Lionel Messi saves the day as Argentina beats Iran, 1-0
FIFA World Cup 2014: Iran vs. Argentina preview, live commentary and recap.
It took 90 minutes, but Argentina superstar Lionel Messi finally flashed his brilliance, striking a goal in stoppage time to beat Iran and secure his team a spot in the Round of 16.
It was a mostly unimpressive affair for Messi until the final minutes, when he gathered the ball at the top of the box, dribbled left, and fired a shot through the previously impenetrable Iranian defense and keeper Alireza Haghighi.
Iran's plan Friday was simple: keep Argentina out of the goal. They spent much of the game packing the box, but they were able to steal a few chances on counters. In fact, Iran looked to be the side trending towards a goal.
But Messi, as we've seen time and again, is a transcendent talent. Certainly a tough way to fall for Iran.
Argentina is now through, with Nigeria and Iran each at one point. Nigeria will face Bosnia-Herzegovina later Saturday.
Argentina 1 (Messi 90' +1) - Iran 0
90' +1 -- OH STOP IT. Messi blasts from distance and finds the back of the net. The guy is unreal. What a way to fall for Iran.
90' -- Messi plays Palacio in the corner...except there is some sort of miscommunication and the ball rolls harmlessly out of bounds. Very sloppy play all day for Argentina.
86' -- WOW. Wonderful counter from Iran, but Reza's shot stopped by Romero. Great goalkeeping throughout on both ends.
83' -- Couple decent chances for Argentina. It will likely be nonstop attack until the final whistle.
79' -- About 15 more minutes of defending for Iran, and they may be tiring. Smart money is on an Argentina goal.
75' -- Excellent chance for Di Maria but he smashes a shot directly into haghighi. Things opening a bit for Argentina.
74' -- Messi tries to bend in the free kick but can't get enough curve.
73' -- Di Maria wins a free kick just outside the box, and Iran's Masoud Shojaei is given a yellow card for his challenge.
67' -- Terrific ball in, but Dejagah's header is just tipped over the bar by Romero. Iran is very much testing the Argentina defense.
64' -- Another good chance for Iran, as their corner clangs around inside the box but no one can get a foot to it.
60' -- Terrific chance for Messi, but his strike is just wide. Looked like the breakthrough for a moment.
59' -- The most recent Argentina possession was a microcosm of the entire game: Shot blocked, terrible cross sails out of bounds.
53' -- And the best chance of the day belongs to Iran. Great run and cross, but Reza's header is stuffed by Romero.
50' -- Zabaleta gets a chance thanks to some fancy feet from Messi -- who has been quiet today -- but his shot sails well wide.
47' -- And we're back underway. The early going is progressing similarly to the first half, which is...not good. Well, it's good for Iran, I suppose.
Halftime: Mostly what we expected -- tons of Argentina chances, but little results. Iran is packing the box and really only getting in trouble when they commit to an attack, which, in turn, can lead to an Argentina counter. '
Expect the same tactics from Iran in the second half, and we'll have to see what adjustments Argentina make.
42' -- VERY close for Iran on a corner, as Jalal Hosseini's header goes just high. That would have really gotten Argentina sweating -- they already seem quite restless and frustrated by the Iran defense.
37' -- Another great chance for Argentina but Messi's free kick is headed over the top by Garay.
33' -- Messi gets a free kick from just outside the box, but it sails just over the crossbar.
26' -- Di Maria gets a shot but a clumsy first touch results in a corner.
24' -- Marcos Rojo gets a good chance on a corner, but is header floats just wide.
22' -- Great strike from Aguero and better save by Haghighi. Things opening up a bit for Argentina.
18' -- Referee tackle!
18' -- Good chance for Argentina, as they counter off an Iran corner. It was the first time in the game that Argentina wasn't facing a completely packed box, but they weren't able to get a shot.
14' -- Great ball in from Gago to Higuain, but Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi quick off his line to make the block. Haghighi appears to have taken a boot to the shin on the play, however.
11' -- Messi with his first attempt from the top of the box, but his shot is deflected.
9' -- Prett rocky start. No real rhythm for either side, which is to Iran's liking and favor. This is all part of their master plan to make this game as awful and boring as possible. So far, so good!
4' -- Oh wow, great early chance for Iran as a free kick gets headed just wide.
1' -- We're underway and Argentina has the ball. Get used to that.
11:45 a.m. ET: Expect a lot of Argentina possession, as Iran will be content to sit back an defend, hoping to play to a draw as they did against Nigeria.
Slight change to start for the Argentine side, as both Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain will start the game rather than come off the bench. Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella tried a switch to start against Bosnia-Herzegovina but subbed Higuain and Gago at halftime.
Full lineups below.
Argentina: Sergio Romero; Marcos Rojo, Ezekiel Garay, Federico Fernandez, Pablo Zabaleta; Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero
Iran: Alireza Haghighi; Mehrdad Pooladi, Pejman Montazeri, Amir Hossein Sadeghi, Jalal Hosseini; Jevad Nekounam, Andranik Teymourian, Masoud Shojaei; Ehsan Hajsafi, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Ashkan Dejagah
Iran vs. Argentina (Group F) | Kickoff: 6/21 12 p.m. ET | Stadium: Mineirao
Match Preview: You know who's good at soccer? Argentina. You know who's not that good? Iran.
End of preview, right? Well, kind of.
There's not much to this game. Argentina is one of the best sides in the world, boasting arguably the world's best player in Lionel Messi.
To be fair, this isn't an Iran side that's expected to lie down. They held Nigeria scoreless in their opener, playing to a 0-0 draw. And they hang their hat on defense, but they'll have their hands full Saturday.
Argentina won its first match over Bosnia-Herzegovina and sit comfortably atop Group F. A win over Iran clinches their spot in the Round of 16.
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