When Argentina lost their opening group game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar against the 53rd ranked side Saudi Arabia – it appeared as though the South American nation’s chances of securing their first title since 1986 had gone up in smoke. However, to Argentina’s credit, they learned from their horror opening night and currently look like they’re peaking at the right time.
Lionel Messi and company now find themselves in the final, where they will play defending champions France at Lusail Stadium on Sunday night. While the La Albiceleste enter the contest as the slight underdogs in the Argentina v France odds at the time of writing, they will take plenty of confidence from their continuous improvement as the tournament has progressed.
With that in mind, read on as we take a look at Argentina’s road to the World Cup final.
Argentina v Saudi Arabia
As mentioned earlier, Argentina’s campaign couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start than it did against Saudi Arabia. The Middle Eastern nation were perceived as the weakest team of their group – and most felt Lionel Scaloni’s men would kickstart their tournament with a dominant win.
After Messi converted at the penalty spot to make it 1-0 in the opening ten minutes, the game was going as expected. However, what transpired over the remaining 80 minutes will go down in World Cup folklore, with Saudi Arabia clawing back Argentina’s lead and eventually gaining the ascendency with two goals in quick succession to Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari.
The Saudis would hold on to their 2-1 lead and ultimately win – and by doing so – caused arguably the biggest upset in World Cup history.
Argentina v Mexico
With their backs against the wall and their fixture against Mexico now a must-win, Argentina were staring down the barrel of the unthinkable – a group stage exit. With scores deadlocked at 0-0 after an hour, Argentina needed a spark of brilliance from one of their plethora of stars to turn the game on its head and get their World Cup campaign back on track. Enter Messi. The little maestro put his side in front with a peach of a goal from well outside the box in the 64th minute.
That lit a fire underneath his teammates, and they scored a second 23 minutes later to secure the win and put themselves back in contention for a spot in the round of 16.
Argentina v Poland
In what was their most impressive group stage performance, Argentina made light work of Robert Lewandowski and company en route to a 2-0 victory over Poland. Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez accounted for both of the La Albiceleste’s goals – and by securing the win – they solidified their spot atop Group C.
Argentina v Australia
As a result of topping Group C, they met Group D runners-up Australia in the round of 16. They entered as the heavy favourites in that match-up, with 2022 marking just the second time their opponents had made the knockout stages of a World Cup. Surprisingly, Australia got the better of the opening exchanges, using their size and physicality to frustrate the much smaller Argentinian outfit.
That was until some superb play from guess who – Messi. The number 10 put his team in front with a fantastic goal off his left foot that beat the outstretched arm of Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Argentina made their ascendency two early in the second half after a blunder at the back from Australian defender Kye Rowles and keeper Ryan that offered up Alvarez a gift of a goal.
Australia managed to get themselves back in the contest in the 77th minute however, with Craig Goodwin’s strike ricocheting off Enzo Fernandez and into the back of the net to make it 2-1. Momentum shifted from that point forward, and the Socceroos had multiple near-chances that could’ve sent the game to extra time. They couldn’t convert however, and Argentina booked their fifth quarter-final appearance since 1998.
Argentina v Netherlands
Awaiting Argentina in the final eight were the Netherlands – a team whose reputation as a big, tough and skillful side precedes itself. With the Oranje boasting the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and breakout star Cody Gakpo – the men in blue and white had their work cut out for them. Despite their tough opposition, Argentina got off to a red-hot start, with Nahuel Molina finishing off a beautiful pass laid on by Messi in the 35th minute to give their team a 1-0 lead at the main break.
The game then appeared to be over in the 73rd minute when Messi scored at the penalty spot. The Dutch had other ideas however, with Wout Weghorst’s goal in the 83rd minute putting the pressure back on Lionel Scaloni and company as they fought to hold on to their lead.
In what were dramatic scenes, the 6’6 Weghorst would then level the scores in the final minute of stoppage time after a beautiful play off a free-kick from outside the box. Neither team could secure the win in extra time, which meant the semi-finalist would be determined at the spot.
Argentina won the penalty shootout 4-3 – which booked their semi-final against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.
Argentina v Croatia
Although this semi-final had all the hallmarks of a classic, it was one-way traffic from the opening whistle as Argentina dominated their European opponents 3-0. After Messi yet again scored at the spot in the 34th minute, it opened up the floodgates for Lionel Scaloni’s side and they struck once more just five minutes later against the run of play – with Alvarez providing the finishing touches.
Alvarez scored his second and his team’s third in the 69th minute, with Messi’s play in the lead-up and ultimate assist nothing short of exceptional. That was the icing on the cake of an incredible performance from Argentina – and given their star-studded squad, the rich vein of form their key personnel are in and the camaraderie that clearly exists within this group – they will prove very hard to beat in the World Cup final.