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Argentina's Messiah! Winners, losers and ratings as Leo inspires vital victory over Mexico

01:31 GMT+4 27/11/2022
Lionel Messi Argentina Mexico 2022 World Cup HIC 16:9
With Argentina struggling against Mexico, they needed their captain to step up. Lionel Messi did just that, scoring a stunning opener in a 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi. It just had to be, didn't it?

Just when his country needed him the most, he popped up with a moment of magic to keep Argentina's World Cup dream alive and sink Mexico at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday night.

What had been a dismal affair was lit up by Messi on 64 minutes when he drilled a perfect shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards to break the deadlock.

And he then set up Enzo Fernandez for a stunning second late on to seal a crucial victory for Lionel Scaloni's side.

It was a win that revitalised Argentina's hopes in Qatar following their shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in their opening group stage game.

And while they were far from their best once again, they now know that victory over Poland on Wednesday will seal their spot in the last 16.

Below, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from an emotional night for Argentina and their sensational skipper...

  • Lionel Messi Julian Alvarez Argentina Mexico 2022 World Cup

    The Winners

    Lionel Messi:

    Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Messi, like his team-mates, had endured a miserable evening until Angel Di Maria picked him out 25 yards from goal midway through the second half. Then, two mecurial touches of that left foot was all that it took to turn what had been a truly dire game on its head. The first was perfect, cushioning the ball into his path. The second was unerring, drilling an effort across Guillermo Ochoa into the bottom corner. It was Messi's eighth goal at a World Cup, drawing him level with Diego Maradona. But, more importantly, it was the goal that kept Argentina's dream of lifting the trophy in 2022 alive. Messi had been totally ineffectual up to that point, but one moment of quality was all it took to revitalise his side's hopes in Qatar and remind the world that he is not done just yet.

    Angel Di Maria:

    There were very few Argentina players who could hold their heads up high following this uninspiring display, but Di Maria did at least look like he was trying to make a difference. Things didn't always come off for him, especially in the first half, but after the break it was the Juventus star who looked the most likely to make something happen. Argentina started to get some joy down the right hand side and Di Maria was always the man who was probing and trying to run at his man and get behind the Mexico defence. And it was his pass that picked out Messi in some space for the goal. It wasn't an excellent performance by Di Maria by any means, but in a poor team display, he made a difference when it really mattered.

    Enzo Fernandez:

    What a way to score your first international goal. The 21-year-old was brought off the bench midway through the second half and was one of the substitutes who really made a difference for Argentina. Lionel Scaloni’s side had been really poor, but the second half changes led to an improvement and they were comfortably the better side after Lionel Messi had broken the deadlock. There was still some nerves around, however, with the score only 1-0. They needed a second goal just to be sure and it was Fernandez who provided it, curling home a quite stunning effort on 87 minutes to put the game to bed. It was a wonderful finish and a special moment for the Benfica starlet.

  • Rodrigo De Paul Argentina Mexico 2022 World Cup

    The Losers

    Loser: Rodrigo De Paul

    You will have to go a long way to find a performance from a top level player that was quite as dismal as the one De Paul served up during the first half at the Lusail Stadium. The Atletico Madrid man was pitiful in the heart of midfield, enduring a miserable opening 45 minutes. His passing was poor throughout and he brought nothing to his side, at either end of the pitch. Argentina couldn't get any control in the midfield until Messi's opening goal and De Paul's struggles were a major part of that. He wasn't alone in underperforming by any means, but it was apparent very early on how bad a night he was having and the only surprise was he managed to stay on the pitch for the entire game.

    Loser: Lautaro Martinez

    The Inter forward was brought into the starting XI after Argentina's miserable showing against Saudi Arabia, but made no impact whatsoever. This was his big chance to impress, but he wasted it completely. It must be noted that he was provided with very little service, but that does not excuse what was a totally ineffectual performance from the forward. He had just 14 touches of the ball while he was on the pitch and made just six passes, with a passing accuracy of just 50 percent. Awful.

  • Emiliano Martinez Argentina World Cup

    Argentina Ratings: Defence

    Emiliano Martinez (6/10):

    Made one spectacular save in the first half, but other than was completely untroubled.

    Gonzalo Montiel (5/10):

    Looked well off the pace. Poor.

    Nicolas Otamendi (6/10):

    Barely put under pressure by the Mexico attack.

    Lisandro Martinez (6/10):

    Cruised through the contest without having to break sweat.

    Marcos Acuna (5/10):

    Not really involved.

  • Angel Di Maria Argentina World Cup 2022

    Midfield

    Angel Di Maria (7/10):

    Made a real difference in the second half. Got the assist for Messi.

    Rodrigo De Paul (3/10):

    Awful. Improved slightly after half-time, was shambolic before the break.

    Guido Rodriguez (4/10):

    Not quite as bad as De Paul, but couldn't get any control in midfield.

    Alexis Mac Allister (5/10):

    Couldn't get into the game.

  • Lautaro Martinez Argentina World Cup 2022

    Attack

    Lionel Messi (7/10):

    Made the difference at the crucial time. Was poor up to that point, but showed his class to break the deadlock.

    Lautaro Martinez (3/10):

    No impact whatsoever.

  • Lionel Scaloni Argentina 2022 World Cup

    Subs & Manager

    Enzo Fernandez (7/10):

    What a goal. Settled the nerves with his stunning finish.

    Cristian Romero (6/10):

    Came on to see the game out after Messi's strike.

    Exequiel Palacios (6/10):

    Brought a bit more stability to the midfield.

    Nahuel Molina (6/10):

    Neat and tidy.

    Julian Alvarez (6/10):

    Made more of an impact than Lautaro Martinez.

    Lionel Scaloni (5/10):

    Messi dug him out of a whole. Making five outfield changes to his starting XI made things worse. His substitutions did make a bit of a difference, however, in the second half.