PORTO ALEGRE – Gp F: Nigeria 2, Argentina 2
—- Argentina and Nigeria both qualified for the second round even though two fine goals from Lionel Messi condemned the African shampions to defeat in their final group game.
The Barcelona forward netted a fierce opener but Ahmed Musa equalised within 80 seconds. Messi made it 2-1 before the break with a 25-yard free-kick, but Musa grabbed his second after bursting through. Marcos Rojo scored Argentina’s winner, knocking in a corner with a knee.
Argentina finished top of Group F with three wins from three games while Nigeria were second with four points.
Another entertaining goal-fest was kicked off within three minutes when Messi shot home after Angel Di Maria’s effort came back off Victor Enyeama’s right-hand post.
The celebrations had barely died down when Nigeria levelled. Midfielder Michel Babatunde – later carried off with a wrist injury – fed the ball into the left side of the area for Musa, who shifted to his right before curling in.
The forwards on show continued to expose the fragility of both defences, but it was not until stoppage time in the first half that the next goal arrived.
Messi, who moments earlier drew an exceptional free-kick save from Vincent Enyeama, this time struck his dead ball over the wall and beyond the reach of the Lille goalkeeper.
It was the 27-year-old’s fourth goal in three matches at Brazil 2014, having scored just once in his first eight World Cup appearances.
Nigeria knew that Bosnia-Hercegovina had taken an early lead against qualification rivals Iran, but they did not rest on their laurels and were level within two minutes of the restart through Musa again afer taking a return pass from Emmanuel Emenike.
Argentina pressed once more, with Di Maria twice forcing Enyeama to make good stops. But the Nigeria goalkeeper was beaten again eventually, when defender Rojo used his knee to convert a corner from the left.