World Cup data dive: Messi equals Maradona and Mbappe matches Fontaine

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The first Saturday at the Qatar World Cup was one that saw some of the tournament's biggest stars shine brightest.

Robert Lewandowski finally hit the target on the biggest stage in world football, while Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi delivered unnecessary reminders of their importance to the respective causes of France and Argentina.

Before that trio took centre stage, the comparatively unheralded Mitchell Duke was the hero for Australia in their victory over Tunisia.

Here, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to look at some of the key facts from a compelling day's action.

Tunisia 0-1 Australia: Socceroos end wait for crucial clean sheet

Australia vastly improved their chances of progressing to the knockout stages for the first time since 2006 with a narrow win in their second Group D game.

Duke scored the only goal of the game, making it five in his past eight starts for Australia, four of those goals being headers.

The Socceroos' stout defensive display saw them keep just their second clean sheet in 18 games at the World Cup (also 0-0 vs Chile in 1974), ending a run of 14 consecutive games in which they had conceded.

Tunisia have failed to score in 53 per cent of their matches at the World Cup (9/17), though this is just the second time they have failed to score in their opening two games at a single edition of the tournament, after 1998.

Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia: Lewandowski makes telling contributions

Victory over Saudi Arabia sent Poland to the top of Group C and they are unbeaten in their opening two games of a World Cup tournament for the first time since 1986 (also W1 D1). In the process, they have equalled their longest run of consecutive clean sheets at the World Cup, keeping three in a row for the first time since 1978.

Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal to make sure of the points and was visibly emotional upon ending his wait in his fifth appearance in the competition.

The Barcelona forward laid on the opening goal for Piotr Zielinski, becoming the first Polish player to score and assist in a World Cup match since Janusz Kupcewicz in 1982 (v France).

Saudi Arabia missed a gilt-edged chance to level when Salem Al Dawsari saw his penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny in first-half stoppage time.

Szczesny is the third goalkeeper to save a penalty and keep a clean sheet in the same match at the 2022 World Cup (after Thibaut Courtois and Guillermo Ochoa). That is already the most times this has happened in a single World Cup tournament since 1966 (the earliest such data is available).

France 2-1 Denmark: Mbappe replicates Fontaine

It was the Mbappe show for the world champions as his double ensured France became the first team to punch their ticket to the last 16.

Mbappe now has three goals at this tournament and, having netted in the 2018 final, he became just the second player to score in three successive World Cup games for France after Just Fontaine, who scored in six successive appearances at the 1958 edition.

The win saw Les Bleus secure their place in the World Cup record books as the fifth reigning champions at the World Cup to win their opening two games at the tournament after Italy in 1938, Uruguay in 1954 and Brazil in both 1998 and 2006.

Didier Deschamps' men have reeled off six successive wins at the World Cup, making them the first side to achieve that feat since Spain did so in South Africa during the 2010 edition.

For Denmark, who exited the 2018 World Cup on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Croatia in the last 16, the loss marked their first since their final fixture at the 2010 tournament against Japan. Indeed, they conceded as many goals against France as they did in their previous five games in the competition (also two).

Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi equals Maradona's World Cup record

Scores of Diego Maradona's former team-mates marked two years since the Argentina legend's death this week.

Lionel Messi's international career has been defined by his attempts to match the achievements of the most celebrated Albiceleste player of all, and his stunning goal against Mexico helped him equal Maradona by at least one measure.

That opener was the eighth World Cup goal of Messi's career, the same number Maradona scored for Argentina. Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more in the finals.

Messi has now scored in six successive appearances for Argentina, his joint-longest ever scoring run in international football (also six between November 2011 and September 2012).

Since 1966, only Rivellino (five) has scored more World Cup goals from outside the box than Messi (four), whose fierce effort helped secure a win that means Mexico have lost all four of their World Cup games against Argentina – only Nigeria (five v Argentina) have played more World Cup matches against a specific nation while losing every time.

There was some reason for Mexico's Andres Guardado to celebrate, however. He became just the sixth player to feature at five different World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) and the third different Mexican to do so after Rafael Marquez and Antonio Carbajal, though his milestone outing was cut short by a first-half injury.