Sublime strikes by Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez earned Argentina a 2-0 win over feisty Mexico in a pulsating atmosphere at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday and got the South American favourites’ World Cup campaign up and running.

Stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C match, Argentina knew defeat would send them out of the tournament but they started poorly, struggling to cope with Mexico’s high press as Messi was denied time and space to operate.

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Argentina’s captain was anonymous in the first half, his sole contribution of note a header that ballooned over the bar, as his team failed to carve out a single decent chance.

“We knew that today we had to win, that another World Cup was starting for us, and we knew how to do it,” Messi said.

But picked out by Angel Di Maria just outside the Mexico box in the 64th minute, Messi made no mistake, arrowing a low shot through a crowd of defenders into the corner. Fernandez doubled the lead in the 87th with a wonderful curling effort.

The win took Argentina up to second place on three points, one behind leaders Poland, who they play in their last group match. Saudi Arabia are third, level on points with Argentina but with an inferior goal difference.

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By Dipak

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