Argentina 3-2 Nigeria

Argentina secured top spot in Group F and preserved their unblemished record at Brazil 2014 with a 3-2 win over Nigeria illuminated by braces for Lionel Messi and Ahmed Musa. Alejandro Sabella’s side will be joined in the Round of 16 by the Super Eagles, who contributed greatly to this enthralling match and progress due to Iran’s defeat to already-eliminated Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Even in a World Cup packed full of thrilling games, this was one of the best yet, and the tone was set as early as the third minute. That was when Messi opened the scoring in some style, crashing a first-time shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards after Vincent Enyeama had tipped Angel Di Maria’s initial effort on to the post.

Nigeria, though, weren’t content to allow Argentina’s captain to again hog the headlines, and they drew level with the next attack of the game. The impressive Ahmed Musa was the player responsible, exploiting a one-on-one with Pablo Zabaleta to cut inside from the left and curl an inch-perfect right-foot shot just inside the far post.

It was a terrific goal from a player who would continue to cause problems, although it was Argentina who carved out the better of the game’s opportunities.

Di Maria was again prominent, and on 25 minutes he measured an inviting low pass across goal that Messi – sliding in – missed out on converting by a matter of inches. Soon after, the Real Madrid winger went directly for goal, unleashing a 35-yard drive that was flying into the bottom corner until Enyeama got across to tip it wide.

It wasn’t long, though, before Messi again took centre stage. A minute into first-half injury time, and having forced a brilliant save from the keeper with an earlier free-kick, he re-established La Albiceleste’s lead from an almost-identical position. This time, there was no chance for Enyeama, with the Barcelona star curling a left-foot shot from 25 yards that cleared the wall and dropped just inside the right-hand post.

But once again, Nigeria wasted little time in responding to Messi’s brilliance. Just a couple of minutes into the second half, Musa emulated the Argentina skipper by completing a double of his own, racing through and wrong-footing Sergio Romero with a low shot into the bottom-left corner.

Argentina would not be a denied a third straight win, though, and they secured the points just three minutes later. It was the scrappiest of all five goals, with Marcos Rojo bundling a corner home with his knee, but that didn’t matter to the Albiceleste fans or to the scorer, who had never before found the target for his national team.

Line-ups

1 ROMERO (GK)
2 GARAY
4 ZABALETA
5 GAGO
7 DI MARIA
9 HIGUAIN (-90′)
10 MESSI (C) (-63′)
14 MASCHERANO
16 ROJO
17 F. FERNANDEZ
20 AGUERO(-38′)

Substitutes

12 ORION (GK)
21 ANDUJAR (GK)
3 CAMPAGNARO
6 BIGLIA (+90′)
8 PEREZ
11 M. RODRIGUEZ
13 A. FERNANDEZ
15 DEMICHELIS
18 PALACIO
19 ALVAREZ (+63′)
22 LAVEZZI (+38′)
23 BASANTA

Coach

SABELLA Alejandro (ARG)

Argentina 2-1 Nigeria

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Argentina 1-0 Iran

A stunning injury-time goal by Lionel Messi has taken Argentina through to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao. The Barcelona star’s late, late winner keeps La Albiceleste top of Group F on six points and leaves the Iranians stuck on one, with Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina set to meet in the section’s late kick-off.

Prior to Messi’s timely intervention, the match had been a tale of domination and frustration for Alejandro Sabella’s side, with a goal remaining elusive due to Iran’s determined defending. Gonzalo Higuain had been promoted to starting line-up and he started the game well, setting up first Angel Di Maria and then Sergio Aguero for efforts on goal, the second of which forced an acrobatic save from Alireza Haghighi.

Messi again looked subdued during the opening 45, with his only attempt coming on 33 minutes when he curled a free-kick just over the top right-hand corner. The Argentina captain then set up his team’s best chance of the half four minutes later, crossing for Ezequiel Garay, who headed wastefully over from inside the six-yard box.

Iran, meanwhile, spent much of the match with all 11 players behind the ball, although they did offer a threat at set-pieces. They could, in fact, have gone into the interval 1-0 up only for Jalal Hosseini to head inches over after rising highest to meet Ashkan Dejagah’s outswinging corner.

Carlos Queiroz’s side also carved out a golden opportunity at the start of the second half, when Reza Ghoochannejad’s header forced an excellent reflex stop from Sergio Romero after tremendous build-up play by Masoud Shojaei. Romero was again called into action midway through the half, pulling off a magnificent one-handed tip-over after Dejagah had beaten Pablo Zabaleta to bullet a header towards goal. Argentina remained the game’s dominant force, though, and came close to breaking the deadlock on the hour-mark when Messi surged forward from midfield and curled a left-foot shot just wide of Haghighi’s left-hand post.

However, their efforts became increasingly desperate as Iran’s defence held firm, with Marcos Rojo’s wayward long-range effort typical of their speculative late attempts. Indeed, Iran could have snatched a win at the death, with Ghoochannejad racing through and firing in a left-foot shot that was heading for the corner before Romero got across to tip wide.

Then, however, Messi provided yet another reminder of his genius. Picking up the ball in a seemingly unthreatening position wide on the right, he cut inside and, from 25 yards, curled an unstoppable left-foot shot into the far corner of the net. With 91 minutes showing on the clock, Argentina – thanks again to their incomparable captain – had won.

Line-ups

1 ROMERO (GK)
2 GARAY
4 ZABALETA
5 GAGO
7 DI MARIA (-90′)
9 HIGUAIN (-76′)
10 MESSI (C)
14 MASCHERANO
16 ROJO
17 F. FERNANDEZ
20 AGUERO(-76′)

Substitutes

12 ORION (GK)
21 ANDUJAR (GK)
3 CAMPAGNARO
6 BIGLIA (+90′)
8 PEREZ
11 M. RODRIGUEZ
13 A. FERNANDEZ
15 DEMICHELIS
18 PALACIO (+76′)
19 ALVAREZ
22 LAVEZZI (+76′)
23 BASANTA

Coach

SABELLA Alejandro (ARG)

Argentina 1-0 Iran

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Lionel Messi created one goal and scored a brilliant second as Argentina kicked off their FIFA World Cup™ campaign with a 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Barcelona star provided the spark in a largely tense and evenly matched encounter at the Maracana, which ended with La Albiceleste having taken an early lead in Group F. The Bosnians, meanwhile, will reflect on their dream World Cup debut having turned into a nightmare after just two minutes and eight seconds, when Sead Kolisinac scored the fastest own goal in the tournament’s history.

In fairness, the Bosnia left-back had next to no time to react after Lionel Messi’s free-kick was flicked on by Marcos Rojo, with the ball skidding off his shins and beyond the helpless Asmir Begovic.

The debutants, though, are made of stern stuff and refused to be demoralised by that sickening early blow. Within a few minutes, they were threatening an equaliser, with Sergio Romero called upon to race quickly and courageously from his line to save at the feet of the on-rushing Izet Hajrovic.

And though this game was not as open or incident-filled as most of those that have preceded it at Brazil 2014, Safet Susic’s side went close again five minutes before the interval when Senad Lulic’s powerful header forced Romero into another smart stop at his near post.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella had clearly seen enough to concern him, for he made a double half-time substitution, introducing both Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago to the action.  It was, though, his starting forwards – Messi and Sergio Aguero – who combined forLa Albiceleste’s next opportunity, with the latter blazing wildly over from the latter’s clever through ball.

Messi had been fairly subdued in the first half but came to life again soon after when he jinked away from a couple of challenges and slid in Aguero for a shot that, on this occasion, forced Begovic into a solid save. The Argentina captain would not be denied, though, and with 65 minutes scored an early contender for goal of the tournament. Bursting purposefully forward from midfield, he worked an incisive one-two with Higuain, skipped around Ermin Bicakcic and curled a perfect left-foot shot low into the net off the inside of Begovic’s right-hand post.

The Maracana rose to salute a truly superb goal and, for Bosnia, there was no way back. Messi was now relishing the occasion and, having scored one and made another, he set about carving out a third, chipping through for Higuain, who sprang the offside trap only to head over.

However, the debutants did at least ensure a dramatic finale when Vedad Ibisevic raced through and squeezed a left-foot shot between the legs of Romero with five minutes remaining. The damage had been done, though, and Susic’s side will now hope to regain some ground in their remaining group matches against Iran and Nigeria.

Line-ups

1 ROMERO (GK)
2 GARAY
3 CAMPAGNARO (-46′)
4 ZABALETA
7 DI MARIA
10 MESSI (C)
11 M. RODRIGUEZ(-46′)
14 MASCHERANO
16 ROJO
17 F. FERNANDEZ
20 AGUERO(-87′)

Substitutes

12 ORION (GK)
21 ANDUJAR (GK)
5 GAGO (+46′)
6 BIGLIA (+87′)
8 PEREZ
9 HIGUAIN (+46′)
13 A. FERNANDEZ
15 DEMICHELIS
18 PALACIO
19 ALVAREZ
22 LAVEZZI
23 BASANTA

Coach

SABELLA Alejandro (ARG)

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Argentina 2-0 Slovenia

Argentina fielded a weakened team but still eased to a 2-0 win over Slovenia on June 7th, before heading to Brazil for what many expect to be a strong challenge for the FIFA World Cup.

Argentina 2-0 Slovenia

Argentina 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Argentina stepped up their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ preparation with a comfortable home win against Trinidad and Tobago at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires on June 4th.

Argentina 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago