Messi beauty saves disappointing Argentina in injury-time
Lionel Messi curled in a superb injury-time goal to give disappointing Argentina a 1-0 World Cup win over battling Iran to send them into the second round.
Argentina dominated possession but rarely looked like penetrating the massed ranks of defenders and Iran, growing in confidence after the break, were twice denied as headers by Reza Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah were saved by Romero, the second a spectacular tip over the bar.
Constantly crowded out by two and sometimes three Iranians, Messi had until the end been unable to pull the strings and again vomited on the pitch in the first half. The Argentine captain put two free kicks wide in either half, and saw a shot go wide after a trademark run early in the second.
In a succession of wasted Argentine first half chances, Gonzalo Higuain was quickly shut down by goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi in a one-on-one in the 13th minute, Angel Di Maria shot over the bar and Sergio Aguero had a curling shot well saved.
Marcos Rojo and Ezequiel Garay put headers off target and the game looked to be heading for a draw, until Messi scored his second of the tournament.
The Albiceleste sealed its qualification to the knockout stage in Belo Horizonte, and now waits for its last Group F match against Nigeria, who plays later today vs Bosnia."Messi is a genius"
Coach Alejandro Sabella set a 4-3-3 formation, putting Messi, Agüero and Higuaín together in the attack, but couldn't break through a tough Iranian defense.
"We were nervous," Argentine goalkeeper Romero said: "We need to be a bit calmer against Nigeria and play better."
"We had a very difficult time," said Sabella after the match.
"Iran gave us the ball and waited in their field with a tough defense. All of our players were very well neutralized," he added.
"Lucky for us, we have Messi. And Messi is a genius."