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Heat is on El Tri after Lionel Messi leads Argentina to World Cup win over Mexico

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Mexico's Alexis Vega and Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi jump for the ball
Mexico’s Alexis Vega, left, and Argentina’s Nicolas Otamendi jump for the ball during their World Cup Group C match at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Saturday.
(Jorge Saenz / Associated Press)

Lionel Messi scored one goal and helped set up another as Argentina survived its must-win match, defeating Mexico 2-0 in a World Cup showdown.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Pressure mounts on Tata Martino after Mexico loss

Mexico didn’t necessarily sit back in a defensive formation the entire match, but frustrated fans are criticizing the team’s overall passive approach. Coach Tata Martino, who many noted leading up to the match is from Argentina, seemed content to play for a draw.

Martino seemed to be counting on Chucky Lozano to generate the majority of Mexico’s attack, but too often he found himself alone in transition surrounded by multiple Argentina players and no chance to create a shot on goal.

Boxer Canelo Álvarez was one of hundreds of prominent El Tri fans to vent on Twitter.

Argentina was under the most pressure entering the match because a loss would have meant elimination from the World Cup following its stunning loss to Saudi Arabia in the opener.

Lionel Messi lifted a massive weight off his teammates with his first goal and was jubilant postgame.

“It is great. We needed this result. We needed this euphoria,” Messi said via a translator on FS1.

Mexico remains scoreless at the World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Poland and a 2-0 loss to Argentina.

El Tri now needs help to advance.

If Mexico beats Saudi Arabia and Poland beats Argentina, Mexico advances.

If Argentina wins, then goal differential becomes a factor and Mexico needs a mix of multiple goals scored and Argentina holding Poland scoreless.

If El Tri cannot get enough assistance or simply can’t score, it will mark the first time Mexico has failed to get out of the group stage since 1978.

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Enzo Fernández gives Argentina a 2-0 lead

Mexico’s defensive-oriented tactical plan has fallen apart as El Tri has tried to push more toward goal but struggled to retain possession.

Argentina has continuously prodded for pockets in the defense.

With heavy attention on Messi, he passed the ball from the left sideline to Enzo Fernández, who weaved through light traffic and slammed the ball into the back of the net to give Argentina a commanding 2-0 lead in the 87th minute.

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Memo Ochoa blocks Lionel Messi endline shot

Argentina, which faced elimination if it lost to Mexico, continues to push for another goal.

The team moved the ball up the right side in transition, and Lionel Messi tried to stop the ball on the endline on the left side of goal.

Memo Ochoa argued the ball was out of bounds, but the official didn’t blow a whistle and Messi took a hard shot at goal. Ochoa blocked it to keep the match 1-0 Argentina in the 77th minute.

Mexico is still working through adjustments after falling behind. El Tri’s defensive approach to protect a scoreless draw worked early, but can the team be more aggressive in the final 10 minutes of the match?

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Lionel Messi delivers goal in 64th minute

Ángel Di María set up Lionel Messi in space at the top of box. With just one touch, Messi turned and made the most of a rare look at goal.

He pushed the ball to the right of Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa and gave Argentina a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute.

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Fans in Mexico City watch World Cup

Two woman stand outside near a building and smile.
Sasha Pisterman, 35, right, stands with her friend Miriam Burman, 36, ahead of the Mexico-Argentina match.
(Leila Miller / Los Angeles Times)

In Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood, locals bought jerseys last minute and headed to bars offering free shots of tequila if Mexico scores.

Walking along a tree-lined street, Sasha Pisterman, 35, who was visiting a friend in Mexico City from Los Angeles, had decided to wear her Argentine jersey despite the jeers it could provoke. Her parents are from Buenos Aires and her father has already told her that if Argentina makes it to the finals the family will fly to Qatar.

“People are looking at me a little but I feel fine,” she said.

A few yards away, a Mexican couple stopped by a cart selling Mexican flags and soccer jerseys.

Adrian Zavaleta, 30, said that he thought Mexico would emerge victorious, pointing to how Argentina had lost its first World Cup game against Saudi Arabia.

“My idol is Messi,” he said. “I know Messi is the best in the world but in this case I’ll be on the side of my country.”

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Lionel Messi’s free kick sails high and off target

A Mexico foul set up a free kick just north of the box, a prime position for Argentina striker Lionel Messi.

Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa was in the right position and jumped to punch the ball away, but there was no need because the ball sailed high over the bar.

Messi, who has never won a World Cup for Argentina and has been haunted by his inability to deliver on the international stage for his country, looked immensely frustrated after watching the ball fly harmlessly out of bounds.

The score remains 0-0 in the 52nd minute.

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Chucky Lozano active early in the second half

Chucky Lozano has pushed the tempo early in the second half, but the first run was easily broken up by Argentina and on the second run, Alexis Vega’s pass to Lozano was behind him.

Score remains 0-0 in the 47th minute.

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Second half kicks off

Will Mexico find a way to break through with a goal?

Will Argentina sharpen its attack and get the ball to Lionel Messi?

We will soon find out, with the second half now underway on FS1, Telemundo and Peacock.

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Argentina, Mexico scoreless at halftime

Argentina got its best looks at goal late in the first half.

César Montes slid to turn away a Lionel Messi shot during a buildup on the left side of the box in the 50th minute.

Messi took the ensuing corner, but the refs blew the first half whistle and the teams are scoreless as they take a break.

Argentina won the battle of possession 66% to 34%, but Mexico had three shots, including one on goal. Argentina had one shot and it was not on goal.

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Emiliano Martínez dives to thwart Alexis Vega free kick

In the 45th minute, Alexis Vega’s free kick was on target to the right of goal, but it didn’t have enough power and was turned away by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.

Score remains 0-0.

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Mexico captain Andrés Guardado subs off late in first half

In a bit of a surprise, Mexico captain Andrés Guardado was replaced on the pitch by Erick Gutierrez in the 41st minute. The timing doesn’t suggest a tactical decision and more likely a health issue.

The switch came shortly after an Argentina short corner that it volleyed into the box, but the header sailed wide right at the net.

The score remains 0-0.

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Memo Ochoa punches away Lionel Messi’s free kick

In the 33rd minute, a Mexico foul set up Argentina’s best look at goal so far this match.

Lionel Messi set up just inside the right corner and shot high and toward the center of the goal.

Memo Ochoa punched the ball straight in the air. The 37-year-old goalkeeper then ran forward to vie for the rebound and Argentina was called for a foul during the ensuing tussle.

Ochoa was on the ground for a bit and appeared to be in pain, but he popped back up to put the ball back in play.

Score remains 0-0 through 35 minutes.

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Argentina shuts down elaborate Mexico set piece

Chucky Lozano was tackled in transition and earned a free kick in the 20th minute.

Mexico attempted an elaborate set piece, faking the first touch and having the second player kick to the right for a pop-up kick into the box. But Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez was able to grab the ball easily in traffic.

Score remains 0-0 through 26 minutes, with star Lionel Messi quiet so far for Argentina.

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Mexico defense holding up well early

Argentina is winning the possession battle through 17 minutes, 75% to 25%, but Mexico’s defense has consistently turned Argentina away and denied meaningful looks at goal.

El Tri has also pounced on transition opportunities and has the only shot of the match so far.

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Mexico slightly off target on early set piece

In the 10th minute, César Montes got a touch on a free kick, but it sailed wide right.

Argentina was vulnerable and a bit behind on the set piece.

The score remains 0-0 with a low hum in the stadium as fans of both countries chant.

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And we’re off ...

The lineups are set and we’re off.

First controversy was Telemundo choosing not to broadcast the anthems for both teams.

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‘He always shows up.’ How Memo Ochoa became Mexico’s consistent World Cup hero

Mexico's goalkeeper Memo Ochoa saves a penalty kick from Poland's Robert Lewandowski
Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa saves a penalty kick from Poland’s Robert Lewandowski during a World Cup Group C match at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.
(Themba Hadebe / Associated Press)

DOHA, Qatar — If someone were to put together a highlight reel of Mexico’s performances in the last three World Cups, it would include a lot of footage of goalkeeper Memo Ochoa.

There he was in 2014, making six saves — including two on close-in headers from Neymar and Thiago Silva — in a scoreless draw with Brazil. There he was in 2018, standing on his head in Russia to make nine saves against defending champion Germany in a 1-0 win. And finally, there he was Tuesday in Qatar, making a diving stop on Robert Lewandowski’s second-half penalty kick to earn Mexico a point in a scoreless draw with Poland.

“When we need Memo, he always shows up,” defender Jorge Sanchez said.

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Mexico, Argentina fans descend on Lusail Iconic Stadium

Mexico’s World Cup opener against Poland felt like a home match, with El Tri fans taking over the stadium.

Times en Español reporters Eduard Cauich and Jed El Reda have found rowdy supporters of Argentina and Mexico headed into Lusail Iconic Stadium, suggesting the volume will be more evenly matched in support of the teams.

Mexico fans were fired up to be in Qatar before the first match, as you can see in this video produced by Cauich:

El Reda captured these Argentina fans invoking national hero Diego Maradona ahead of the Mexico match today.

Cauich and El Reda found Mexico fans heading to today’s match. In this interview, Daniel González Pérez, of Veracruz, Mexico, arrived at the stadium with a doll named Lele to support Mexico. He started the tradition during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

And this couple came from Tamaulipas, Mexico, to support El Tri.

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‘Memo’s save gave us life’: How Mexico’s Ochoa shut out Robert Lewandowski and Poland

DOHA, Qatar — When Robert Lewandowski retires, he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest players of his generation, a seven-time Bundesliga scoring champion and two-time FIFA world player of the year.

He’ll also be remembered for Tuesday.

If Memo Ochoa ever retires, which is by no means certain, he’ll be remembered as a steady club player who won a league championship in his first season as a starter and hasn’t done it again.

He’ll also be remembered for Tuesday.

With a World Cup game hanging in the balance, Ochoa rose to the occasion and Lewandowski did not, the Mexican goalkeeper making a spectacular save on the Polish captain’s penalty shot to preserve a 0-0 draw before a festive and overwhelmingly pro-Mexico crowd of 39,369 at Doha’s Stadium 974.

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