Wojciech Szczesny made a bet with Lionel Messi during Poland's World Cup clash against Argentina that the referee would not award a penalty, the goalkeeper has revealed.

The Juventus stopper denied Messi from the spot in the first half of Poland's 2-0 defeat in Group C following a controversial decision, where Danny Makkelie pointed to the spot after watching the incident following VAR advice.

Szczesny was among those convinced that it should not have been a penalty, even going as far as to make a bet with Messi during the delay of the game – though he has no intention of paying up.

"We spoke before the penalty. I told him I can bet him €100 that he [the referee] wasn't going to give it. So, I've lost a bet against Messi," he said after the match.

"I don't know if that's allowed at the World Cup and I'm probably going to get banned for it but I don't care right now. And I'm not going to pay him either! He doesn't care about €100, come on."

Szczesny's denial of Messi from the spot saw the Polish stopper become only the third goalkeeper to save two penalties at a single World Cup tournament, excluding shoot-outs, having kept out Saudi Arabia's Salem Al Dawsari in the previous round of fixtures.

His celebrations were muted, however, due to the tight contest in Group C to advance to the knockout stage – with Poland only advancing ahead of Mexico on goal difference.

"Yeah it was nice, I didn't know at the time it was going to help us get through so I tried not to celebrate," he added.

"But I've had some bad luck at the big tournaments so far, the World Cup four years ago was awful for me and I owed this much to the team and in the last two games I managed to help them a little bit."

Poland will face defending champions France at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday in the nation's first appearance in the knockout stage since 1986.

Czeslaw Michniewicz defended Robert Lewandowski's display after Poland inched into the World Cup's last 16 despite losing to Argentina in Wednesday's dramatic Group C finale.

Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina recovered from Lionel Messi's first-half penalty miss to top Group C, leaving Poland glancing nervously at Mexico's fixture against Saudi Arabia.

Poland were set to beat Mexico to second place due to their disciplinary record for much of the second half, but Saudi Arabia's late consolation in a 2-1 defeat ensured El Tri exited the tournament on goal difference.

Despite Poland advancing from their World Cup group for the first time since 1986, Lewandowski was criticised after failing to record a single shot in the match, but Michniewicz believes he was hamstrung by a lack of service.

"He was very much involved and committed, I'm not attacking anyone from our team, but we didn't help him," Michniewicz said.

"If our team would have had the higher percentage of possession, if Messi played with us and Robert with them, I'm convinced Robert scores five.

"Robert needs conditions, he needs to be assisted, and he was acting in our half. There were so many players covering him. 

"He's a great player and there were several one on ones. Messi didn't score, did he? That's all. 

"I think we're expecting Robert to score. He wanted to but we didn't have the opportunity for that."

Before Salem Al Dawsari reduced the arrears for Saudi Arabia, Poland held a narrow disciplinary advantage over Mexico – picking up five yellow cards across their group games to El Tri's seven.

Asked whether he told his team to concentrate on avoiding bookings late on, Michniewicz added: "I said to avoid stupid cards. 

"We were also discussing it on the bench, we were afraid one of the players would get a card and then we wouldn't go through. 

"Cards from the bench weren't going to count, we were told, but we were doing everything possible to avoid provocation."

While Poland failed to record a shot on target during a meek performance, Michniewicz was visibly irked by criticism of his side, choosing to relish their qualification after failed group-stage campaigns in 2002, 2006 and 2018.

"We got promoted after so many years, we played this difficult group. Let's enjoy. We still have until Sunday to criticise," he said. "Were you watching the match? What can I say? We've lost, it wasn't nice football, but it's bittersweet."

Eager to call time on his media duties, Michniewicz added: "It's really late, the prime minister is calling and I can't answer!"

Poland will now face world champions France for a quarter-final spot at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday, while Argentina will take on Australia on Saturday.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is unimpressed by the quick turnaround between Wednesday's 2-0 win over Poland and their World Cup last-16 date with Australia.

La Albiceleste won 2-0 at Stadium 974 to top Group E and secure progression to the next round, an outcome that appeared in real doubt after their defeat to Saudi Arabia on matchday one.

Lionel Messi saw a penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny in the first half, but goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez after the break deservedly put Argentina into the last 16.

Awaiting them are Australia, who earlier in the day beat Denmark to somewhat surprisingly reach the knockout stages.

Argentina will be firm favourites, but Scaloni is annoyed by what he feels is a quick turnaround until the game, which is scheduled for Saturday's late kick-off slot.

"Today we are happy but not euphoric, because I think it's crazy we are playing in just over two days," he told reporters after the game.

"I can't really understand this. It's almost 1am, tomorrow is Thursday. We could have had more rest. 

"I want to make it clear that it doesn't seem right to me that we have just two and a half days of rest after being first in the group. These conditions aren't great."

Nevertheless, many associated with Argentina will just be happy they made it as far as the second round after that shock loss to Saudi Arabia.

Argentina needed to beat Poland to take matters into their own hands, and Scaloni was pleased with how his team managed the expectation.

"We are satisfied with the game we played, it was not easy and neither was the context around the game," he added.

"We had to play and win against a team that had two results in mind. I think we interpreted it correctly, the players played a very good game and we are happy."

Similarly, most will expect Argentina to cruise past the Socceroos at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, but Scaloni is keen to avoid that kind of arrogance.

"We played a good game and we have to continue. We are not candidates or favourites, we are still the same," he continued. 

"We are a difficult team and we are going to fight. It is totally wrong to think that we are going to be champions by winning today.

,"All teams are very tough, like I always said, Saudi Arabia is a great team. Football is football. 

"You can play well and lose, that's the feeling I had after Saudi Arabia. Maybe we didn't play well but we deserved to win.

"All matches are tough and now, if you think the Australia match will be easy, you are wrong. They have shown they are tough. When you play in a World Cup and represent your country, you grow."

Tata Martino accepted responsibility for Mexico's "huge failure" at the World Cup and confirmed his contract had now expired with little prospect of him returning to the role.

Martino has been a largely unpopular El Tri coach, and his standing was not helped by Wednesday's elimination in the group stage at Qatar 2022.

Mexico came agonisingly close to making the last 16 at an eighth straight World Cup before they were instead knocked out on goal difference behind Poland in Group C.

After second-half goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez against Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium, Mexico were tied with Poland on points, goal difference and goals scored, having drawn their head-to-head encounter.

With the full-time whistle having blown in Poland's match against Argentina, Mexico were heading out due to an inferior fair play record when Salem Al Dawsari pulled one back for Saudi Arabia in stoppage time.

Ultimately, Martino's men had left it too late to stage a recovery, and plenty of the ire was directed at the coach, whose name had been jeered ahead of kick-off.

Told of his status as a "villain" in Mexico, Martino replied: "I can't tell you anything abut people's opinions.

"I am the main [person] responsible for the frustrations we have. I'm responsible and it's a source of great sadness.

"I assume all the responsibility of this huge failure. It's been eight World Cups this hasn't happened."

Martino's contract was to expire after the World Cup, and he continued: "I have no reasons at the moment to think the future should be different. The contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do."

Chavez was asked for his opinion later in the news conference and added: "We are the players, we assume full responsibility.

"I would say in the second match [against Argentina] we didn't fully understand what he [Martino] wanted to see on the pitch.

"We defended well for some time but didn't create enough chances."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard accepted his side did not deserve to advance with their performance against Mexico.

However, he sought instead to focus on their campaign as a whole – including the shock opening win over Argentina.

"Congratulations to the players. We did our best," he said. "Today it was more difficult for us, but we don't have to forget what we did together. I will always protect them. I'm proud of their World Cup."

Lionel Messi saluted Argentina's character and determination, insisting they "strengthened" following his penalty miss to secure their crucial 2-0 World Cup win over Poland.

Lionel Scaloni's side booked their place in the last 16, bouncing back from Wojciech Szczesny saving Messi's spot-kick with second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez sending them through as Group C winners.

La Albiceleste, who suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening match, have now reached the World Cup knockout stages for the 13th time in 14 appearances, and will play Group D runners-up Australia on Sunday.

"The team came out strengthened after that mistake of mine," said Messi, who surpassed Diego Maradona in playing the most World Cup games for Argentina (22). 

"We knew that once the first goal went in it was going to change the game. The previous game gave us a lot of peace of mind and we went out on the pitch thinking we should win.

"The game with Australia is going to be very difficult. Anyone beats anyone, everything is very even. We have to prepare for the game in the best way we always do.

"We must be calm and go game by game. Now, another World Cup starts, and hopefully we can continue to maintain what we did today."

Nicolas Otamendi concurred: "This is a team that strengthens under pressure, it was demonstrated. Today we had a final, and we never lost focus."

While Rodrigo De Paul hailed the "personality" demonstrated by the squad, Mac Allister believes the performance will boost their belief heading into the knockout stages.

"I think today was a great team game, and that gives us a lot of confidence for what's coming," he said.

"It was a convincing performance. We look for the goal at all times. I think we went back to being the team we used to be. We handled the ball more, we had peace of mind, and we didn't despair. We played well collectively. It fills us with confidence."

Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez helped Argentina secure their last-16 place with a 2-0 victory over Poland, despite Lionel Messi’s earlier penalty miss at Stadium 974.

La Albiceleste topped Group C while despite defeat, along with Mexico's 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia, the Poles snatched second place by virtue of a superior goal difference to El Tri.

Although Wojciech Szczesny brilliantly saved Messi’s first-half spot-kick, Mac Allister and Alvarez struck after the break as Argentina advanced from the group phase for the 13th time in 14 attempts.

However, due to Saudi Arabia's late goal against Mexico, Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stage courtesy of superior goal difference, progressing to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

Lionel Messi is set to break Diego Maradona's record of the most World Cup appearances for Argentina after being named in their starting XI against Poland.

The late, great Maradona played 21 games at World Cup tournaments and Wednesday's match at Stadium 974 will be Messi's 22nd on this stage.

But Messi will be hoping that is not the only way he can eclipse Maradona at the 2022 World Cup.

Argentina find themselves in a tricky position heading into the Group C encounter, with elimination a real possibility.

If La Albiceleste lose, they will be knocked out, while a draw may not be enough to take them through to the last 16 either.

Although regarded by many as the greatest player ever, Messi's legacy will forever be tinged by World Cup failure if he does not lift the trophy Maradona inspired his nation to in 1986.

On the other hand, success in Qatar would arguably see Messi conquer the final frontier of the "GOAT" debate.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made subtle changes elsewhere in his starting XI, with Julian Alvarez coming in for Lautaro Martinez up top, while Lisandro Martinez was replaced at centre-back by the fit-again Cristian Romero.

Enzo Fernandez, scorer of a stunning clincher in the 2-0 win over Mexico last time out, was named among the midfielders, while Scaloni swapped out Gonzalo Montiel at right-back for Nahuel Molina.

Argentina will be looking to progress to the knockout stages for a 13th time in their last 14 World Cup appearances, with their only group stage elimination during this period coming in 2002.

Meanwhile, Messi is only two short of Gabriel Batistuta's record of the most World Cup goals scored for Argentina (10).

After just a pair of games each, it has already been an up and down World Cup for two of the best players on the planet.

Poland's Robert Lewandowski was the villain on matchday one as he saw a tame penalty saved in the 0-0 draw with Mexico, before redemption as he claimed his first ever World Cup goal in the 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Lionel Messi scored his penalty in Argentina's first game, though was unable to stop his team from suffering a humiliating 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, but then his exquisite strike set La Albiceleste on their way to a 2-0 win against Mexico.

These two superstars will surely be front and centre when they clash in their final game of Group C on Wednesday.

Victory for either will confirm their passage to the knockout stage, with a draw also good enough for the Poles.

A defeat would eliminate Argentina, with a draw leaving them sweating on the outcome of Saudi Arabia v Mexico.

History could be on their side, though, with their last meeting at a World Cup coming in 1978, where Argentina won 2-0 before going on to lift the trophy for the first time (Poland won their only other World Cup clash 3-2 in 1974).

 

Lionel Scaloni's men will have their work cut out though, with Poland having kept a clean sheet in each of their last three World Cup games, including both in Qatar so far despite facing 27 shots (nine on target).

Poland are looking to qualify from their World Cup group for the first time since the 1986 tournament under Antoni Piechniczek, and they last went unbeaten in all three matches in their first round group in 1982.

Following his match-winning performance against Mexico, Messi said: "Another World Cup started for us today... We can't give up now; we have finals from this point on and can't make a mistake."

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said after Lewandowski's maiden World Cup strike "one player will not win the match alone".

He could be right, but if ever there were a contest to prove whether he is, it might just be this one.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Poland – Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski (50) was the player with most goals scored among players in the top five European leagues in all competitions last season, ahead of Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema (44).

The Barcelona striker cut a frustrated figure against Mexico, but was key in their win against Saudi Arabia, grabbing a goal and an assist.

Lewandowski is the only Polish player to have attempted more than two shots so far (seven), while no team-mate has created more chances than his three, level with Piotr Zielinski.

Argentina – Lionel Messi

Despite people daring to suggest Messi's powers are waning, he remains his country's talisman.

The 35-year-old has scored in six successive appearances for Argentina in all competitions, his joint-longest scoring run for his national side (also six between November 2011 and September 2012), while he now has as many World Cup goals as Diego Maradona (eight), with only Gabriel Batistuta (10) netting more for Argentina at the tournament overall.

PREDICTION

Despite Poland leading the way in Group C, Opta make Argentina favourites for this one, with Scaloni's side having a 64.8 per cent chance of winning at Stadium 974.

Poland have just a 13.8 per cent chance of victory, but they will also be satisfied with a draw, which has a 21.4 per cent chance of occurring.

Defender Lisandro Martinez believes Argentina are a better side for having lost their World Cup opener to Saudi Arabia.

The Copa America winners were stunned 2-1 by the Saudis a week ago but rebounded well by beating Mexico 2-0 on Saturday, thanks largely to Lionel Messi's long-range strike that settled the nerves.

Argentina head into their final Group C game against Poland knowing only a victory will guarantee their progression, although a draw may be enough.

Martinez said: "I think a defeat is when you really learn and you learn things you were not aware of when you are winning and being successful. 

"That defeat means the squad is more prepared. That's the good side of defeats, you have to analyse and then take the positives.

"We know we have a big team, big players and have great potential but that doesn't just apply to Argentina. We have to believe in our qualities."

The Manchester United centre-half is aware, however, of the threat that Poland, and star striker Robert Lewandowski in particular, will pose.

He added: "They are a very tough opponent and have top players such as Lewandowski. We have to be well organised so they don’t hit us on the counter.

"Lewandowski moves so well, and is always trying to create goalscoring opportunities, we have be fully focused.

"It all comes down to details. We should not overload ourselves with too much pressure. We have been doing a good job of that and we need to keep working on it.

"We have to show the playing style that we are renown for."

Coach Lionel Scaloni said it should not be a surprise that Argentina have found qualification to the knockout phase so problematic.

"How many teams are competing here? Only three have qualified," he said. "Everyone else is fighting to go through.

"When I spoke beforehand about our group, I said it was going to be challenging and that everything was going to be up in the air until the last game. Even if we'd drawn one and won one, the last game was going to be key.

"Obviously, after the win against Mexico we are feeling better emotionally. We now feel we are on the right path."

Robert Lewandowski broke his World Cup duck on Saturday and explained his emotional celebration was due to the possibility of this being his last finals.

This is only Lewandowski's second World Cup with Poland, but he is now 34 years old and did not score a single goal at Russia 2018.

That barren run continued in the opening match against Mexico, in which the Barcelona forward saw a penalty saved.

But Lewandowski assisted Piotr Zielinski's strike against Saudi Arabia and grabbed the second himself in a vital 2-0 win to move Poland top of Group C.

The former Bayern Munich man was clearly overcome with emotion as he embraced his team-mates.

"The older I get, the more emotional I get," Lewandowski said. "I'm aware when it comes to the World Cup, it might be my last World Cup."

He added: "When you play for the national squad, you have to focus on the results, but some per cent of my identity also wanted me to have good statistics.

"I always wanted to score at the World Cup, and this dream came true."

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said of Lewandowski's emotion: "I was not surprised, because I know how deeply he lived the last match. The whole team supported him a lot.

"We are very happy together with him, just as we were very sad together with him after the penalty."

Michniewicz added "one player will not win the match alone", but that was an assessment Herve Renard disagreed with, as the Saudi Arabia coach attributed Poland's victory to Wojciech Szczesny.

A penalty save from Salem Al Dawsari at 1-0 kept Poland in front in a game Saudi Arabia controlled for long periods.

Despite the result, Renard is not giving up hope, saying: "We are still alive, so we'll play until the last second of our World Cup. If that's next time or another time, we won't give up."

Saudi Arabia are second in the pool, a point behind Poland, ahead of Argentina playing Mexico later on Saturday.

"I hope [the Saudi fans] won't give up," Renard said. "When you are fans, you need to support your team when it's a fantastic day. But you also need to support your team to make history in the third game. I would like to see one more time a green stadium."

Robert Lewandowski ended his wait for a first World Cup goal as Poland took a significant step towards reaching the knockout stage for the first time in 36 years by beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Saturday.

Talisman Lewandowski's penalty failure against Mexico had denied Poland an opening win, but he and they made amends at Education City Stadium, toppling Argentina's conquerors to blow Group C wide open.

Although Saudi Arabia were largely more impressive than in their smash-and-grab defeat of Argentina, they again fell behind and this time could not recover – the latest episode of spot-kick drama making a hero of Wojciech Szczesny after he denied Salem Al Dawsari.

Either side of that save, Lewandowski assisted the opening goal for Piotr Zielinski and belatedly netted a breakthrough strike to make sure of a win that moves Poland to four points ahead of themselves taking on Lionel Messi and Co.

Matty Cash raced onto an incisive pass six minutes before the break and squared to Lewandowski, whose first touch took him away from goal before he cut the ball back for Zielinski's clinical finish.

The response might have been swift as a VAR review granted Saleh Al Shehri a soft penalty following contact from Krystian Bielik, but Szczesny sensationally repelled Al Dawsari's spot-kick and then – even more spectacularly – Mohammed Al Burayk's follow-up.

Szczesny had to come to Poland's rescue again 10 minutes after the restart, blocking with his legs from Al Dawsari, and Feras Al Brikan and Mohammed Kanno each blazed wildly off target.

Poland squandered chances to put the game to bed as first Arkadiusz Milik and then Lewandowski worked the frame of the goal, but the Barcelona man eventually got his goal after pinching possession from Abdulelah Al Malki and finishing calmly.

What does it mean? Poland take pole position

Even in victory, Czeslaw Michniewicz's men were not especially impressive, although Lewandowski would have felt the weight of the world lift off his shoulders with a first goal in his fifth finals match.

Vitally, Poland also have a star performer at the other end of the pitch. Their strong position in this group is chiefly down to their back-to-back clean sheets, now having kept three in a row stretching back to 2018 – matching their best such sequence.

Poland penalty heroics

Poland have now faced five penalties at World Cups, yet three of them have been saved. Szczesny's stop sees him join Jan Tomaszewski, who kept out two at the 1970 tournament.

The save from Al Burayk on the rebound was truly remarkable, while Szczesny had also early made a sharp stop from Kanno and would later frustrate Al Dawsari again.

Tempers boil over

Played in front of a raucous – primarily Saudi – crowd, a kind observer might call this encounter "competitive". Players from both sides thundered into challenges, occasionally with both arms and legs.

In the opening 30 minutes, the sides shared more yellow cards (four) than shots (three). By half-time, there had been five bookings – the most cards at that stage of a World Cup game since the famously feisty 2010 final.

It seemed inevitable there would be a red card eventually, but it never came.

What's next?

Poland must still play their toughest fixture on paper, taking on an Argentina side who will need to win. Saudi Arabia remain in contention ahead of facing Mexico at the same time on Wednesday.

Robert Lewandowski remains Poland's "number one" penalty taker despite missing his spot-kick against Mexico, head coach Czeslaw Michniewicz has confirmed.

Having drawn a blank in Russia four years ago, the Barcelona forward is still awaiting his first World Cup goal after Guillermo Ochoa denied him from 12 yards in the Eagles' Group C opener on Tuesday.

But Michniewicz confirmed Lewandowski remains Poland's first choice should they be awarded another penalty in their second group game against Saudi Arabia.

"When it comes to the penalties, Robert is still number one," the head coach said. "As a striker, of course, he will make a decision whether he will shoot or pass it on to someone else. He feels ready to score for Poland."

Jan Bednarek believes while Lewandowski will be desperate to break his finals duck, the captain's main focus is on the team's performance in Qatar.

"Robert Lewandowski is our captain, he's a striker, he wants to score as many goals as he can," the on-loan Aston Villa defender said. "But for him, the good of the team is most important. He wants us to win.

"He hides his pride in his pocket, and he really focuses on working as hard as he can. It's not important to him if he scores or not, he wants us to win the match.

"He's got his individual objective, but I am convinced he places the team's success at the top. This is the best striker in the world. I hope he leads us to win. I don't know if he will score or not, but the most important thing is for us to win."

Saudi Arabia produced surely the result of the 2022 World Cup when they stunned Lionel Messi's Argentina this week, but they are not done there.

Herve Renard's men came from behind to beat the Albiceleste 2-1, scoring with their only two shots for one of the tournament's biggest ever upsets.

The odds were stacked against Saudi Arabia in that match, as they will be again on matchday two as they tackle Poland.

Saudi Arabia have lost nine of their 10 World Cup matches against European opposition, including each of the past eight in a row.

That dismal run included an 8-0 humiliation at the hands of Germany in 2002, but forward Saleh Al Shehri knows this is a very different team.

"That was a defeat in the past," said Al Shehri. "I think we, as a country, want to get back and go up to the top as a team.

"And I guess in the 20 years, we worked a lot, we worked hard. Now, in 2022, in Qatar, we made history, and there's still more to come."

 

Al Shehri scored the equaliser against Argentina, setting Saudi Arabia on their way to a second straight World Cup win after another 2-1 success against Egypt in 2018.

Saudi Arabia had won only two of their previous 15 games at the finals – again in succession in 1994 – while this is the first time they have scored twice in consecutive matches.

They have never netted three in a World Cup match, though, and face a Poland team looking for a third clean sheet in a row – last achieving such a sequence between 1974 and 1978.

"I think about the pressure," added Al Shehri. "Every game has its own pressure.

"We did one job perfectly. It's finished and we are waiting for the next game against Poland. The pressure is always on when you play at this top level."

Poland may be tight at the back but have struggled in attack, attempting only six shots in the 0-0 draw with Mexico.

It was their sixth goalless draw in 35 World Cup matches, making up 17 per cent – the largest such percentage of any team to play 15 or more games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Poland – Arkadiusz Milik

Milik is never likely to start while Poland play with only one striker, but the Juventus man will continue to get opportunities from the bench while Robert Lewandowski's drought drags on. Lewandowski has not scored in his four World Cup outings, attempting 11 shots – including that unsuccessful penalty against Mexico.

Saudi Arabia – Salem Al Dawsari

Al Dawsari could have retired a Saudi Arabia World Cup hero even before this tournament, having netted a stoppage-time winner against Egypt in 2018. Now, after topping that effort with the decisive goal in the Argentina game, he is just the second Saudi player to score in multiple World Cups. Sami Al Jaber, the other, netted three goals in total, a record Al Dawsari can match with another key strike.

PREDICTION

Saudi Arabia might have beaten Argentina, but the supercomputer still does not expect them to follow that up with victory against Poland. They are given just a 20.0 per cent chance.

Poland are clear favourites at 55.5 per cent... or could there be another 0-0 on the cards? The draw is rated more likely than a Saudi Arabia victory at 24.5 per cent.

The Poland squad will support an "emotional" Robert Lewandowski following his penalty miss in Tuesday's goalless World Cup clash against Mexico.

Lewandowski saw his chance of a first World Cup goal dashed when his 58th-minute penalty was repelled by Guillermo Ochoa - one of the few moments of note in an otherwise drab affair at Stadium 974.

The Barcelona striker carries the weight of Poland’s hopes on his shoulders and coach Czeslaw Michniewicz admitted he was upset in the dressing room afterwards.

Michniewicz said: "I sympathise with him. I know how a captain who misses a penalty feels.

"He was very emotional about it – we have a monitor in the dressing room and Robert watched the replays. He has to process it himself, he knows how to deal with these situations. As a squad we will help him and we know he will help us in the future.

"Great players miss penalties – Socrates, Zico, [Michel] Platini, [Diego] Maradona among others, it's football. It's a pity as I know how much he wanted to score a goal at the World Cup. I hope the following opportunities will be translated into goals."

Overall, Michniewicz was satisfied with a point with the dynamic of Group C altered following Saudi Arabia's stunning defeat of Argentina earlier in the day.

He added: "It was a very difficult game with tricky opponents. The result did not reduce the chance of qualifying for either us or Mexico. It's easier if you win your first match but it was important not to lose.

"I remember we lost our first game in Russia [at the 2018 World Cup] and it was very difficult afterwards. Everything is still in our hands."

Asked if the Argentina result would alter his approach to Saturday's now-crucial clash with Lionel Scaloni's men, Mexico boss Tata Martino replied: "In theory, I would say not.

"We must play our football and this result doesn't change our mentality.

"We need to play an intelligent game, and also understand who we are facing. We need to remember we are playing against one of the main candidates to win the World Cup.

"I also don't think they will change. Even if they had won today, they would want to win their second game. Argentina will play to win as they always do."

Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty on another night of World Cup frustration as his Poland side had to settle for a goalless draw in their Group C opener against Mexico.

The Barcelona striker was generously awarded the chance to net his first World Cup goal - referee Chris Beath awarding the spot-kick following a VAR check - but was denied by Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Poland offered little else in a bitty encounter with Mexico, roared on by a boisterous support at Stadium 974, far more fluid going forward, particularly down the flanks.

Mexico offered the greater threat in the first half with Hirving Lozano predictably proving their main attacking outlet.

The Napoli winger created the first chance of note after five minutes, his curling cross from the right eluding Wojciech Szczesny but Alexis Vega was unable to turn the ball home at the far post.

In a rare Poland foray shortly afterwards, Lewandowski set Jakub Kaminski free but Mexico defender Jesus Gallardo did superbly to get back and smuggle the ball to safety.

Vega came close again after 26 minutes with a header that drifted inches wide while, on the stroke of half-time, Szczesny bundled Jorge Sanchez’s cross-shot over the bar.

The second half started in a similar vein with Mexico dominating possession but their over-confidence almost cost them. Edson Alvarez dallied on the ball and it ricocheted into the area where Hector Moreno and Lewandowski wrestled before falling to the turf.

Beach initially waved play on but then pointed to the spot after consulting the monitor with replays showing Moreno had a hold of Lewandowski's shirt.

Ochoa, so often Mexico's hero at a World Cup, came up trumps again, however, diving to his left to palm Lewandowski's spot-kick to safety.

The let-off failed to inspire Mexico who huffed and puffed without really testing Szczesny, bar a routine save to deny a flicked header from Henry Martin.


What does it mean?

Remarkably, day one of Group C action ends with Saudi Arabia on top of the pool following their stunning 2-1 defeat of Argentina.

That result and this stalemate heaps the pressure on Poland and Mexico as they look to advance to the knockout stages.

Mexico boss Tata Martino will be frustrated by the result if not the performance which arguably deserved more.

More World Cup frustration for Lewandowski

Even discounting his penalty miss, Lewandowski had a night to forget. The spot-kick was his first meaningful touch in Poland's penalty area and he suffered from a lack of service from a hard-working but sterile midfield. 

The one moment of quality from the Barcelona man came early on with a nice turn and pass to release Kaminski but his team-mate was unable to convert.

Ochoa still a genius

Described as a "genius" by Szczesny at the pre-match press conference, Ochoa again displayed his ability to shine on the biggest stage.

His main moment came with the penalty save but, that aside, he showed all his experience by dealing comfortably with Poland's limited attack.

What's Next?

Both teams are back in action on Saturday. Mexico take on Argentina, smarting from their stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia, while Poland meet Herve Renard's buoyant side.

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