Emiliano Martinez hailed Lionel Messi for “making everything easier” after the forward ignited Argentina’s World Cup campaign with a goal and an assist against Mexico, Njenje Media News reports.
Argentina battled to a 2-0 win in Saturday’s Group C contest to avoid an early exit from Qatar 2022 and keep their hopes of both progressing and finishing top in their own hands.
Messi made a breakthrough with a long-range strike after 64 minutes in a game that had been low on quality up until then, before assisting Enzo Fernandez for his side’s second.
That goal was Messi’s fourth World Cup goal from outside the box – only former Brazil attacker Rivellino (five) can better that tally since such records were first recorded in 1966.
He has also now scored in six successive appearances for Argentina, his joint-longest ever scoring run in international football, and Martinez was full of praise for his colleague.
“We knew that in case of defeat today we would have been out of the World Cup, and Mexico made the match very difficult for us,” he said.
“But when you have Messi in your team everything is always easier. We never had any self-doubt, but these were tough days. We have shown that we are here to win.”
Argentina were on the end of one of the competition’s all-time great shocks when losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening match.
After recovering with victory against Mexico, Argentina will guarantee progression if they beat Poland on Wednesday, while a draw may also be enough.
While Messi grabbed all the headlines, Fernandez also played a big part in the win with his impressive curled goal after being introduced from the substitutes’ bench.
“As a child I always dreamed of playing in this shirt,” the Benfica midfielder said. “Today I made my dream come true to score a goal at the World Cup.
“I’m very happy with today’s success, this group deserves it. It is a victory for all the fans, both for those who have come this far and for those who are following us from home.”
1 – Lionel Messi is now both the youngest (18y 357d vs Serbia in 2006) and the oldest (35y 155d vs Mexico today) player to both score and assist in a single World Cup game since the start of the 1966 tournament. Longevity. pic.twitter.com/e6Ak6fmI8l
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 26, 2022
The match at Lusail Stadium was watched by 88,966 spectators, making it the highest-attended men’s World Cup game since the 1994 final at California’s Rose Bowl (94,194).
Argentina kept their first clean sheet in seven World Cup games, since a stalemate with the Netherlands in the 2014 semi-finals, in what was a tight match until Messi’s strike.
While aware of just how big a win it was for his side, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni called for some perspective ahead of facing leaders Poland.
“You have to have some common sense; it’s just a football match,” he said. “I received a message from my brother saying he was crying and it can’t be like that.
“It’s as if it were more than a football match. I don’t share that. The players must understand it’s a football match. If not, it will be like this in every match.
“It’s hard to make people understand that the sun will rise tomorrow, win or lose. What matters is how you do things.”