The Argentina captain scored as his side secured a crucial win over Mexico in Qatar
Argentina revived their chances of reaching the World Cup round of 16 in Qatar as goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez gave them a 2-0 victory over Mexico.
After suffering a first loss to Saudi Arabia in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, Argentina knew a repeat against Mexico would end their hopes in Qatar, while that a draw would also leave his fate hanging by a thread.
In the end, it was Messi to the rescue again as he netted a 64th-minute goal before Fernandez added a brilliantly taken second in the closing stages.
After Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 earlier on Saturday, Group C heads to what promises to be a close tie on Wednesday when the Poles take on Argentina and Mexico take on the Saudis.
Poland currently lead with four points, with Argentina and Saudi Arabia tied on three points and Mexico bottom of the standings with one point from their two matches.
That Argentina stay alive again is partly thanks to their captain Messi, who equaled Diego Maradona’s record of 21 World Cup appearances for his country.
A raucous atmosphere in the stands at Lusail Stadium was not initially matched by the action on the pitch in the first half as both teams struggled to create chances.
Mexico winger Alexis Vega tested Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez with a free-kick just before the break, while Messi lifted his own free-kick over the crossbar five minutes into the second half from what seemed like a promising position.
But two-time tournament winners Argentina began to press and the breakthrough came just after the hour mark thanks to their talisman.
Picking up the ball on the edge of the box, Messi shuffled to make room before sending a low drive into the bottom corner, out of the reach of desperate Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa.
The crowd erupted as Messi pumped his arms in celebration, well aware of the magnitude of a goal that revived Lionel Scaloni’s side’s World Cup hopes.
Mexico failed to mount a semblance of a comeback, and substitute Fernandez doubled Argentina’s lead in the 87th minute when the midfielder picked up a pass from Messi just inside the box , whipping a superb effort into the far corner.
Messi, 35, has already said this will be his World Cup swansong.
Although he ended his hoodoo with Argentina by winning the Copa America last year, the World Cup remains a glaring omission on a glittering CV in which he won every accolade possible at club level, as well as seven Ballon d’Or crowns.
Messi and Argentina will breathe a sigh of relief that they live to fight another day in Qatar ahead of the final round of Group C games.