Argentina’s Lionel Messi waves to the fans after his team’s 2-0 win Wednesday against Poland. Jorge Saenz/Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar — Rest easy, soccer fans. Lionel Messi will grace the World Cup stage at least one more time.

The Argentina great had a penalty saved, but his team still beat Poland 2-0 Wednesday after second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez and advanced to the last 16.

Argentina finished in first place in Group C to set up a match against Australia, a surprise qualifier for the knockout stage. Despite the loss, Poland advanced as the second-place team on goal difference.

It’s a strong position for Argentina to be in, especially considering the team opened the World Cup with a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in one of biggest upsets in the tournament’s history. Messi’s likely final World Cup rolls onto Saturday.

He will be relieved after failing to score a penalty for the second straight World Cup. It was awarded after being hit in the face by the flailing hand of Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who made amends by diving to his left to block Messi’s kick.

Mac Allister converted a cross from Nahuel Molina in the first minute of the second half and Alvarez curled the second into the top corner in the 67th minute.


MEXICO 2, SAUDI ARABIA 1: Henry Martin and Luis Chaves scored in Mexico’s furious attempt to stay alive, but the victory over Saudi Arabia was not enough.

Because of Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Poland in a simultaneous match, Mexico failed to advance out of its group for the first time since 1978.

Mexico had reached the round of 16 at the last seven World Cups, which was tied with Brazil for the longest current streak.

El Tri went into the match at Lusail Stadium needing both a victory and help from either Poland or Argentina to advance in Group C. Argentina’s victory meant goal difference came into play.

Martin scored in the 48th minute to give El Tri hope, and the team’s chances got even better with Luis Chavez’s goal on a free kick four minutes later.

Mexico tried desperately in the final 20 minutes to get another goal – including an effort by Uriel Antuna in the 87th minute that was ruled offside – but came up short. Instead, Saudi Arabia scored in added time, and Mexico lost out to Poland for second place in the group on goal difference.


AUSTRALIA 1, DENMARK 0: Australia advanced to the round of 16, beating favored Denmark on Mathew Leckie’s 60th-minute goal.

It is Australia’s first time in the knockout stage since 2006, the only other time they advanced out of the group stage.

Leckie took a pass near the center circle and moved around a Danish defender before hitting a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel diving to his left.

Australia finished with six points in Group D. Defending champion France won the group on goal difference despite losing 1-0 to Tunisia.

The World Cup proved to be a major disappointment for Denmark after reaching the semifinals in the 2020 European Championship. The Danes slogged through a 0-0 draw in their opening match with Tunisia and then lost 2-1 against France.

Denmark dominated possession through much of the match but could not generate enough chances.


TUNISIA 1, FRANCE 0: Defending champion France won its group despite losing to Tunisia.

Wahbi Khazri scored in the 58th minute to give the Tunisians the victory, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the round of 16, as Australia finished second on goal difference.

Khazri ran at the heart of the French defense and beat two players before poking the ball into the bottom corner. He fell to his knees and was mobbed by teammates. When he got back up, he made a heart shape to the Tunisian fans behind the goal and then limped off, appearing to hurt himself as he fell when scoring his 25th international goal and his third at World Cups.

It was Tunisia’s third victory at a World Cup, and it was France’s first loss at the tournament since the 2014 quarterfinals, when Germany won 1-0.

France forward Antoine Griezmann thought he had evened the score in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but he was ruled offside following a video review. At the same time, Tunisia’s players on the bench crowded around a TV monitor hoping for a Denmark goal against Australia that would have changed the group standings.

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