Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez helped Argentina secure their last-16 place with a 2-0 victory over Poland, despite Lionel Messi’s earlier penalty miss at Stadium 974.
La Albiceleste topped Group C while despite defeat, along with Mexico’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia, the Poles snatched second place by virtue of a superior goal difference to El Tri.
Although Wojciech Szczesny brilliantly saved Messi’s first-half spot-kick, Mac Allister and Alvarez struck after the break as Argentina advanced from the group phase for the 13th time in 14 attempts.
However, due to Saudi Arabia’s late goal against Mexico, Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stage courtesy of superior goal difference, progressing to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.
Argentina dominated first-half proceedings, Messi drawing smart reflexes from Szczesny and Marcos Acuna drilling marginally wide from 20 yards, with Poland offering little at the other end.
La Albiceleste were awarded a penalty six minutes before the break when Szczesny was deemed to have fouled Messi but the Juventus goalkeeper, having kept out Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al Dawsari on Saturday, made amends with a magnificent save.
Scaloni’s side broke through within a minute of the restart; Mac Allister arriving to steer Nahuel Molina’s cross into the far corner.
Kamil Glik headed wide for Poland at the other end before Argentina doubled their lead in the 67th minute as a patient build-up culminated in Enzo Fernandez finding Alvarez, who turned before firing into the top corner.