Messi believes Maradona would be 'super happy' at Argentina advancing to World Cup last 16

Messi believes Maradona would be 'super happy' at Argentina advancing to World Cup last 16
Lionel Messi believes Diego Maradona would be "super happy" after he helped steer Argentina into the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 2-0 win over Poland.

Messi also reached another landmark as he overtook Maradona's record of 21 World Cup appearances for Argentina. World Cup winner Maradona died just over two years ago but Messi said he believes his former mentor would be proud of his latest acheivement.

"I learned it recently, I didn't know it. It's a pleasure to be able to continue to achieve these kinds of records. I think Diego would be super happy for me, because he always showed me a lot of affection, he was always happy when things went well for me," said Messi.

Despite missing a penalty – his 39th career failure from the spot – the Argentina captain was instrumental in guiding his side past what on paper at least appeared their toughest Group C opponents.

"We achieved our first objective, which was to get out of the group after starting the way we did [a shock 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia]," said Messi.

"I was really frustrated to have missed the penalty, because I knew that a goal could change the whole match, that it makes you play in a different way. But I think that from the penalty I missed, the team came out stronger."

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Messi, who has never won the World Cup but was a losing finalist to German in 2014, believes Argentina are moving up through the gears at precisely the right time.

"After the first goal, everything went our way. We started doing again what we had been trying to do since the start of the World Cup, but which we hadn't been able to achieve for various reasons. "Having been able to do it today, it gives us confidence for the future."

Next up for Argentina is a last-16 clash against Australia on Saturday. "We know that now everything will be very difficult. That whoever the opponent, it will be complicated. We have seen recently, at our own expense, that any opponent can play a good game and win."

The game was billed as a clash between two of the greatest strikers in the world: Messi v Robert Lewandowski.

For once, Messi was not the Albiceleste's match-winner as goals from Alexis Mac Allister, his for his country, and Julian Alvarez sealed victory at Stadium 974 in Doha.

Lewandowski's subdued performance mirrored that of his passive teammates, who sat back from the first whistle and rarely tested Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

At one point deep into stoppage time, the two captains and stars of their teams went face-to-face, with Messi on the ball.

The rest of his performance was insipid, but this time at least Lewandowski showed dogged determination not to be beaten by Messi, and fouled him.

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz blamed Lewandowski's poor showing on the side's lacklustre performance.

"I'm not attacking in any way my team but they didn't help him or help him to score," said the coach. "If Messi had played with us and Robert Lewandowski with Argentina, he would have scored five goals."

Despite the defeat, Poland advanced alongside Argentina as runners-up in Group C. They next face world champions France on Sunday.
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