Argentina beat Poland 2-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the round of 16 of the World Cup. Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez scored in the 46th and 67th minutes, respectively, to seal the victory for the Albiceleste.
Argentina’s victory enabled them to top their group and will face Australia in the knock-out round. Lionel Scaloni’s men thus completed a turnaround after their shock 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their first match.
We now take a look at two reasons that helped the Argentine beat Poland
Lionel Messi playing in a more advanced position for Argentina
Scaloni learned his lessons from their first two matches and could understand that his team would be considerably more dangerous with the talismanic Messi playing in a more advanced position.
The 35-year-old maestro, who started behind Lautaro Martinez in the first two matches, played as a centre-forward in Argentina’s 4-3-3 against the Polish. As a result, he was more often in a position to take shots at goal and had a couple of his shots saved by the brilliant Wojciech Szczesny in Poland’s goal.
The goal he scored against Mexico with a shot from outside the penalty box might have helped Scaloni take the decision to play him upfront. True, he kept dropping down at times to create moves with his long passes at times, but Messi’s more frequent presence in and around the Poland penalty box kept their defenders under constant pressure.
Messi failed to score from a penalty that should not have been awarded to Argentina in the first place, but he helped his team nevertheless with his good work-rate and vision.
Some key changes made to to the team
It has to be remembered that neither of Argentina’s goal-scorers started in their loss to Saudi Arabia. Scaloni’s decision to drop Leandro Paredes in favor of Mac Allister worked well against Mexico, as the latter impressed with his performance in midfield.
He also scored on Wednesday by taking a shot first time from a cross played from the right to help ease the pressure on Argentina. Moreover, the decision to play Julian Alvarez instead of Lautaro Martinez helped the Argentine to build pressure down the left as well.
Argentina were a bit too reliant on Angel Di Maria to apply pressure through the wide areas. As Di Maria attacked through the right, Argentina solely depended on Marcos Acuna’s overlapping runs through the left against Mexico. Alvarez’s inclusion solved that problem and helped Argentina to have a more complete attack.
The Manchester City forward attacked a lot through the inside-left channel and also scored a goal from there. He should be starting in Argentina’s subsequent matches as well.