Soccer fans were treated to a World Cup rematch in Beijing, China, as Argentina and Australia clashed in an international friendly on Thursday. A packed-out Workers’ Stadium attended the match in China, with Lionel Messi leading his side out in his first appearance since switching European soccer for life in the MLS with Inter Miami. However, you can catch up on all the action from the match and the biggest stories from a showdown between the sides below.
Despite the match coming at the end of a grueling European season, Argentina fielded a strong line-up for the first of their two final fixtures of the 2022-23 season. Emiliano Martinez started in goal, with the backline involving Marcos Acuna, Cristian Romero, and Nicolas Otamendi.
Angel Di Maria was handed a start despite the unknown questions surrounding his future, with Nicolas Gonzalez, Rodrigo De Paul, and Enzo Fernandez also playing in the midfield areas. Alexis Mac Allister played the number ten role in his first start since the announcement of his switch to Liverpool, with Lionel Messi leading the line.
Australia also fielded a strong team for the friendly, with Matt Ryan, Harry Souttar, and Kye Rowles taking up positions in goal and central defender positions, respectively. Keanu Baccus and Aiden O’Neill played in the middle of the park, with Australia opting to play two central strikers in the forms of Jamie Maclaren and Mitchell Duke. Online sports betting platforms had a field day covering this exciting match.
There was clearly a lot less hanging in the balance when the nations clashed on Thursday, but there certainly would have been a score to settle from an Australian perspective, as they were beaten in dramatic fashion in the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup. However, their hopes of getting off to a quick start were quickly dashed inside the opening two minutes, as Lionel Messi netted the fastest goal of his career.
The Argentinean cut in from the left-hand corner of the pitch before curling his effort past Ryan in the Aussie goal. However, Argentina was able to keep their rivals at arm's length for the majority of the match, as it played out a similar pattern to what many would have expected for an international friendly.
But, the world champions deservedly netted their second goal in the second half, as German Pezzella came from off the bench to settle the match in a calm fashion. Australia did create chances in the match, with the best of those falling to Mitch Duke in the first half. However, he saw his effort saved by Martinez on the outside of the post.
It was a comfortable evening for the reigning world champions, as they dominated the possession, and registered eleven shots compared to seven recorded by Australia. However, there was little goal-mouth drama to get the fans off their feet in Beijing, with the sides recording 18 shots on target between them in the 90 minutes.
There certainly will be positives from Australia’s performances on the field over the last 12 months, as they achieved their joint-best finish at the World Cup despite being eliminated by Argentina in the round of 16. All focus will now switch to the challenges coming toward the year's end and beginning of 2024. Australia plays their final international friendly of the calendar year in October, as they face another huge test when they travel to Wembley to take on Gareth Southgate’s England.
However, all attention will then switch to the AFC Asian Cup, as Australia get their campaign off on January 13 against India. They will be among the favourites with the leading sportsbooks to go deep in that competition, and a place at the top of the group would be assured if they are able to claim wins against Syria and Uzbekistan in matchdays two and three, respectively.
It has been a historic 12 months for Argentina, and the nation is still celebrating its historic World Cup success in Qatar. Their win over Australia was their third match since lifting the prestigious honour, and they have landed three straight wins without conceding a goal. Australia certainly put up more of a fight than both Panama and Curacao, with the world champions scoring nine goals across those two internationals.
Argentina will close its international calendar for the 2022-23 season on June 19, as they take on Indonesia. However, all attention after that will focus on their preparations for the Copa America in 2024.
It was a thrilling international fixture in Beijing, as Chinese fans were able to get a close-up view of some of the best footballing stars on the planet. However, the match wasn’t as much of a contest as the previous encounter between the two at the World Cup. But, both nations would have taken positives from their displays, with their attentions now switching to major tournaments that will get underway in 2024.
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