Emiliano Martínez: “I suffered a lot these three days”

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Messi
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Lionel Messi made the difference for Argentina in their 2-0 win over Mexico with a goal and an assist at Lusail Stadium.

Emiliano Martinez hailed Lionel Messi for “making everything easier” after the forward ignited Argentina’s World Cup campaign with a goal and an assist against Mexico.

Argentina battled to a 2-0 victory in Saturday’s Group C match to avoid an early exit from Qatar 2022 and keep their promotion hopes and top spot in their own hands.

Messi broke through with a long-range strike in the 64th minute in a game that had lacked quality up to that point, before assisting Enzo Fernandez for the second time.

The goal was Messi’s fourth goal from outside at the World Cup – only former Brazil striker Rivellino (five) can do better since such records were first set in 1966.

He has also now scored in six consecutive games for Argentina, his longest scoring streak in international football, and Martinez was full of praise for his colleague.

“We knew that if we lost today we would be out of the World Cup and Mexico made the game very difficult for us,” he said.

“But when you have Messi in your team, everything is always easier. We never doubted ourselves, but there were difficult days. We showed that we are here to win.”

Argentina were on the end of one of the competition’s biggest shocks of all time, losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening game.

Having bounced back with a win against Mexico, Argentina will guarantee progress if they beat Poland on Wednesday, while a draw could be enough.

While Messi grabbed all the headlines, Fernandez also played a big part in the win with his impressive curling goal after being introduced from the substitutes.

“As a child I always dreamed of playing in this shirt,” said the Benfica midfielder. “Today I fulfilled my dream of scoring a goal at the World Cup.

“I’m very happy with today’s success, this group deserves it. It’s a win for all the fans, both those who have come this far and those watching from home.”

A crowd of 88,966 attended the match at Lusail Stadium, making it the largest attendance for a Men’s World Cup match since the 1994 final at the Rose Bowl in California (94,194).

Argentina kept their first clean sheet in seven World Cup games since a tie with the Netherlands in the 2014 semi-final in a tight game until Messi’s strike.

While aware of how big a victory it was for his side, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni called for some perspective ahead of facing the Polish leaders.

“You have to have common sense, it’s just a football game,” he said. “I got a message from my brother that he was crying and it can’t be like this.

“Like it’s more than a football game. I don’t share that. The players have to understand that it’s a football game. If not, it will be like that in every game.

“It’s hard to get people to understand that the sun will come up tomorrow, win or lose. It’s how you do things that matters.”

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