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SPORTS | 27-11-2022 07:30

Enzo Fernández provides Argentina with much-needed oxygen

Enzo Fernández's 57th-minute introduction coincided with the moment things began to look up for the Albiceleste. Benfica star is living the dream and he is becoming ever more important for Argentina.

In the days leading up to Argentina's match against Mexico, speculation grew that Enzo Fernández could be a new addition to Lionel Scaloni's to starting 11, but in the end, the Benfica star started as a substitute. Eventually, the 21-year-old came on for the last half hour and he made his mark in style, scoring the winner in a vital 2-0 win.

"I always dreamed of playing in this shirt when I was a kid, and today my dream of scoring a goal in a World Cup came true," Fernández told TyC television after the match.

Enzo Fernández's 57th-minute introduction, in place of Guido Rodríguez, coincided with the moment things began to look up for the Albiceleste. The game was at that point goalless, a result that left on the ropes after their shock 2-1 opening defeat to Saudi Arabia.

Seven minutes after coming on, Fernández was involved in the move that ended in a square pass from Ángel Di María to Lionel Messi. The PSG star then grabbed the first, driving home from outside the box to send Argentina down the path to victory.

Enzo Fernández was a breath of fresh air in the middle of the pitch. He allowed his team to find new solutions up front and new passing options. The midfielder crowned his performance with his goal in the 87th minute, one of the best so far in the competition.

After a short corner, Argentina's number 24 received a short pass from Messi on the left side of Mexico's penalty box. Fernández dropped his shoulder, went passed his marker and finished with a lethal right-footed cross into the goal defended by Guillermo Ochoa.

Argentina's 2-0 victory allows the country to breathe a sigh of relief and gives them new life in a thrilling Group C. Qualification will be decided on Wednesday on the third and final match day, when La Scaloneta will have to face Robert Lewandowski's Poland.

 

Messi's blessing

After Enzo Fernández had calmed Argentine hearts, Messi rushed over to embrace and congratulate the Benfica star.

The Rosario-born captain was named man of the match and, appearing at a press conference after the game, he had more than a few words of praise for his 21-year-old compatriot.

"Enzo doesn't surprise me. I know him. I see him train and I see him play every day. I also played against him in the Champions League. He deserves it, he is a spectacular player. I'm very happy for him and for us," said Messi, praising one of the young talents who seems destined to play a key role in the national team's future.

Scaloni, too, in his post-match press conference, highlighted Enzo's great contribution to the game.

"We played better in the second half. We started to see improvements  and with Enzo [Fernández] we were looking for more forward passes," he explained. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Today it worked out well. Today it went well."

The year 2022 will be unforgettable year for Enzo Fernández. His personal and sporting life changed completely and he is now one of the game's rising stars.

After excelling for River Plate, he made the leap to Europe and joined Benfica at the start of the European season. The Portuguese giants qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League by topping their group. Domestically, the 'Eagles' are flying high and are league-leaders.

It's happened fast for Fernández. He first played for the Albiceleste's senior team for the first time just two months ago, in a 3-0 friendly win over Honduras in Miami.

Less than two months on, he was included in Scaloni's 26-man squad for Qatar 2022, where he made his debut for the national team in the best possible way: in an important World Cup match and in the Lusail stadium, where Argentina hope to be crownedchampions on December 18.

There is some way to go, but Enzo Fernández is already living the dream.

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by Diego Reniares, AFP

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