Argentina had to wait until the 91st minute to pip Group F rivals Iran 1-0 in their match-up in Belo Horizonte yesterday evening.
And it was none other than talisman Lionel Messi who secured the win for the Albicelesti, netting a superb long-range strike in extra time to ensure maximum points for his side. It was a frustrating first half for the South American champions, as Iran sat back and soaked up wave after wave of Argentinean attack, sitting with ten men behind the ball and not allowing Argentina to play their natural game.
Alejandro Sabella’s men showed their intent early on as Gonzalo Higuain was played in, but his first-time shot was well-closed down by goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi, who had a busy afternoon between the sticks for Iran.
Haghighi then produced a fine diving save from a goal-bound Sergio Aguro strike, denying the two-time World Cup winners the lead.
Argentina’s best chance of the half came on 36 minutes, as Messi’s curling free-kick was met by the head of the leaping Ezequiel Garay, whose header flew narrowly over the top of the Iranian goal.
Iran were content to defend deep, as large periods of the game were played with no players in the opposition half, yet the Asians did enjoy three attempts on goal from set-pieces in the opening 45 minutes, yet none which really troubled Argentina keeper Sergio Romero.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first as marauding right-back Pablo Zabaleta curled a shot narrowly wide.
Yet Iran then signalled their attacking intent, Reza Ghoochannejhad producing a fine save from Romero as he denied a goal-bound header from the Iranian forward.