Messi brace lifts Argentina past Nigeria

21:27, Jun 25 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 scored twice to inspire Argentina to a thrilling 3-2 win over Nigeria on Wednesday (local time) which clinched top spot in World Cup Group F and sent home an army of Sky Blue supporters with smiles on their faces.

The few Nigerian fans in the crowd also left happy because their team advanced to the knockout phase thanks to Bosnia's 3-1 win over Iran.

The group finished with Argentina on nine points, Nigeria on four, Bosnia on three and Iran on one.

The match at Beira Rio stadium was as close as Argentine will come to a home game at this World Cup as an estimated 150,000 fans flooded across the border into this southern port city looking to get in on the party.

Although Argentina were guaranteed a place in the last 16, the twice champions still had plenty to play for on a drizzly day with top spot up for grabs and the soccer world waiting for the Sky Blues to flash their championship credentials after uninspiring wins over debutants Bosnia and unfancied Iran.

Nigeria entered the contest as the only team who had yet to concede a goal but had not faced a side with the attacking quality of Argentina, who immediately put the Super Eagles under pressure.

Boasting one of the most intimidating attacking formations in the business with Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina had managed just three goals in two matches.

But the "Fab Four" were on song against Nigeria, with a dominating attacking display led by Messi, who struck twice in the opening half and looked dangerous throughout.

Messi, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Tuesday, lashed in a rebound to give his side the lead after three minutes and scored again in first-half stoppage-time when he curled a sensational 20-metre free kick into the corner of the net.

Argentina's brilliance on the attack was offset by shaky defence as Nigeria's Ahmed Musa twice cancelled out Messi goals with neat finishes in the fourth and 47th minutes.

The Argentine crowd was stunned when Musa scored just after halftime but were quickly back on their feet celebrating three minutes later when a charging Marcos Rojo stabbed home a bouncing ball from close range.

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Reuters