POL
Poland
0
FT
2
ARG
Argentina
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Argentina vs. Poland World Cup score: Alexis Mac Allister, Julian Alvarez fire Albiceleste into round of 16

Argentina controlled their fate in their final World Cup group-stage match against Poland, needing a victory to cement their spot in the round of 16. They got exactly what they needed with a 2-0 win over the Polish on Wednesday. They won the group and avoided France in the process. Instead, Lionel Scaloni's team will meet Australia in the round of 16 on Saturday.

Poland also advanced, just barely, finishing in second place because of goal differential. Their fate was hanging in the balance while Mexico faced Saudi Arabia, and there was a moment when El Tri were up 2-0 and where one more goal for Mexico or one more for Argentina would see Tata Martino's team jump into second. Saudi Arabia scored late to slam the door as Mexico won 2-1 but crashed out in the group stage for the first time since 1978.

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Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez in the second half lifted Scaloni's team to the top of Group C, putting together back-to-back wins after their shocking opening loss to Saudi Arabia. 

This was the winning goal for Argentina:

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1. Argentina have two new starters moving forward

The starting lineup for Argentina included two new faces into the XI in Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez. And boy did they deliver. Alvarez, of Manchester City, was lively and got into space well, putting the game to rest with a well-taken second goal in the 67th minute. Watching it live, you could have mistaken him for Lionel Messi for his pace and how he shielded off his defender before scoring an absolute golazo, with the right-footed shot being the key indicator that it wasn't the Argentine superstar. 

The assist came from none other than the emerging Enzo Fernandez, with the young Benfica talent lifting the ball to Alvarez with a simple yet saucy touch, with two of the team's rising stars combining in a big moment.

But the goal came at a crucial moment where an equalizer from Poland could have meant more than just having France in the next round, it could have been the goal to keep Argentina out depending on the other game. This fine goal gave the victors some breathing room the rest of the way.

Here it is:

2. Szczesny has to win goalkeeper of the tournament

A stunning performance from Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saw them stay in a game that wasn't really close in the end, denying what could have been a 4-0 or 5-0 win for the South Americans. He denied a Lionel Messi penalty in the first half to keep thing square, and he made some other key stops as well, another on Messi in the middle of the goal on a one-timer. 

It must have been so weird for the Juventus man to be in goal knowing that two goals might be OK to concede while three could have been Mexico's ticket to the next round, all the while wondering if Saudi Arabia would score to bail them out.

But in the end, the former Arsenal man put together an 11-save performance to be proud of. He's been the best goalkeeper of the tournament, recording two clean sheets to start, and without him Poland would packing their bags. 

3. It's time for de Paul to be benched for Argentina

How long is Scaloni going to start Rodrigo de Paul? He's been poor for three straight games. Sure, he gives a ton of effort, but his touch has been off, he's made mistake after mistake, and it's like Argentina are playing down a man. It's like his fortunate assist to Angel di Maria in the Copa America final is giving him a pass for these World Cup games. He's been far and away the weak link, and it's time for Scaloni to look elsewhere. Be it via Thiago Almada or Exequiel Palacios, even giving Papu Gomez another look, he should have a really short piece the rest of the way. 

Group C table

GROUP CMPW-D-LGDPTS
Argentina (Group winners)32-0-1+26
Poland (Group runners-up)31-1-104
Mexico (Eliminated)31-1-104
Saudi Arabia (Eliminated)31-0-2-23

World Cup scores, schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 30
Tunisia 1, France 0
Australia 1, Denmark 0
Poland 0, Argentina 2
Saudi Arabia 1, Mexico 2

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It's over! Argentina win the group!

Poland are also through in second place on goal differential!

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15 minutes to go

As things stand, Poland are still going through on having less yellow cards than Mexico! You cannot make this stuff up! 

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GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! Argentina!

Julian Alvarez scores! It's 2-0 to the Argentines! Enzo Fernandez lifts the ball up over the defender's leg, and Alvarez curls it into the far corner!!!!!! 2-0!!!!

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Well things are getting bonkers

Mexico have taken a 2-0 lead in the Saudi Arabia game meaning we are just a goal away from Mexico being in second place for the time being. That would mean Poland going home. The Polish must attack with everything they have now as we approach 30 minutes to go. 

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Goal Argentina! 1-0! A fast start!

Well, well, well! Alexis Mac Allister scores! Molina with a low ball from the right wing, and it falls right to the Brighton guy who, I'll say, did not hit it well. But it finds its way in!!!

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The second half has begun!

Two changes for Poland to kick things off. Kaminski on for Frankowski, and Skoras for Swiderski. A crazy 45 minutes to come as Argentine look to overwhelm in attack.

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Halftime: Argentina 0, Poland 0

It's level at the break with Argentina dominating the chances. But Messi's missed penalty kick is the difference with Szczesny on fire in the opening session, making save after save. Argentina need some changes. I suspect we will see Papu Gomez at some point and almost certainly Lautaro Martinez, but that might  be at the 60th minute mark as they, as they say in Argentina, put all the meat on the grill.

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Penalty saved!

Szczesny denies it! A strong palm on the ball and pushes it out for a corner kick! What a moment! 

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Penalty to Argentina!

Oh my! It's a penalty for Argentina! Messi is hit in the face by Szczesny after heading the ball! VAR reviews it, and the ref gives it! It felt very harsh.

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Almost an olimpico!

Di Maria almost finds the net straight from a corner, curling in a fine ball that Szczesny tips over the bar! Nearly caught him off guard! The goalkeeper tips it over as he falls into his own goal, and he then looks to the corner flag to give thumbs up to  Di Maria, who is his teammate at Italian club Juventus.

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29' Good from Argentina

A really great look there for Argentina inside the box as it then falls to Acuna who blasts from outside the box, but the ball flies by the right post. Argentina dominating the ball and the chances for now. We've already seen Angel Di Maria flip wins, and Julian Alvarez is also pushing out wide a bit with Messi staying higher.

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Two chances for Argentina

Two looks on goal for Argentina with Messi winning a corner with a power shot at the front post that is saved well by Szczesny. He was never likely to score from there as the angle was always favoring the Polish as the Juve shotstopper shifted over and covered the angle perfectly well.

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Fairly open to start

It's a fun game in the early stages with both teams having decent time to create in attack. Argentina are seeing more of the ball in the early moments and but the young guys look a tad nervous as Enzo Fernandez hits a long ball right into a Poland player, only to see it rebound right back to him.

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Underway!

The match has begun! Poland with their white shirt and red shorts, while Argentina have their purple kits.

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10 minutes to go until kickoff

Just 10 minutes until this game begins as the tension increases. Mexico and Saudi Arabia to play at the same time. If both end in draws, it will be Poland and Argentina going through! This is a tricky one though as Poland are physical and experienced, but Argentina hope their experience and youth can combine to give them enough chances to move on to the last 16.

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Scenarios

  • Poland: Can win the group and qualify for the round of 16 with a victory over Argentina. Can also qualify for the round of 16 with a draw but would only win the group in that case if Saudi Arabia draws or loses to Mexico.
  • Argentina: Can qualify for the round of 16 with a win over Poland. Can also qualify for the round of 16 with a draw and a Saudi Arabia draw or loss by fewer than three goals to Mexico. Can win the group with a victory and a Saudi Arabia draw or loss.
  • Saudi Arabia: Can qualify for the round of 16 with a win over Mexico. Can also qualify with a draw and a loss by Argentina or a loss and Argentina losing by one more goal. (i.e. Saudi Arabia loses 1-0 and Argentina loses 2-0 would see Saudi Arabia advance
  • Mexico: Can qualify for the round of 16 with a win and a Poland victory over Argentina. Can also qualify by winning and making up the goal difference advantage on Poland/Argentina while Argentina defeats or draws Poland. 
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Argentina surprises

A bit surprised to see Julian Alvarez starting for Lautaro Martinez, but that's a big goal and a huge spot for the young Man City star. Enzo Fernandez slides into the midfield after his goal against Mexico, providing some juice to an area of the pitch that really needed it. Will be interesting to see how deep he and Rodrigo de Paul sit in the middle. 

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Team news: Argentina and Poland

The starting XI for Argentina: Martinez; Acuna, Otamendi, Comero, Molina; Enzo Fernandez, Rodrigo de Paul; Mac Allister, Messi, Di Maria; Alvarez. 

The starting XI for Poland: Szczesny; Cash, Glik, Kiwior, Bereszynski; Zielinski, Bielik, Grchowiak, Frankowski; Swiderski, Lewandowski.

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Poland storylines

They are on the right path and have proven difficult to break down, not conceding a goal in the tournament so far, joining Brazil and Morocco. Wojiech Szczesny has been brilliant at goalkeeper. Getting a goal from Robert Lewandowski will only help his confidence after scoring what was his first goal ever at a World Cup. They have the players to get in behind of the Argentine backline, but it will all depend on the service. They should feel confident in being able to get through.

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Argentina storylines

Coach Lionel Scaloni has already hinted at repeating the team that started against Mexico, but is that really the best choice? The team was quite slow and predictable and outplayed, at times, in the first hour. It seems like he would be better off repeating the team from the opening game that created plenty but just couldn't finish. A name to watch, however, is Enzo Fernandez, who dazzled off the bench against Mexico, getting the second goal and his first for the team. He's a natural fit to slide into the midfield due to the struggles of others such as Leandro Paredes and Guido Rodriguez.

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How to watch and odds

  • Date: Wednesday, Nov. 30 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • Location: Stadium 974 -- Doha, Qatar
  • TV: Fox and Universo | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Odds: Poland +700; Draw +310; Argentina -225 (via Caesars Sportsbook) 
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Welcome in!

Welcome to the CBS Sports live blog of the World Cup! I'm Roger Gonzalez, and I'll be providing updates on today's big showdown between Poland and Argentina. The top two teams in the Group C standings square off with nothing decided. Poland have four points and sit atop the group, Argentina follow with three, Saudi Arabia are third with three and Mexico are in the cellar with one. Poland are in with a draw or win, while they can even get through with a loss if things play  out right. Argentina are through  with a win, while a draw would also see them potentially go through. 

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