This might just be his World Cup after all. Lionel Messi must battle football opponents and the sands of time in equal measure but he dismissed both with a flourish that, whatever becomes of him and Argentina from here, made a mockery of fears he would leave this stage quietly. His side were a slip away from oblivion on an intense, pressured and niggly night where the possible consequences manifestly stifled everyone in view. Messi was among that number until breaching a limited Mexico, whose involvement now hangs by a thread, in thrilling style. It guarantees him at least one more dance atop the pinnacle of a sport he has bent to his will.
Messi’s left-foot finish was outdone aesthetically by a sumptuous late curler from Enzo Fernández but only one of the goals has a chance of resounding through the ages. It silenced the sighs, minutes previously, when he sent a wayward pass over the left touchline. Argentina had barely created an opening with the second half nearing its midway point but, after Ángel Di María had clipped a deliberate ball across from the opposite side, the tenor shifted emphatically.