A sublime strike from Lionel Messi denied Iran a famous FIFA World Cup point as his late goal gave Argentina a 1-0 win in Belo Horizonte.
Few would have expected Argentina, viewed as one of the favourites to win the tournament, to be given too much of a test by a team that has never gone beyond the first round of a World Cup in three previous appearances.
However, Carlos Queiroz’s side, who had been criticised for their defensive style of play following their opening Group F goalless stalemate against Nigeria, produced another resolute display at Estadio Mineirao on Saturday to come within a few minutes of a highly creditable draw.
But, in injury time, it was Messi who stepped up when it mattered most, curling home brilliantly into the corner to give the South Americans a place in the last 16.
Meanwhile, Iran will head into their final group game with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday reflecting on an opportunity missed, and knowing that only victory will be enough to extend their tournament.
Argentina unsurprisingly dictated the opening stages without creating any clear-cut opportunities against an Iran defence that displayed the same determination as against Nigeria.
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