• Saturday, August 02, 2014

Messi puts Argentina on top

Bosnia's maiden win sends Nigeria through

Afp/reuters, Porto Alegre
Lionel Messi is elated after putting Argentina ahead only in the third minute against Nigeria during their World Cup Group F match at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Wednesday. He later added another goal to his tally as Argentia beat Nigeria 3-2. PHOTO: REUTERS
Lionel Messi is elated after putting Argentina ahead only in the third minute against Nigeria during their World Cup Group F match at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Wednesday. He later added another goal to his tally as Argentia beat Nigeria 3-2. PHOTO: REUTERS

A double from Lionel Messi a day after his 27th birthday inspired Argentina to a 3-2 win over African champions Nigeria and assured them of finishing top of Group F at the World Cup finals on Wednesday.
Nigeria's defeat -- their fourth in four meetings at the finals against Argentina -- came with the considerable consolation that they still progressed to the second round as Iran lost 3-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the other group game.

Argentina began to turn on the style after low key wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran.
Nigeria are appearing in the second round for the first time since 1998.
The match got off to a stunning start as Messi fired home his third goal of the finals after two-and-a-half-minutes -- the fastest goal of his career -- to finally crack a Nigerian defence that had not conceded a goal in their previous two matches.

A telling pass by Fernando Gago found Angel di Maria only for the Real Madrid man's shot to ricochet off the near post. As the loose ball bounced Messi magically appeared to slam into the roof of Vincent Enyeama's net.
Argentina's lead lasted all of 80 seconds when CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa curled the ball artfully past Sergio Romero into the far post.
Enyeama then did well to keep the scores level when keeping out di Maria's thunderous low drive from 30m out.
On 38 minutes Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella was forced into an unscripted change of personnel when Sergio Aguero limped off to be replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi.
As the interval approached Messi struck a peach of a free kick from outside the box, only denied by another fine save from Enyeama.
But the Lille stopper couldn't perform the same heroics when from a near identical position shortly after another Messi free kick thudded into the near corner for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Musa levelled only two minutes into the second half when, getting the better of Argentine defenders Federico Fernandez and Marcos Rojo, he clipped the ball past Romero.
In an at times breathtaking encounter Rojo bagged his first international goal three minutes later, knocking the ball home with his knee off a corner after Nigeria failed to clear Ezequiel Garay's header.
With his work done Sabella rested Messi on the hour, Ricardo Alvarez coming on in his place.
Musa had 'hattrick' flashing in front of his eyes in the final quarter of an hour when he cut inside Pablo Zabaleta only for the Manchester City defender to produce a superb tackle to deny him the scoring opportunity.
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. Bosnia's victory was their first World Cup win.
Already eliminated after two losses, Bosnia, appearing at a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation, went ahead in the 23rd minute through Edin Dzeko.
Bosnia doubled their lead just before the hour through Miralem Pjanic's cool finish before Reza Ghoochannejhad pulled a goal back for Iran in the 82nd minute.
Avdija Vrsajevic restored Bosnia's two-goal cushion with a fine strike a minute later.
Iran had required all three points against Bosnia and needed Argentina to beat Nigeria to have any shot of grabbing a surprise place in the last 16.

 

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last modified: 9:01 pm Thursday, June 26, 2014

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