Argentina 2-1 Australia: Messi in his 1,000th game performed another milestone to secure a spot in the quarter finals

Argentina’s players leaped up and down in celebration at reaching the World Cup quarterfinals, and Lionel Messi was pushed into the center of a happy post-match huddle.

Messi delivered once more for Argentina, scoring his first goal in a World Cup knockout round to lead Argentina to a 2-1 victory over Australia on Saturday.

Messi celebrating his goal against Australia

Argentina was just as thankful for its goalie as it was for the No. 10 with magic in his boots when the final whistle blew.

Martinez made a sprawling save in the final seconds of an increasingly tense match to avoid extra time and the possibility of another shock in a World Cup full of them.

“That is the World Cup for you,” Messi said. “All the matches are difficult and what’s important is that you win.”

Messi put Argentina ahead in the 35th minute with a flourish of his famed left foot, his third goal of the tournament and ninth overall in the World Cup – one more than Diego Maradona.

For the second goal, Julián lvarez pounced on a bad touch by Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan to tap into an empty net, but this was no easy ride to a quarterfinal clash with the Netherlands.

Messi and Alvarez the two goal scorers against Australia

Australia’s comeback in the last 20 minutes was both thrilling and surprising. In the 77th minute, Craig Goodwin’s effort was deflected into the net by Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez. Then, amid a late Australian aerial assault, Garang Kuol had a remarkable chance when he was left open at the far post. When he shot on the turn, Martinez buried it, and two Argentina players jumped on top of their goalie in relief as much as joy.

Australia reached the final 16 just once before, in 2006, when they were defeated by eventual winner Italy.

Messi now has 789 goals in a career that might culminate on Dec. 18 by capturing soccer’s most prestigious trophy in his fifth and presumably last World Cup.

The dream lives on for the seven-time global player of the year and the tens of thousands of Argentina fans who dominated the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, vastly outnumbering the little pockets of green-and-gold-clad Australia fans to make the game feel like it was played in Buenos Aires or Rosario.

Argentina’s players joined arms and formed a long line to celebrate after the game in front of their scarf-waving fans at one end of the stadium.

Argentina team celebrating after the final whistle

“The whole of Argentina would like to be here, but it’s not possible,” Messi said. “This bond, this union we have, it’s beautiful.”

Messi utilized his control and vision to set up two chances in the frenzied conclusion, one of which Martinez fired over the crossbar, before Australia came on hard in stoppage time after placing Souttar up front for his aerial threat.

QUARTERFINALS

Argentina and the Netherlands will meet in the quarterfinals at Lusail Stadium, the 89,000-seat facility that will host the final. Argentina defeated Brazil in a penalty shootout in the World Cup semifinals in 2014.

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