June 15, Rio de Janeiro, Argentina 2 Bosnia 1
Lionel Messi had a hand in both goals as Argentina saw off a spirited Bosnia side making their debut at a World Cup finals.
Sead Kolisinac scored the fastest own goal in the tournament's history from Messi's free kick after two minutes and eight seconds. Argentina's four-times World Player of the Year then netted a superb second midway through the second half, exchanging passes with Gonzalo Higuain and curling a shot low into the net off a post.
Bosnia pulled a goal back late on but Argentina and their talisman Messi were not to be denied a winning start.
June 21, Belo Horizonte, Argentina 1 Iran 0
Messi left it late to secure the win in Argentina's second outing in Brazil against an Iran side who defended superbly against waves of attacks until a minute into stoppage time.
The 27-year-old drifted in from the right wing and with the Iranian players massed in front of him somehow managed to bend a 25-yard shot into the far corner to maintain Argentina's perfect start.
June 25, Porto Alegre, Nigeria 2 Argentina 3
Messi continued his electric form and was man of the match for a third straight game after his double helped Argentina dispatch the African champions and secure top spot in the group.
Messi twice put his side ahead, his second goal a sublime free kick just before the break, and twice Nigeria equalised through Ahmed Musa before Marcos Rojo bundled the ball over the line at a corner five minutes after halftime.
Round of 16
July 1, Sao Paulo, Argentina 1 Switzerland 0 (AET)
Messi turned provider in Argentina's opening game of the knockout stages, a tense affair against a Swiss side that caused the South Americans real problems and held out until two minutes before the end of extra time.
With penalties looming, Messi picked up the ball and started off towards goal before slipping the ball to his right for Angel Di Maria to clip a low shot past Diego Benaglio's despairing dive into the corner of the net.
July 5, Brasilia, Argentina 1 Belgium 0
Gonzalo Higuain ended a six-match goal drought at the perfect time for Argentina, crashing the ball past Thibaut Courtois in the eighth minute at the national stadium.
Apart from a couple of late scares, they held on comfortably against a disappointingly toothless Belgian team, with Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano working tirelessly in midfield, and Messi could even afford to squander a one-on-one with Courtois in the dying seconds.
July 9, Sao Paulo, Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (AET)
Argentina win 4-2 on penalties
The last-four clash at the Corinthians arena was always likely to be a nervy encounter and so it proved as both sides were desperate not to concede rather than going all out for goal.
Messi was well marshalled by the Dutch, only managing to cause danger on two or three occasions, while Mascherano and Biglia again had superb games in the Argentine midfield.
Ultimately, Sergio Romero proved the hero for the South Americans as he saved two spot kicks and Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez all netted theirs to send Argentina through to the final for the first time in 24 years. (Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Patrick Johnston)
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Gonzalo Higuain