- Special Features
Blogs & Columns
- Fun & Games
Lionel Messi scored a cracker of a goal in the first minute of stoppage time in the second half to lead Argentina to a 1-0 victory over an inspiring Iranian team. It looked as though Iran was going shock the world and manage to get a point against the fourth ranked team in the world, but it was not to be.
Argentina went into their game against Iran knowing that a win would secure them a spot in the knockout stage. In their opening 2-1 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Argentina made a tactical adjustment at halftime when they took out their fifth defender in favor for an extra attacker.
Messi, considered by many the greatest player in the world, openly criticized head coach Alejandro Sabella for starting the game with five defenders, criticism that Sabella says was warranted according to the Daily Mail.
Argentina looked far better in the second half against Bosnia and Herzegovina playing with a third attacker in Gonzalo Higuaín, who scored 17 goals in 31 Serie A games with Napoli this season.
Higuaín would get the start against Iranas Argentina opened up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Messi and Manchester City forward Sergio Agüero joining him up front.
Despite a star-studded front line, Argentina was unable to score against a gritty Iran side in the opening 45 minutes. Iranian goalkeeper, Alireza Haghighi, who plays for S.C. Covilhã in Portugal's second tier league, did well whenever he was called upon, though the Iranian defense was able to stall most of Argentina's attacks before they got to him.
Jubilation nearly broke out across Iran in the 52nd minute but Reza Ghoochanneijhad's header from right in front of the goal was saved by Sergio Romero. Iran then tried to make a case for a penalty in the 54th minute but the Serbian referee would hear none of it. Messi put together a run in the 59th minute which resulted in a shot that was dangerously close to the target.
You could feel the confidence building in Iran, and it would have resulted in a goal in the 67th minute had it not been for a fingertip save by Romero to force a glancing header over the crossbar.
Iran repeatedly turned away Argentina's advances for the next 24 minutes before a moment of brilliance by the great Messi in the 91st minute. The Barcelona legend curved in a left footed effort to deny Iran of the greatest result in their history.
Argentina is through to the knockout stages with the win, but as ABC 7 reported, they will need to show vast improvement if they are to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time since 1990.