Messi rescues Argentina with late strike

00:00, Jun 22 2014
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Argentina fan
Argentina fans wait for the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Maracana
A general view of the stadium during the Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana.
Challenge
Senad Lulic of Bosnia and Herzegovina challenges Lucas Biglia of Argentina.
Goal
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Vedad Ibisevic scores through the legs of Argentina's Sergio Romero.
Messi goal
Argentina's Lionel Messi scores a goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Contest
Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi fights for the ball with Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Battle
Iran's Ehsan Hajsafi and Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie jump for the ball.
Up and Over
Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria makes a save over teammate Joseph Yobo and Ashkan Dejagah of Iran.
John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria controls the ball against Reza Ghoochannejhad of Iran.
Tackle
Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria falls after a challenge by Andranik Teymourian of Iran.
Iran fans
Supporters hold up the Iran flag.
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi celebrates his stoppage-time goal as Argentina defeated Iran 1-0.
Angel di Maria
Argentina's Angel di Maria takes a corner kick against Iran.
Ashkan Dejagah
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah reacts after missing a scoring chance.
Javier Mascherano Ashkan Dejagah
Argentina's Javier Mascherano (right) challenges Iran's Ashkan Dejagah for possession.
Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria
Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria cut a frustrated pair as Argentina struggle to score against Iran.
Marcos Rojo and  Reza Ghoochannejhad
Argentina's Marcos Rojo trips Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad as he attempts to get the ball.
Peter Odemwingie
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie celebrates scoring his goal against Bosnia at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba.
Peter Odemwingie
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie scores past Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper and club team-mate Asmir Begovic.
Senad Lulic
Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie and Bosnia's Senad Lulic contest possession.
Edin Dzeko
Nigeria's matchwinner Peter Odemwingie is challenged by Bosnia's Senad Lulic.
Edin Dzeko
Bosnia's Edin Dzeko, left, scores a disallowed goal past Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Vedad Ibisevic
Bosnia's Vedad Ibisevic reacts to a missed chance against Nigeria in their crucial Group F clash.
Marcos Rojo
Marcos Rojo celebrates his match-winning goal, scored off his knee, in Argentina's 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina players celebrate after their second goal in a 3-1 victory over Iran.
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi collides with Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi as he controls the ball in Argentina's group match win.
Vincent Enyeama
Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama makes a save against Argentina.
Juwon Oshaniwa and Ricardo Alvarez
Juwon Oshaniwa of Nigeria and Ricardo Alvarez of Argentina lay on the ground after colliding.
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi prepares to take a free-kick as the referee marks the spot.
Ahmed Musa
Nigerian players celebrate Ahmed Musa's goal.
Toni Sunjic and Muhamed Besic
Edin Dzeko of Bosnia-Herzegovina (right) helps team-mate Toni Sunjic after a collision with Muhamed Besic.
Alireza Hughighi
Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Hughighi is consoled by a member of the training staff after losing to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Avdija Vrsajevic
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Avdija Vrsajevic pumps his fist after scoring his country's third goal against Iran.
Ashkan Dejagah
Iran's Ashkan Dejagah is surrounded by Toni Sunjic, Tino Sven Susic and Miralem Pjanic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Reza Ghoochannejhad
Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad scores his side's only goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina keeper 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."

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Reuters