Argentina 1 Iran 0: Highlights, key battles, and what this result means
Published on Jun 22, 2014 2:54 AM
If Argentina are supposed to be one of the favourites to lift the World Cup trophy this year, they surely haven't been showing it. The side clawed to victory - again - in a 1-0 battle against Iran, needing an extra-time Messi miracle to pull themselves across the finish line.
Iran showed up with a plan to defend and frustrate, and were just minutes from earning a famous point. Despite the loss, the world No .43 Asian side should come away with their heads held high for having stifled their more talented opponents, ranked No. 5, for so much of the match.
They might even have taken the win if not for Argentine keeper Sergio Romero's numerous saves in the second half.
- Most of the game went as expected, with Argentina dominating an overwhelming amount of possession, facing an Iranian side that had arrived to park a mega bus on the pitch. Up against a steely defence, the Argentine side were stifled and unable to execute their usual fluid, creative selves. This, despite starting the game in a favoured 4-3-3 formation that gave them the breakthrough against Bosnia and Herzegovina in their opening match.
- One side turned it up a notch after the break, but it was not the favoured Argentina. For all the talk about their defensive prowess, Iran showed they could apply pressure on the counter just as well, finally putting Argentina goalkeeper Romero to work. Ashkan Dejagah breaks down the right early in the second half to deliver a pass to Iranian's main man up front Reza Ghoochannejhad, who has his header parried away by Romero.
- Iran appeal for a penalty almost immediately after after Dejagah is challenged by Pablo Zabaleta. Close call, but replays show the Man City man got just about a toe on the ball.
- Dejagah almost gets his head on an opener in the 67th min, but Romero pulls off a top-class save to tip it over.
- Iran has their 90 minutes of stubborn defense undone by one lax moment, allowing Messi a little too much space for him to comfortably send a curler to beat Iranian keeper Haghighi at the far post. Game over for Iran.
Messi v Iranian defence
It was always going to be about keeping the Messi show under wraps. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz's gameplan to surround the Barcelona man with three to four red shirts any time he has the ball worked to a tinker. Other than set-pieces and a solo run down the middle which went off-target, the Argentine captain was subdued for large periods of the game.
Until, of course, that last stroke of genius.
Still, it should be noted that despite being goal scorer and match winner again for Argentina, one can't say that Messi has showed the quality he clearly has - even when he has dragged his team to victory twice in a row now.
Man of the Match:
So close to a clean sheet he can live to tell grandchildren about, Haghighi had several memorable saves to keep it 0-0 for as long as he did.
First, coming off his post decisively to deny Fernando Gago early in the match, then another flying save to keep out a shot from Sergio Aguero meant for the top corner, then attempts from Angel Di Maria and Rodrigo Palacio in the second half.
Messi's quality in extra time was a little too much, but Haghighi helped Iran hang in there for as long as they did.
What this result means:
Argentina book themselves a place in the last 16 with a second straight victory, but depending on how the later match between Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina go, might still need one more victory against Nigeria to secure top place in the group.
Likely to top Group F.
Iran are still in it, thanks to the precious point earned against Nigeria in their opener. A draw between Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the most favourable result for the Asians.