Messi rescues Argentina with late strike

Marcos Rojo celebrates his match-winning goal, scored off his knee, in Argentina's 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
Marcos Rojo celebrates his match-winning goal, scored off his knee, in Argentina's 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
Lionel Messi collides with Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi as he controls the ball in Argentina's group match win.
Lionel Messi collides with Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi as he controls the ball in Argentina's group match win.
Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama makes a save against Argentina.
Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama makes a save against Argentina.
Juwon Oshaniwa of Nigeria and Ricardo Alvarez of Argentina lay on the ground after colliding.
Juwon Oshaniwa of Nigeria and Ricardo Alvarez of Argentina lay on the ground after colliding.
Lionel Messi prepares to take a free-kick as the referee marks the spot.
Lionel Messi prepares to take a free-kick as the referee marks the spot.
Nigerian players celebrate Ahmed Musa's goal.
Nigerian players celebrate Ahmed Musa's goal.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Avdija Vrsajevic pumps his fist after scoring his country's third goal against Iran.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Avdija Vrsajevic pumps his fist after scoring his country's third goal against Iran.
Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Hughighi is consoled by a member of the training staff after losing to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Hughighi is consoled by a member of the training staff after losing to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Bosnia-Herzegovina players celebrate after their second goal in a 3-1 victory over Iran.
Bosnia-Herzegovina players celebrate after their second goal in a 3-1 victory over Iran.
Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad scores his side's only goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina keeper Asmir Begovic.
Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad scores his side's only goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina keeper Asmir Begovic.
Edin Dzeko of Bosnia-Herzegovina (right) helps team-mate Toni Sunjic after a collision with Muhamed Besic.
Edin Dzeko of Bosnia-Herzegovina (right) helps team-mate Toni Sunjic after a collision with Muhamed Besic.
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah is surrounded by Toni Sunjic, Tino Sven Susic and Miralem Pjanic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah is surrounded by Toni Sunjic, Tino Sven Susic and Miralem Pjanic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie and Bosnia's Senad Lulic contest possession.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie and Bosnia's Senad Lulic contest possession.
Bosnia's Edin Dzeko, left, scores a disallowed goal past Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Bosnia's Edin Dzeko, left, scores a disallowed goal past Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Nigeria's matchwinner Peter Odemwingie is challenged by Bosnia's Senad Lulic.
Nigeria's matchwinner Peter Odemwingie is challenged by Bosnia's Senad Lulic.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie scores past Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper and club team-mate Asmir Begovic.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie scores past Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper and club team-mate Asmir Begovic.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie celebrates scoring his goal against Bosnia at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba.
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie celebrates scoring his goal against Bosnia at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba.
Lionel Messi celebrates his stoppage-time goal as Argentina defeated Iran 1-0.
Lionel Messi celebrates his stoppage-time goal as Argentina defeated Iran 1-0.
Argentina's Angel di Maria takes a corner kick against Iran.
Argentina's Angel di Maria takes a corner kick against Iran.
Argentina's Javier Mascherano (right) challenges Iran's Ashkan Dejagah for possession.
Argentina's Javier Mascherano (right) challenges Iran's Ashkan Dejagah for possession.
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah reacts after missing a scoring chance.
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah reacts after missing a scoring chance.
Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria cut a frustrated pair as Argentina struggle to score against Iran.
Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria cut a frustrated pair as Argentina struggle to score against Iran.
Argentina's Marcos Rojo trips Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad as he attempts to get the ball.
Argentina's Marcos Rojo trips Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad as he attempts to get the ball.
Iran's Ehsan Hajsafi and Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie jump for the ball.
Iran's Ehsan Hajsafi and Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie jump for the ball.
Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi fights for the ball with Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi fights for the ball with Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria makes a save over teammate Joseph Yobo and Ashkan Dejagah of Iran.
Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria makes a save over teammate Joseph Yobo and Ashkan Dejagah of Iran.
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria controls the ball against Reza Ghoochannejhad of Iran.
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria controls the ball against Reza Ghoochannejhad of Iran.
Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria falls after a challenge by Andranik Teymourian of Iran.
Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria falls after a challenge by Andranik Teymourian of Iran.
Supporters hold up the Iran flag.
Supporters hold up the Iran flag.
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Argentina fans wait for the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Argentina fans wait for the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A general view of the stadium during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana.
A general view of the stadium during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana.
Senad Lulic of Bosnia and Herzegovina challenges Lucas Biglia of Argentina.
Senad Lulic of Bosnia and Herzegovina challenges Lucas Biglia of Argentina.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Vedad Ibisevic scores through the legs of Argentina's Sergio Romero.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Vedad Ibisevic scores through the legs of Argentina's Sergio Romero.
Argentina's Lionel Messi scores a goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Argentina's Lionel Messi scores a goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Lionel Messi saved Argentina's blushes with a brilliant curling stoppage time winner against unheralded Iran at the World Cup this morning to give the South Americans a 1-0 victory and send them into the last 16.

Argentina's fabled "Fab Four" strike force had appeared heading for a blank at the Mineirao stadium despite dominating possession to the frustration of their massed ranks of fans who came expecting a goalfest at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao stadium.

But four-times world player of the year Messi curled the ball in during stoppage time to send them wild with only his third ever World Cup goal.

"In the first half we had four or five clear chances to score. In the second half, they made life hard for us with their counter attacks. But with Messi, everything is possible," said relieved Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella.

The result gives Argentina six points from two games and takes them into the knockout stage. But they will need more guile and precision against better opponents.

Iran, on just one point after a draw with Nigeria, will at least take heart from a fantastic performance against one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Constantly crowded out by two and sometimes three Iranians, Messi had until the end been unable to pull the strings and again vomited on the pitch in the first half. The Argentine captain put two free kicks wide in either half, and saw a shot go wide after a trademark run early in the second.

In a succession of wasted Argentine first half chances, Gonzalo Higuain was quickly shut down by goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi in a one-on-one in the 13th minute, Angel Di Maria shot over the bar and Sergio Aguero had a curling shot well saved.

Marcos Rojo and Ezequiel Garay put headers off target.

IRAN CLOSE TO SCORING

With their increasingly hopeful supporters heavily outnumbered but cheering "Ole, ole, Iran!", Asia's highest-ranked team defended en masse but also enjoyed some forays forward that could have caused a sensational result.

"At the end, two personalities in the game made the difference. The number one was the referee. The second was Lionel Messi," said a bitterly disappointed coach Carlos Queiroz, claiming crucial decisions went against his side.

Queiroz was unhappy that a second half penalty claim was denied when Ashkan Dejagah was challenged by Pablo Zabaleta although the Argentina defender appeared to make contact with the ball.

Sensing an upset might be possible at 0-0, Iran were bolder in the second half. Lone striker Reza Ghoochannejhad broke free in the 53rd minute but shot at Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero before Ashkan Dejagah saw a strong header tipped over.

Then Ghoochannejhad got behind the Argentine defence in the 86th minute but saw his shot again well saved by Romero.

With the misfiring Aguero and Higuain pulled off in the second half, replacements Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio were unable to provide the missing spark - until Messi did.

"We were nervous," Argentine goalkeeper Romero said. "We need to be a bit calmer against Nigeria and play better."

Reuters