Lionel Messi has revealed that Argentina treated the crunch game against Mexico like a new World Cup tournament following their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening game.
As a result of the earlier defeat, Argentina would have been eliminated on the spot had they lost against Mexico as well, while even a draw would have made progression to the knockout stages extremely difficult with only one more game to play.
But Messi said afterwards that the team had refocused after the Saudi upset.
“We knew that today we had to win, that another World Cup was starting for us and we were able to do it,” the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner said, via TyC Sports.
“The first game cost us a lot,” he added. “It’s normal, because there are many conditioning factors, many boys who were playing their first World Cup, the schedule…
“They are not excuses but we did not play as we had to play. Even so, there were two isolated plays that made us lose that game, many situations by centimetres. [Had] we made it 2-0 [against Saudi Arabia], it would have been another game entirely.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni also spoke after the game, insisting that Mexico always possess the ability to make games difficult for their opponents.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game, because Mexico offered us a different match than they had been doing normally,” Scaloni told reporters. “We suspected that they could play with a line of 5.”
Having been on the brink of a humiliating exit from the World Cup, Argentina now simply need to beat Poland to ensure they qualify from Group C, while a draw would leave them vulnerable and dependent on the other result between Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
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