Another game, another stunning milestone for Argentina's World Cup-winning hero Lionel Messi. The 35-year-old has done it all in football but his 79-second goal in Thursday night's 2-0 win over the Socceroos in China was the fastest of the Argentine maestro's extraordinary career.
It was a shocking start for the Aussies, who paid tribute to the late Socceroos' 1974 World Cup coach Rale Rasic before the match by wearing warm-up kits saying "Thanks Rale". With barely a minute gone in the match, Mathew Leckie got the ball trapped under his feet, with Enzo Fernandez taking full advantage.
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The Chelsea midfielder quickly picked out Messi on the edge of the box and the champion forward did what he does best, curling a sumptuous effort past Socceroos keeper Mat Ryan into the corner of the goal. The exquisite goal marked the seventh straight international match that Messi has scored in and the fastest of his entire career.
As well as his historic goal, Messi had another moment of absolute genius that sent social media into meltdown. The little magician picked the ball up on his own side of the halfway line surrounded by four Socceroos players, before jinking his way through heavy traffic and playing a superb ball out to a teammate on the left.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 15, 2023
Messi scored the fastest goal of his professional career today.
Still breaking his own records at 35 ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/X14LUZkgv2
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 15, 2023
are you kidding me? messi turns 36 in two weeks and man scored a goal in 79 seconds tf
— morningstar (@thesiddheshh) June 15, 2023
No way messi just did that😭
— Shady 999 (@seguncertii) June 15, 2023
— Angelo 🥩 (@Ang31ooo) June 15, 2023
Leo Messi, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
This man turns 36 in 2 weeks 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/lVufC4dHvr
— Sara 🦋 (@SaraFCBi) June 15, 2023
The Socceroos -looking to avenge their 2-1 defeat at the Qatar World Cup - could have gone into their shells after the early goal but Graham Arnold's men responded with a performance to be proud of. Argentina eventually put things to bed in the 68th minute when Rodrigo De Paul brilliantly combined with Messi, then dropped a lovely ball onto the head of an unmarked Germán Pezzella.
Young Socceroo Jordan Bos impresses for Australia
A real shining light for the Socceroos was the performance of youngster Jordan Bos, who showed skill, industry and tenacity in what was his first international start and just second match for the men's national side. As Australia's coach said after the game, Bos proved "he belonged" on the big stage as he stamped a claim to be the long-term replacement for Aziz Behich at left-back for the Socceroos.
When the 20-year-old outmuscled and won the ball against experienced Argentinian forward Angel Di Maria in just the seventh minute, it was clear he wasn't there to make up the numbers. The youngster roamed down the left wing with the dash and dare that exemplified his breakout A-League Men season with Melbourne City and earned him a move to Belgian Pro League club Westerlo.
"That's how he needs to play," coach Graham Arnold said. "I've got to play players to their strengths and Jordy's strength is going forward and making sure that we're protecting him defensively and obviously he'll improve out of sight with that.
"But this game, the kid will walk away knowing he belongs and he'll have that belief that he belongs on the big stage now. I just think that he's got such a bright future, not just individually but for the Socceroos."
Next gen impress for Socceroos
All in all, it was an impressive showing for the Socceroos' next generation with Riley McGree, Aiden O'Neill (24) and Keanu Baccus (25) all holding their own in midfield and Nathaniel Atkinson solid in defence. The Socceroos will return to action in the September window, before a blockbuster showdown with England at Wembley in October, with the Argentina clash the perfect build-up for Arnold's side.
"The most important thing is we play our way," he said. "We don't sit back, we go forward, we move forward. Everything we do is about growing as a team.
"We've got some youngsters coming through and the only way for them to improve is to put them on the big stage. If they're just playing local football and we're playing against weak opposition, they're not gonna learn.
"Tonight, I think quite a number of them will go home and think, 'wow, we belong' and a number of the kids are going overseas now. Their careers are only gonna go up from now."
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