Lionel Messi Helps Argentina Defeat Australia, Advance to Quarterfinals

Lionel Messi Helps Argentina Defeat Australia, Advance to Quarterfinals originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Lionel Messi’s quest for a World Cup championship continues.

Messi scored a goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Australia in the round of 16 on Saturday to send La Albiceleste into the quarterfinals.

The 35-year-old Messi, playing in his 1,000th career game and what could be his final World Cup, opened the scoring with the first career knockout stage goal of his legendary career. Alexis Mac Allister sent a pass into the box to Nicolás Otamendi, who one-touched a short pass back to Messi. The Argentine star fired a left-footed shot past a diving keeper and inside the far post for a 1-0 advantage in the 35th minute.

It was Messi’s third goal of the tournament and ninth career goal in the World Cup, moving him past Diego Maradona for most all time by an Argentine.

Argentina increased its lead after capitalizing on a costly mistake by Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan. Ryan received a pass to clear the ball, but his first touch was too strong and he couldn’t get to his second touch in time before Julian Alvarez beat him to the punch and sent the shot into an open net to make it 2-0 in the 57th minute.

That mistake was erased in the 77th minute by an Argentina own goal after a shot by Australia’s Craig Goodwin deflected off Enzo Fernandez and into the net to cut the lead to 2-1.

Australia threatened in the 81st minute after Aziz Behich weaved his way into box to create an opportunity for the equalizer, but Argentina’s Lisandro Martínez made a sliding challenge to deflect the shot.

Australia’s Garang Kuol had one final chance to even the score in the closing seconds of stoppage time. He received a cross in front of the net from Goodwin and turned to fire a shot, but it was saved by goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez to preserve the win.

Argentina, seeking its first World Cup championship since 1986, moves on to the quarterfinals to face the Netherlands, which defeated the United States 3-1 on Saturday.