Despite Lionel Messi’s earlier penalty miss, Argentina secured their last-16 spot with a 2-0 victory over Poland in the second half, thanks to goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez.
Despite defeat, along with Mexico’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia, the Poles snatched second place by virtue of a better goal difference than El Tri.
Although Wojciech Szczesny brilliantly saved Messi’s first-half penalty, Argentina advanced from the group stage for the 13th time in 14 attempts thanks to Mac Allister and Alvarez goals after the break.
However, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s late goal against Mexico, Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stage on the basis of superior goal difference, reaching the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.
Argentina dominated the first half, with Messi drawing smart reflexes from Szczesny and Marcos Acuna drilling marginally wide from 20 yards, while Poland provided little opposition.
La Albiceleste were awarded a penalty six minutes before halftime after Szczesny was adjudged to have fouled Messi, but Szczesny, who had saved a penalty against Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al Dawsari on Saturday, made amends with a spectacular save.
Within a minute of the restart, Scaloni’s team broke through, with Mac Allister arriving to steer Nahuel Molina’s cross into the far corner.
At the other end, Kamil Glik headed wide for Poland before Argentina doubled their lead in the 67th minute, when Enzo Fernandez found Alvarez, who turned and fired into the top corner.