Argentina and Poland reach the World Cup round of 16, but it doesn't get more dramatic than that. Lionel Messi misses a penalty and commentators in the media stand not only burst their collars. Robert Lewandowski is under too much pressure until there is late redemption.
Argentina vs Poland. Lionel Messi versus Robert Lewandowski. A lot of drama is guaranteed in the duel of the superstars because the constellation in Group C keeps everything open. An early Argentine elimination is still possible and would devastate fans at home and a global army of Messi fans keen to see him lift the World Cup trophy.
Poland, who have not reached the knockout stages since 1986, need a win or a draw to progress. The Albiceleste, on the other hand, need to beat the Lewandowski team to secure progress - or draw and hope for a draw with Saudi Arabia against Mexico. The tension can be felt among the fans, 99 percent support Argentina this Wednesday evening at the 974 Stadion right on the water. And unbelievable drama is to follow in Argentina's 2-0 win - on both sides.
"Sometimes there are sweet defeats," said Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz after the game. "We lost but came through after so many years." His opponent Lionel Scaloni says: "We are very happy, it wasn't easy. We had to win. But my players did a great job." But now to the game.
While Poland agonizes over how to keep Messi, an attacking genius who has scored 93 goals in 167 international appearances, at bay, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino looks a little sullenly from his VIP seat at the pitch. At the table next to the media stand, the radio colleagues from Cadena 3 from Argentina are setting up their equipment. The two commentators were drenched in sweat half an hour before kick-off. Desert tour: nothing against it. The two men around 50 high five with a loud "Vamos". Here we go. They nervously wriggle their legs under the table.
It is the third meeting between the two teams at a World Cup. In 1974 in the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart it was 3:2 for Poland. Four years later, Argentina won 2-0. Now both teams start directly with the first offensive efforts and both Lewandowski and Messi are closely covered by several players. In the seventh minute, Messi steals the ball from a Pole and dares a first, hesitant conclusion. No problem for keeper Wojciech Szczesny. But the bodies of the neighboring commentators twitch visibly.
Three minutes later, the tener moves to the goal on the left of the penalty area and finishes with a powerful shot from a tight angle. The first real chance, the C3 reporters briefly freak out with a "Messi-Messi-Messi" machine gun salvo for the first time, but then calm down again. Then a brisk game develops without top-class players, but the fans don't have to wait too long for the drama.
Because in the 28th minute, the Argentines started to have a double chance. Julian Alvarez's shot is blocked, but Marcos Acuna grabs the rebound. When the left full-back then beamed just past the far post, one of the commentators almost fell off his chair and screamed. The journalists around are starting to worry about the health of the two.
The Albiceleste develops a clear increase in chances and more possession of the ball, the next double chance with even more drama is already imminent. Hold tight. First Szczesny saves strongly from close range, then he flies into Messi on the subsequent cross and touches the Argentine captain very delicately. The commentator couple first tears their non-existent hair. But then her mood suddenly brightens, because the referee runs to the video monitor and gives a penalty.
Now the two sit as far forward as possible on the edge of the chair. Finest school desk posture with a straight back, while Messi puts the ball on the spot, runs - and his shot fails due to Szczesny's strong parade. The faces of the radio reporters petrified. A long "noooooo" escapes the one whose turn it is to comment. His head turns an unhealthy blush. A heart attack or a ruptured carotid artery does not seem unlikely, Messi becomes a tragic figure and causes acute danger of physical damage with his missed shot.
The spectators respond with loud "Messi" calls. The superstar wants to know now, after a sharp cross he starts to dribble in the penalty area, but is just stopped by three Poles. The game is getting faster and faster, Argentina's pressure is increasing by the minute, but the Lewandowski team saves at halftime. At this point, both teams are through because no goals were scored in the parallel match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico. But the Albiceleste cannot like the score here, the elimination that would plunge an entire country into deep mourning is very close.
Then the whistle starts again and exactly 54 seconds later Argentina suddenly takes the lead. Ángel Di María passes to Nahuel Molina on the right, whose cross finds Alexis Mac Allister in the box. The midfielder misses the ball with his shot, but that's exactly why he tumbles into the bottom left corner. At the next table, as in the stadium, everything and everyone explodes.
One of the commentators starts a 30-second "Gooooooooooool" cheer. Shortness of breath and crimson popping head. A short gasp for air. And the next 30 seconds follows immediately. Do you really need to worry now? Fortunately, he grabs tea and a throat lozenge afterwards. Meanwhile, his colleague is twirling his fists wildly and high-fiving journalists nearby. A whole stadium dances and sings. for minutes.
Now Poland suddenly has to tremble, because a Saudi goal or several Mexico goals would still seal the end. Coach Czeslaw Michniewicz knows before the game that that moment can happen, saying: "When you play Argentina you have to be prepared if you concede a goal and not panic when that happens." And indeed, his team responded directly with a good header chance through Piotr Zielinski, the ball rushed just past the Argentine post.
After that, the Poles get almost nothing baked. At the same time, Mexico now leads by two goals. The drama is perfect, the legs are getting heavier. Lewandowski is also completely unsubscribed. If Poland conceded another goal, the yellow cards would actually decide whether Poland progressed. And shortly afterwards the time has come because Enzo Fernandez has too much space in the penalty area and Julian Alvarez takes the ball beautifully with his outside instep and circles it into the corner.
A careful look to the left. The commentator almost blew his eyes out at the "Gooool" scream. "Qué golazo!" he keeps shouting. The veins in the neck swell dangerously and form small snakes up to the chin. Now everything please, just no "plop". Fear rises in the observers of the scene. The ambulance extension number has already been entered into the mobile phone. But then calm down, the reporter breathes again. After all, Argentina is as good as saved.
But with the 0:2, Poland is threatened with losing the World Cup because only Argentina is still playing and Mexico is pressing in the parallel game. A goal or a red card and Lewandowski's team would be out. What a drama, the Michniewicz men are overwhelmed by the pressure. First a slalom run by Messi, then a big chance for the superstar. The commentators look to the sky imploringly, they want another goal for their "La Pulga". One of them can no longer stand sitting down.
Lautaro Martinez forgives again alone in front of the goal, then follows the final whistle. While the Argentines celebrate their group victory, the Poles worry for a few minutes. Then she gets the good news about the parallel game and Lewandowski jubilantly stretches his arms in the air. The reporters from the next table hug each other. You survived, perhaps the most important customer of that dramatic evening.