Lionel Messi relief as Argentina 'luckily' overcome Mexico

Lionel Messi admits Argentina faced a difficult World Cup opponent in Mexico on Saturday but was delighted to claim all three points after an opening day loss to Saudi Arabia.

An ill-tempered game needed someone to lift it and as so often, Messi stepped forward. In his fifth and surely final World Cup, the Paris St Germain superstar set his team on the path to a crucial victory with a well-taken goal in the 64th minute.

Messi was encouraged by what he saw but recognised that the job is not done, with a victory over Poland needed to guarantee a last-16 place.

"We didn't expect (the defeat to Saudi Arabia), and today felt very long," Messi said via an interpreter.

"We felt eager to turn the situation around. Luckily we won and that was a weight off our shoulders, and we have the peace of mind that it is all down to us again.

"I think the first half was difficult due to the situation and our need to win, we couldn't find spaces, we weren't moving the ball from side to side, but that was normal given our situation.

"In the second half we started playing our game, and started doing what we stand for. Long possession, finding space between the lines, then the goal changed the game."

Lusail Stadium was rocking with a sense of occasion, even if for the most part the quality of football on the pitch was lacking.

The official attendance of 88,966 was the highest in a World Cup finals match since the 1994 final in the United States between Brazil and Italy, when 94,194 packed into the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

Unlike that match 28 years ago, at least this one featured two excellent goals. The first was vintage Messi - the 35-year-old finding a rare pocket of space just outside the area and picking his spot low to Guillermo Ochoa's left.

Enzo Fernandez curled home the second with three minutes to go to kill off the Mexican challenge, but coach Lionel Scaloni said it was vital his team dealt in a balanced way with the highs and lows they had experienced so far.

"The feeling you are playing something more than a football match, I don't share this opinion," Scaloni said.

"I do think the feeling of joy is there. Maybe you think I am crazy. We will enjoy it in the dressing room tonight, but tomorrow, that's it, we start again.

"It was the same when we won the Copa America - the happiness lasts only 10 minutes. We need to find that emotional balance when we win, and when we lose."

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