‘Messi makes everything easier’ – Emiliano Martinez hails Argentina’s difference maker

Emiliano Martinez praised Lionel Messi for “making everything easier” after the striker kicked off Argentina’s World Cup with a goal and an assist against Mexico.

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

Messi turned the tide with a long-range strike after 64 minutes in a hitherto poor-quality game, before assisting Enzo Fernandez for his side’s double.

That goal was Messi’s fourth World Cup goal from outside the box – only former Brazilian striker Rivellino (five) can do better than that record since such records were first set in 1966.

He also scored in six consecutive caps for Argentina, his longest ever scoring streak in international football, and Martinez praised his colleague.

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

“But when you have Messi in your squad, everything is always easier. We never had any doubts about ourselves, but these were difficult days. We showed that we are here to win.”

Argentina 2-0 Mexico

Argentina were at the end of one of the competition’s all-time biggest shocks when they lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening match.

After recovering with the victory against Mexico, Argentina will guarantee passage if they beat Poland on Wednesday, while even a draw could suffice.

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

“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 victory for all the fans, both for those who have come this far and for those who follow us from home.”

The game at Lusail Stadium was watched by 88,966 spectators, making it the most-watched men’s World Cup game since the 1994 final at California’s Rose Bowl (94,194).

Argentina kept a clean sheet for the first time in seven World Cup matches, following a stalemate with the Netherlands in the 2014 semi-finals in what was a close match until Messi’s goal.

While aware of what a great victory it was for his side, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni asked for some perspective before taking on leaders Poland.

“You have to have some sense, it’s just a football match,” he said. “I got a text from my brother saying he was crying and it can’t be like that.

“It’s like it’s more than a football match. I don’t agree with that. The players have to understand that it’s a football match. If not, it will be like this in every match.

“It’s hard to make people understand that the sun will rise tomorrow, whether you win or lose. The important thing is how you do things.”

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