By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Guillermo Ochoa’s World Cup magic didn’t work against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
The Mexico goalkeeper, known for his big saves in soccer’s biggest tournament, saved Robert Lewandowski’s penalty attempt in El Tri’s World Cup opener. But he couldn’t do anything against Messi’s long shot in the second half in the 64th minute on Saturday night.
Enzo Hernández added a second goal in the final minutes to give Argentina a 2-0 victory.
“The difference was because they had Messi,” striker Henry Martin said.
Doha’s golden Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final next month, was packed with 88,966 people, giving it the feel of a final rather than a group stage match.
After a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening game, Argentina’s hopes of advancing out of Group C were diminished. Hoping to avoid elimination, Messi had the responsibility of scoring after a rather timid first half.
So he did. From outside the box, Messi’s low left foot shot out of Ochoa’s reach and into the net.
As the final whistle blew, Ochoa and Messi held hands, and the goalkeeper known by his nickname Memo affectionately patted his opponent on the head with a gloved hand. Ochoa did not speak to reporters after the game.
It could be the last World Cup for both men, who in Qatar joined an exclusive club of players who have been to five editions of the tournament.
Much like Argentina depends on Messi, El Tri has looked to Ochoa because his offense is sizzling and he has yet to score in Qatar. Not only will they have to win on Wednesday in the final group game against Saudi Arabia, but they will also need help.
Ochoa’s save of Lewandowski’s penalty attempt preserved a goalless draw for Mexico against Poland, adding to a World Cup mystique that began when he defended six Brazilian shots, including a dangerous Neymar header, in an equalizer. in the group stage against the hosts in 2014.
Then, in Russia four years ago, Ochoa made nine saves in Mexico’s 1-0 win over defending champions Germany in the opening group game.
Ochoa was first tested by Messi in the 33rd minute, when he deflected a free kick from the corner. Messi fired another free kick from around 25 meters in minute 50 that went over the wall and well over the goal.
Although the chances are slim, Mexico is still in contention for an eighth consecutive trip to the World Cup knockout round. El Tri was looking to advance beyond the round of 16 and play in an elusive “fifth game,” a fifth game. It’s something that has eluded the team since it hosted the 1986 tournament.
“We did our job and unfortunately we went down with the loss,” Martin said. “Then it hurts, but tomorrow we have to be thinking about what’s next in the next game, because we have one last chance and we have to take advantage of it.”
El Tri have never beaten Argentina in four attempts at the World Cup, and Martino’s worst defeat as Mexico manager came at the hands of his compatriots in September 2019, when Lautaro Martínez scored a hat-trick in a 4-out win. -0.
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