Argentina beat Mexico 2-0 at the Lusail Stadium thanks to second-half goals from Messi and Enzo Fernandez to climb to second place in Group C, a point behind Poland.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” Messi said. “We have peace of mind and it’s back in our hands again.”
Mexico’s high press blunted the Argentina attack in the first half before Messi’s sublime 64th minute strike eased the pressure on his side, who would have been eliminated from the tournament if they had lost.
“I think the first half was difficult due to the situation and our need to win,” Messi added. “We couldn’t find space. We weren’t moving the ball from side to side.
“But in the second half we started doing what we stand for. We started to find space between the lines and then the goal changed the game.
“We needed to win but the game had to be played this way. We had to win to give everyone peace of mind and to be able to approach the Poland game in a different way.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni acknowledged that his team had been under immense pressure before the match and that the overwhelming feeling after the win was one of relief.
“We should have more common sense. It’s just a football game,” he said. “It’s not good, the feeling that you’re playing something more than a football match. It’s not nice.
“The feeling that we all had was relief (but) we need to make some adjustments.
“We must try to make the players feel that this is a football game because otherwise every time we need to play a match, or to go to a knockout stage, go through a tournament or whatever, it will be always like this with Argentina.
“Of course it’s difficult to make people understand that tomorrow the sun will shine whether you lose or you win. And that the important thing is how you did things, if you did it in the best possible way. That’s what we always try to do.”
Scaloni also called on his players to stay grounded after the victory and focus on the task ahead. Argentina can guarantee progress with a win over Poland on Wednesday.
“Maybe you think I’m crazy, but we can say yes, we want to enjoy. Of course they enjoy this moment in the dressing room. I also enjoyed the moment.
“But that’s it. Tomorrow, we will prepare the next game, the same thing that we did when we won the Copa America (last year).
“Happiness lasts only for some minutes. We need to find that emotional balance, whether we win or lose. That’s what we need to have.”
“Poland will be a difficult match. That’s the reality… I won’t say we will try, I say we will win the game. That’s what we all want. And if that’s not the case, will bring our A game just as we did today.”