Argentine fans find faith again after Messi leads World Cup revival against Poland

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Fans in Buenos Aires watch Poland v Argentina - Buenos Aires, Argentina - November 30, 2022 Argentina fans react during the Poland and Argentina match REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentines renewed their hopes in the country's national soccer team after it defeated Poland 2-0 on Wednesday, booking a place for the team led by star Lionel Messi in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

A sense of euphoria was in the air in the country, particularly in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, where thousands of jubilant fans crowded to watch the match on a giant screen in the park.

"I have a lot of faith in this group. Since the Copa America they have been fired up, so I have a lot of faith in them," said Nadir Cabrera, 25, referring to the country's 2021 regional tournament win.

Argentina needed a win to ensure progress to the knockout stages after a shock opening game defeat against Saudi Arabia was followed by a more convincing 2-0 win over Mexico.

"We recovered from Arabia and after these two great games, we got excited again!" Uriel Vieitez, 19, told Reuters as he celebrated on the streets of the capital Buenos Aires wearing an Argentina shirt and hat minutes after Argentina's victory.

Schools suspended classes early and offices suspended work for two hours in the South American country to watch the "albiceleste" team guaranteeing their place in the knockout stage.

The Argentine team is looking to be crowned world champion again after 36 years since its last World Cup victory when Diego Maradona was the country's star.

After sealing first place in Group C, Argentina will play on Saturday against Australia in the first knockout round. The winner of that match will then play the winner between the Netherlands and the United States in the quarter finals.

Messi, who shone in the game against the team led by Polish star Robert Lewandowski, asked once again to the Argentine fans, just like a week ago, to have faith.

"To the people: the same as at the beginning, when we started badly and with a defeat, that we go calmly, that the group is going to continue in this way and hopefully we can continue demonstrating like today," he said after the match.

(Reporting by Miguel Lobianco, Horacio Soria and Ramiro Scandolo; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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