Poland joined Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup on Wednesday night, despite suffering a 2-0 defeat in Qatar. Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez were enough for Argentina to top Group C and set up a knockout tie with Australia.
Szczęsny’s side also made it through as runners-up, but by tiny margins, with goal difference coming to their aid after Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1. On a night full of drama, there was also a saved penalty, with the Juventus keeper racking up his second spot-kick save of the tournament by keeping out Messi’s powerful effort.
The Argentina penalty was given in very contentious circumstances after Szczesny was deemed to have fouled Messi while attempting to punch a high ball clear. After consulting his pitchside monitor, referee Danny Makkelie spotted contact on Messi’s face.
It was during that break in play that Szczęsny says he discussed the incident with Messi – and made him a bet which could put him in hot water with the authorities. “No I didn’t [think it would be given],” he told Norwegian broadcaster TV 2 Sport post-match.
“We spoke before the penalty and I told him I can bet him €100 that he wasn’t going to give it. So I’ve lost a bet against Messi. I don’t know if that’s allowed at the World Cup. I’m probably going to be banned for it. I don’t care right now.”
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Szczęsny then joked: “I’m not going to pay him either. He doesn’t care about €100, come on!”
According to FIFA’s rules on betting, players are “forbidden from participating in, either directly or indirectly, betting, gambling, lotteries” related to football. If found guilty of breaking those rules, players can be fined at least 100,000 Swiss francs (£87,000) or banned from football for a maximum of three years.
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Considering the nature of Szczęsny’s bet with Messi, it is unlikely such severe punishments would be dished out to the 32-year-old former Arsenal goalkeeper.
The penalty save turned out to be crucial for Poland, who would have exited the tournament had Argentina won 3-0, or Mexico had found another goal. It was his second of the tournament, following another save from 12 yards in the 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Poland will now face France in the knockout stages of the competition. The defending champions went through top of Group D, despite suffering a shock 1-0 defeat against Tunisia on Wednesday night.