World Cup - Group F
By David OrnsteinBBC Sport in Belo Horizonte
Highlights: Argentina 1-0 Iran

Story of the match:

  • Iran have strong penalty claim rejected
  • Ashkan Dejagah's header saved
  • Lionel Messi scores 91st-minute winner
  • Argentina qualify for the last 16

Lionel Messi curled a stunning 91st-minute winner to send Argentina through to the World Cup knockout stage and rob the excellent Iran of a deserved point.

Iran spent much of the first half under pressure but more than once threatened to inflict what would have been a huge upset.

Lionel Messi scores stunning goal in stoppage time

Argentina's celebrations at the final whistle were wild and prolonged, while the sight of coach Alejandro Sabella embracing Messi at the tunnel gave an indication of what this meant to the two-time champions.

The build-up was dominated by talk of a rift between Messi and Sabella, the captain having expressed his displeasure at the 5-3-2 formation used in the first half against Bosnia-Hercegovina when Messi also scored the decisive goal.

Sabella duly reverted to the Barcelona forward's preferred 4-3-3 and was rewarded by his star man at the last.

Key facts
Argentina have won 11 and lost just one of their past 14 World Cup group games, scoring 27 goals and conceding just five in total in this run.
Iran attempted just 130 passes against Argentina, the fewest made by a team in a World Cup match since 1966.
Lionel Messi has now scored 40 goals for Argentina.

Iran looked devastated at the end but must take immense confidence from a performance that combined defensive resilience with attacking adventure - and from the knowledge they could still qualify.

Carlos Queiroz's men actually created the first meaningful chance when Jala Hosseini headed wide from Ashkan Dejagah's free-kick, although Argentina then assumed control.

Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago provided a solid base for Angel Di Maria and full-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo to support Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.

Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi displayed superb reflexes to foil Higuain and save one-handed from Aguero. Rojo then headed narrowly wide, Messi was off target with a free-kick and Ezequiel Garay nodded inches over the bar. The Iran fans celebrated every reprieve like a goal.

Argentina were meeting a wall of resistance every time they attacked but Iran's impressive defending ought to have been no surprise - they kept more clean sheets in qualifying than any team at the tournament. And when not thwarting the South Americans' forwards, Queiroz's team again came close to a goal of their own with another Hosseini header.

Iran's preparations for the competition had been hampered by political sanctions that affected their funding and ability to organise friendlies, but they looked fully prepared and again came close to taking a shock lead through Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Masoud Shojaei surged forward and fed Pejman Montazeri to cross for the Charlton Athletic striker, who would have scored had his header been aimed anywhere other than straight at Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.

But the chance served to further bolster Iran's self-belief and after Dejagah had a strong penalty claim rejected by referee Milorad Mazic, the Fulham man was thwarted by Romero's fingertips as he met another Montazeri cross with a powerful header.

Messi worked hard to swing the momentum back in Argentina's favour, slotting wide after a quick break and sending a free-kick into the side-netting, while Sabella introduced Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi in place of Aguero and Higuain as his side pushed hard for a winner.

Still chances came for Iran, however, Ghoochannejhad nearly stealing the win, only for Romero to make a diving stop - and that miss proved costly when captain Messi stepped up with a wonderful finish into the far corner to send Argentina through with a game to spare and keep them on course for a first World Cup since 1986.

Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad reacts after a missed chance against Argentina
Iran had chances to take a surprise lead against Argentina, with Reza Ghoochannejhad denied by a save from Sergio Romero
Argentina fans pray
Argentina fans were seen praying as the clock ticked down with the game still goalless
Argentina forward Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi has scored eight goals in his last seven appearances for Argentina
Argentina forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Iran
Argentina only had one more shot on target than Iran
Iran defender Pejman Montazeri reacts at the final whistle after his team's 1-0 defeat to Argentina
It was all too much for Iran defender Pejman Montazeri, whose reaction at the end told a story



  • 1Romero
  • 17Fernández
  • 16Rojo
  • 4Zabaleta
  • 2Garay
  • 7Di MaríaSubstituted forBigliaat 90+4'minutes
  • 10Messi
  • 14Mascherano
  • 5Gago
  • 9HiguaínSubstituted forPalacioat 77'minutes
  • 20AgüeroSubstituted forLavezziat 77'minutes


  • 3Campagnaro
  • 6Biglia
  • 8Pérez
  • 11Rodríguez
  • 12Orión
  • 13Fernández
  • 15Demichelis
  • 18Palacio
  • 19Álvarez
  • 21Andujar
  • 22Lavezzi
  • 23Basanta


  • 12Haghighi
  • 5Sadeqi
  • 15Montazeri
  • 23Pooladi
  • 4Hosseini
  • 3HajsafiSubstituted forHaghighiat 88'minutes
  • 6NekounamBooked at 53mins
  • 7ShojaeiBooked at 72minsSubstituted forHeydariat 77'minutes
  • 14Teymourian
  • 21DejagahSubstituted forJahanbakhshat 85'minutes
  • 16Ghoochannejhad


  • 1Ahmadi
  • 2Heydari
  • 8Haghighi
  • 9Jahanbakhsh
  • 10Ansarifard
  • 11Haddadifar
  • 13Mahini
  • 17Alnameh
  • 18Rahmani
  • 19Beikzadeh
  • 20Beitashour
  • 22Davari
Milorad Mazic

Match Stats

Home TeamArgentinaAway TeamIran
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Argentina 1, Iran 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Iran 0.

  3. Post update

    Javier Mascherano (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Amir Hossein Sadeqi (Iran).

  5. Substitution

    Substitution, Argentina. Lucas Biglia replaces Ángel Di María.

  6. Goal!

    Goal! Argentina 1, Iran 0. Lionel Messi (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ezequiel Lavezzi.

  7. Post update

    Federico Fernández (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Reza Ghoochanneijhad (Iran).

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Iran. Reza Haghighi replaces Ehsan Hajsafi.

  10. Post update

    Attempt saved. Reza Ghoochanneijhad (Iran) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Alireza Jahanbakhsh with a through ball.

  11. Post update

    Attempt missed. Marcos Rojo (Argentina) header from the centre of the box misses to the right following a corner.

  12. Post update

    Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Jalal Hosseini.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Iran. Alireza Jahanbakhsh replaces Ashkan Dejagah.

  14. Post update

    Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Alireza Haghighi.

  15. Post update

    Attempt missed. Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina) header from a difficult angle on the left is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Javier Mascherano.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Marcos Rojo (Argentina).

  17. Post update

    Reza Ghoochanneijhad (Iran) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Marcos Rojo (Argentina) left footed shot from long range on the right misses to the left. Assisted by Ezequiel Lavezzi following a corner.

  19. Post update

    Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Mehrdad Pooladi.

  20. Post update

    Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Pejman Montazeri.

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