necessary to improve the competitiveness and rhythm of the game for the Vietnamese team by maintaining the V.League, the Frenchman said last week according to thethao247.vn.
“I hope in the future, Vietnamese players can play 45-50 V.League matches a season and the domestic league can last up to 10 months,”
He went on to lament the fact that V.League 1 players will have played only four matches in a period of four months, as the domestic season has taken a 45-day break.
Ostensibly this break is meant to allow the various national teams time to train together for competitions, but there are no fixtures planned for the senior team.
Indeed, the closest thing to a high profile international competition in this break is the AFC U20 Championship, which Viet Nam have already crashed out of.
So if the man hired to develop the national team into a continental force is against a long mid-season break, if fans are against it and the coaches of several V.League 1 teams are against it, who is in favour of this nonsense?
Coach Park Hang-seo certainly was in favour of extending national team training camps, but he’s no longer in charge, Troussier is, so those in power over the domestic game should start taking his opinion into consideration.
Moving from a stop-start and not very strenuous league season to playing 40-50 matches a year might initially be tough for local players, but the results in the long term would be worth it.
And of course if we had a normal league schedule, those of us who write a weekly column about domestic football would have a much easier time picking what to write about each week! VNS
Arnis team won’t just stick to what they know at SEA Games 32
HÀ NỘI — As the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games approach, the Vietnamese arnis team is preparing themselves for the upcoming competition with the lofty aim of clinching three gold medals.
The traditional Filipino martial arts team, consisting of 23 members, is set to compete in a total of 12 events, which includes eight combat events and four performance-based competitions.
In order to accomplish their ambitious goal, the team has been training tirelessly, dedicating themselves to four intense training sessions a day.
“Because the regional event is coming near, the training board and athletes are determined to increase the intensity of training to reach our goal,” said coach Nguyễn Thái Linh.
Vietnamese martial artists also competed in this sport in the 30th Games in the Philippines. However, until the 31st Games, this sport was not organised.
The 32nd SEA Games, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and the northwestern Cambodian City of Siem Reap from May 5-16, will be the first time the event has featured at the games outside of the Philippines.
Many of the Vietnamese athletes participating in this sport come from other sports, not those who specialise in this one.
Arnis has its own characteristics, so the process of selecting and converting athletes from other martial arts is not always easy.
“Although it is a new sport, since the Games 2019 in the Philippines, we also had a number of athletes compete in this sport and achieved achievements in the combat categories,” Linh added. “But this time, we met difficulties as some athletes have retired. The hosts have also placed limitations on the weight classes.”
The Vietnamese team will be supported by experts from the Philippines to improve their skills.
Đào Thị Hồng Nhung, who won gold in the Games in the Philippines in 2019, will feature again. However, gaining gold will be not easy for the champion.
“I am a pencak silat athlete,” Nhung said. “When I compete in arnis, I have to use a stick and only use one hand, so everything has to start from the beginning.”
“The whole team have been training new techniques. The biggest difficulty for us is technical issues.”
The subtle differences compared to other martial arts mean athletes must adjust their fighting style.
Công Quốc, a Muay Thai athlete, is one of those trying to make the change.
“Compared to Muay Thai, in arnis fighters use a stick, wear shoes and have a different way of moving, so it’s a bit surprising,” Quốc said. “But as athletes, we already have good fitness and expertise, we just need to add more techniques.” VNS
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