It was shaping up to be one of the most shocking results and arguably biggest upsets in World Cup history ... and then Lionel Messi happened with just three minutes remaining in the game.
Yes, the Argentine star came through when his country absolutely needed him to, drilling a goal in stoppage time to salvage a 1-0 victory over Iran in Belo Horizonte on Saturday. Despite struggling for big stretches of their first two games, Argentina has sealed a spot in the knockout round with six points and could take first place in the round if Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina play to a draw on Saturday night.
How big of an upset would a 0-0 draw or an Iran victory in this match have been? Well, Argentina came into the match ranked fifth in the world while Iran came in ranked 43rd. Though the Iranians parked the bus and played defense for much of the match, they did have a few close calls around the Argentina goal. Had one ball snuck in and Messi not come through, this match would have been up there with US-England in 1950, North Korea-Italy in 1966, Senegal-France in 2002 and South Korea-Italy in 2002.
[Photos: Argentina vs. Iran]
If nothing else, even a scoreless draw would have been the biggest moment in Iran soccer history. The team put on a clinic in shutting down Argentina's powerful attack and did everything they could to earn a point in the standings.
But it simply wasn't to be.
Man of the Match
Who else but Messi?
Messi. Stoppage-time winner. https://t.co/hWR7vylU8n— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) June 21, 2014
So cruel to Iran, who put on such a brave show today. But also so special from Messi. Enormous goal.— Jamie Trecker (@JamieTreckerFOX) June 21, 2014
Argentina closes out against Nigeria on Wednesday and will need to clear some things up with its approach before the knockout round. Iran will finish against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Iran's hopes are still alive, but they'll be in the best shape with a draw in Saturday night's Nigeria-Bosnia-Herzegovina match. That result would guaranteed a knockout berth with a win on Wednesday paired with an Argentina triumph.
But as we saw on Saturday, nothing is guaranteed. Except for maybe the brilliance of Messi.
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