Watch: Lionel Messi keeps Argentina’s World Cup hopes alive with a crisp goal against Mexico

Lionel Messi scored a goal in the 64th minute and Enzo Fernandez added another late in the game to give Argentina a 2-0 win over Mexico in their Group C World Cup match and reignite their tournament hopes.

Messi, who equaled Diego Maradona’s Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, was nowhere to be seen for more than an hour before picking up a pass from Angel Di Maria, finding just enough space and plunging his left foot in from 20 yards.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Lionel Messi scores a great home goal.

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Substitute Fernandez secured the three points when he curled a superb shot into the top corner in the 87th minute.

The result put the wary Argentinians in Group C back on their feet after a shock opening 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia.

Argentina, on three points, can guarantee progress with a win over Poland, who are top on four points, in their last game on Wednesday.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal against Mexico. Recognition: Ariel Shalit/AP

“Today another World Cup starts for Argentina,” said Messi. “I’m telling people the same thing, keep believing in it.

“In the first half we didn’t play as we should and in the second, when we calmed down, we started playing the ball better and by the time we scored, we were back to who we are. “

Messi set up the second goal, becoming the first player in history to have an assist in five different World Cups and also the oldest.

Mexico, who have now lost all four World Cup ties with Argentina, have one point and need to beat Saudi Arabia by three points to be able to continue their last-16 streak at the last seven World Cups, but even that might not be enough .

With the prospect of elimination against Argentina, tension ran high on and off the ball during a rough first half, but the two fans kept the stadium electric.

The opening period didn’t fit the bill of the game, with neither side looking to sign too many players up front, and apart from a ninth-minute free-kick from Mexico’s Luis Chavez that sailed wide, there were few chances.

Mexico’s high pressing smothered most of the opposition’s attacks and Argentina’s talisman Messi struggled to find space to maneuver in a crowded midfield.

Argentina fans with a poster of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona. Recognition: Ariel Shalit/AP

Aside from a shot from Lautaro Martinez, which went wide, and another from Messi, Argentina were toothless up front.

But in a major blow to Mexico, skipper Andres Guardado, a five World Cup veteran who had until then had a commanding presence in midfield, had to be sent off injured in the 42nd.

The Mexicans created two more chances before the break when Alexis Vega curled a free-kick over the wall which was saved by keeper Emiliano Martinez and minutes later slammed a shot over the bar.

The South Americans looked more determined after the break but didn’t really stand a chance before their 35-year-old captain bailed them out with his second goal of the tournament.

The stadium erupted again when Fernandez scored the late goal that sealed Argentina’s first tournament win and reignited Messi’s hopes of a first World Cup.


Argentina and Mexico fans clash over ugly Messi vocals

Argentina and Mexico fans clash over ugly Messi vocals. Watch: Lionel Messi keeps Argentina’s World Cup hopes alive with a crisp goal against Mexico

James Brien

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