Argentina wins Group C, Poland dramatically pips Mexico on goal difference
Argentina progressed in first place while Poland clung to the second World Cup qualification spot by its fingernails in a thrilling finale to Group C on Wednesday.
Mexico and Poland were level on points, goal difference, and goals scored as the matches neared their conclusion, meaning Poland would progress on the fair play tiebreaker for accruing two fewer yellow cards than El Tri.
However, Salem Al-Dawsari scored in the dying seconds of Saudi Arabia's meeting with Mexico. The late goal in a 2-1 win for Mexico meant Poland finished the group above Mexico on goal difference despite losing 2-0 to Argentina.
While millions compared the disciplinary records of Mexico and Poland, there were several opportunities for Mexico and Argentina to add to their respective leads and change the outcome of Group C.
Mexico poured bodies forward in search of the goal that would send it into the knockout rounds. But shots went astray, Mohammed Al-Owais made several saves, appeals for a handball in the Saudi box were turned down, and a goal was ruled out for offside. The North American nation wasn't getting much luck, and Al-Dawsari's last-gasp strike compounded its misery.
Argentina, meanwhile, dominated a lackluster Poland after earlier finishes from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez. In the closing stages, Lionel Messi wastefully scuffed a shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny, Lautaro Martinez inexplicably fired an effort wide, and Jakub Kiwior raced back to head a Nicolas Tagliafico chip off the line in injury time.
Szczesny also saved a penalty from Messi in the first half of Argentina's victory, safeguarding his status as the hero of Poland's campaign so far.
When the final whistle sounded in Lusail, Mexico only had a Henry Martin flick and an outrageous Luis Chavez free-kick to show for a positive, attacking display against Saudi Arabia.
It was too little, too late. Mexico's exit from Qatar is the first time it qualified for a World Cup and failed to emerge from the group stage since 1978.
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