Lionel Messi admitted Argentina were anticipating a physical and equally difficult match against Australia after advancing to the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Argentina secured a 2-1 win over the Socceroos but the third-ranked nation was pushed until the very end of the last 16 contest.
Despite taking a two-goal lead courtesy of goals from Messi and Julian Alvarez, Australia did not go down without a fight, and had the momentum after Craig Goodwin's deflected half-volley halved the deficit on 77 minutes.
However, it was not to be for Australia, who experienced its most successful FIFA World Cup campaign, as the Albiceleste now set up a fascinating tie with the Netherlands with a spot in the semi-final up for grabs.
Speaking in the post-game press conference after being named the Player of the Match, Messi was delighted to progress and credited Australia for making it a tough encounter.
“I’m very happy for taking another step forward, achieving another objective,” he said via a translator, as he marked his 1000th career appearance with his ninth overall goal at the FIFA World Cup and third in this year's iteration.
“It was a very strong and difficult match. We knew it was going to be this way.
“We had played very recently, we didn’t have much time to rest up and we were concerned as we knew it was going to be a very physical match and they were very strong.
“Luckily we found the goal and we went one goal ahead and then with two goals ahead it was easier for us.
“But then we had a setback with the Australian goal, but that’s the World Cup for you. The matches are always difficult and what’s important is that you win.”