Argentina have won Group C with a 2-0 victory over Poland at a lively Stadium 974, but the European side still progress as runners-up on goal difference.
Lionel Messi missed a first half penalty, but Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister finally broke the deadlock a minute after the restart and Julian Alvarez, of Manchester City, added a superb second.
Lionel Scaloni’s side advance to the last 16 as the group winners and will now prepare to face Australia, the runners-up of Group D, on Saturday at 7pm (GMT).
Poland take second place in the group ahead of Mexico after Saudi Arabia scored late on in the other match in the group. It was all one-way traffic with a desperate Argentina piling on the pressure and it was a particularly busy opening 45 minutes for Poland’s shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny.
The Juventus goalkeeper denied frontman Julian Alvarez, but it paled in significance compared to his next save.
After a lengthy VAR review, a controversial penalty was awarded to Argentina, with Szczesny adjudged to have fouled Messi. But the Poland no.1 kept out the 35-year-old’s spot-kick with an excellent one-handed stop.
The relief was palpable inside a predominantly Argentina-supporting Stadium 974 when Mac Allister made the breakthrough as he slotted home Nahuel Molina’s cross.
Alvarez put the game to bed with a stunning finish, holding off Aston Villa’s Matty Cash before turning and smashing the ball past a helpless Szczesny.