82 min Chavez’s inswinging free-kick from the right is headed across the area by an Argentina defender then back across goal by Moreno. It’s too close to Emi Martinez, who claims comfortably.
81 min Although they are having a lot of the ball now, Mexico look pretty toothless.
79 min Not that Argentina will or should care, but this has been a hideous game.
77 min Palacios releases Alvarez down the left. He charges into the area and cuts the ball back towards Messi, who can’t quite ther before the defender. Moments later Messi’s cutback is kicked away by Ochoa.
74 min Mexico have been slightly better since the goal, though in truth they don’t particularly look like scoring. It’s been their problem since World Cup qualification began in September 2021.
73 min Mexico bring off Hirving Lozano, which is a bit of a surprise. Roberto Alvarado is on in his place.
72 min Goal difference may also be a factor, so a second Argentina goal could be deceptively significant.
72 min If it stays like this, Argentina could qualify with a draw against Poland on Wednesday, depending on the result in Saudi Arabia v Mexico. It’s all pretty complex. Mexico won’t be out if they lose either.
70 min Acuna’s cross finds its way through to Molina, who slashes over from the edge of the area. That was half a chance.
69 min: Double substitution for Argentina Cristian Romero, who was supposed to be injured, and Ezequiel Palacios replace Alexis Mac Allister and Angel Di Maria. That might mean a switch to a back five.
68 min Antuna plays a one-two and threads a low cross that is booted behind. No matter, Antuna was offside.
67 min Hector Herrera is booked for a cynical foul.
66 min Double substitution for Mexico: Raul Jimenez and Uriel Antuna replace Alexis Vega and Kevin Alvarez. That means a switch to a back four.
65 min The finish was unerringly precise but the touch to set it up was even better. Any lighter and he wouldn’t have been able to get sufficient momentum into the shot; any heavier and he’d have been smothered by the outrushing defenders.
It was a goal out of nothing. Di Maria cut inside from the right and shaped a good pass into Messi, inexplicably unmarked 25 yards from goal. His first touch was perfect, setting himself up for the shot, and he rifled a low drive into the bottom corner. That’s a lovely goal.
GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Mexico (Yep 64)
Lionel Messi puts Argentina in front!
64 min “I don’t think that any World Cup matches of the modern era have been played in filthy rain and mud, but it would improve this one immeasurably,” says Charles Antaki. “ Also dense fog.”
63 min: Double substitution for Argentina Julian Alvarez and Nahuel Molina replace Lautaro Martinez and Gonzalo Montiel.
62 min A draw is a better result for Mexico, and that’s reflected in the balance of play. Mexico are playing almost exclusively on the counter-attack now.
60 min A booming free-kick from Vega is headed away really well by Otamendi, running towards his own goal. The second half has been a bit better, even if we’ve still had only one shot on target in the whole game.
59 min Messi stabs a dangerous through pass towards Lautaro Martinez that is well read by Araujo. There’s no eye in the Mexican needle.
57 min: Argentina substitution Enzo Fernandez replaces Guido Rodriguez.
57 min This is a decent spell for Argentina, probably their best of the match.
56 min Di Maria gets round the back on the right and pulls the ball back dangerously. Mac Allister, arriving late in the box, is about to shoot when Chavez makes a vital interception.
54 min There’s a bit more intensity from Argentina in this half, but not as much as you’d expect in the circumstances. They look like a team who had a pamper at half-time rather than a hairdryer.
53 min “Boxing is a notoriously difficult sport to exit on a high but two British fighters managed it this century,” says Max Williams. “Carl Froch knocked out George Groves at Wembley Stadium (in front of 80,000 people, supposedly) and Lennox Lewis resisted the temptation of a rematch with Vitali Klitschko after beating the Ukrainian challenger (and 2022 war hero) via a slightly fortuitous TKO. Both retired as world champions – undisputed in the case of Lewis.”
Ah yes, Froch is a perfect example – the last punch of his career was also the best.
52 min It’s a poor free-kick from Messi, clipped well over the bar.
51 min The free-kick is slightly to the right of centre, maybe 22 yards from goal. In other words, the perfect position for a left-footed genius.
50 min A sudden, thrilling burst from Messi, who scurries to the edge of the D and is taken out by Gutierrez. He’s booked.
48 min The referee ignores a dive from Lautaro Martinez and Mexico break. Lozano cuts inside and hits a long-range shot that is blocked.
46 min Peep peep! Argentina begin the second half. If it stays like this, they’ll need to beat Poland by at least two goals to be sure of reaching the last 16. And Mexico would need to beat Saudi Arabia by any score to progress.
Your nominations for people who did got out at the top Rocky Marciano, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Didier Deschamps, Garry Kasparov, Basil Fawlty.
“The first half in summary,” writes Richard Byrne.
“I have a rough and ready way of judging which team is on top by adding the attempts on and off target and the corners, then subtracting the fouls,” says Richard Hirst. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever known both teams have a negative total.”
“I bought a 65-inch new telly to watch this twaddle,” says Paul. “This game has sent my wife and the cat to sleep.”
Fifa have got some nerve scheduling a World Cup during Black Friday.
“Mexico playing five across the back when Argentina have the ball and two defensive mids in front of that, giving Messi no spaces to run into and forcing him deeper,” says Rick McGahey. “Martino knows his opponent.”
There’s no eye in the Mexican needle, that’s for sure. I’m surprised Argentina haven’t looked for their full-backs more.