Two of the world’s most intimidating strikers, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, 35, and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, 34, will meet for a place in the knockout stages of the World Cup on Wednesday.
Messi has scored twice in Argentina’s extraordinary start to the campaign, which suffered one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history at the hands of Saudi Arabia, before staging a euphoric victory over Mexico.
The Argentine genius, whose national team is one of the favorites of the tournament, is playing his fifth and final campaign, which means it is his last chance to match Diego Maradona and lift the trophy for his long-awaited country.
“We had to calm everyone to be able to approach the Poland game in a different way,” Messi said after the extraordinary pressure surrounding the match with Mexico.
Argentina is second in Group C with three points, one less than the Poles, so they must win to secure the pass and keep alive the dream of a third world title.
A draw will also be enough for the South Americans if Mexico and Saudi Arabia also finish even.
Like Messi, Lewandowski is also the top scorer in the history of his country and is in what may be his last call up in a World Cup. He is in top form with Messi’s former club, Barcelona, and has also had a hectic start in Qatar.
Lewandowski missed a penalty in Poland’s first draw with Mexico before scoring his first World Cup goal in a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
That made him cry.
“The older I get, the more excited I get and I’m aware that it could be my last World Cup,” Lewandowski said.
Poland, which has not made it past the group stage since 1986, will qualify with a win or a draw against Argentina.