For the second straight game, Argentina fought mightily to get off to a good start, but goals in the second half from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernández kept their qualification hopes alive and gave the Albiceleste a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Mexico’s performance has been poor once again, and they are in a tough situation.
Both teams adjusted their tactical strategies from the first game and adjusted to unfamiliar sets throughout the tightly contested opening minutes, which prevented either side from establishing superiority.
However, Mexico’s 3-5-2 formation seemed to have the bigger impact, and Lionel Scaloni’s team struggled to generate clear scoring opportunities. Lionel Messi stood out for his conspicuous lack of contribution in the final third despite being aware that his final opportunity to win the greatest trophy of all was on the line.
With the exception of a few chances from Alexis Vega, Mexico failed to trouble Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez as a result.
Gerardo Martino’s team appeared content to simply guard the backline and play out a scoreless draw against a team Mexico had lost to in all three of their previous World Cup head-to-head matches, despite their fans clearly calling for a goal.
In fact, Andres Guardado’s injury just before halftime was the most notable moment of the first half.
Argentina initially did not much alter their strategy for the second half, and they were clearly beginning to become nervous.
The 89,000-person Lusail Iconic Stadium was rocked by the celebration of Messi’s blue and white adoring fans as he scored his second goal of the competition after taking advantage of a touch outside the area and drilling a 25-meter attempt past Guillermo Ochoa.
Mexico immediately made two replacements, sending in Ral Jiménez and Uriel Antuna, in an effort to avoid looking foolish during Messi’s sixth consecutive international goal-scoring contest.
However, El Tri’s offensive troubles persisted, and Argentina finished on top as gaps in the Mexican defense opened. In the 87th minute, Enzo Fernández scored a beautiful curled goal to double Argentina’s advantage.
La Albiceleste then easily finished off the game, recording a stunning victory that vaults them beyond Saudi Arabia into second place on the basis of goal differential.
To even have a chance of making it to the knockout rounds, Mexico must defeat the Green Eagles in their upcoming match and benefit from Argentina beating Poland.
In the event that El Tri fails to advance past the group stage, it will be the first time since 1978, when Argentina won their first global championship, and Gerardo Martino’s team still runs the chance of becoming the first Mexico team to ever spend the entire tournament without scoring.