Lionel Messi saved Argentina’s blushes with a brilliant stoppage time winner against unheralded Iran at the World Cup to send the South Americans 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-time 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. 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 favourites to lift the trophy.
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.
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.