Argentina sensationally qualify for last 16
Marcos Rojo (Supplied)
Cape Town - Marcus Rojo's stunning finish four minutes from time kept Lionel Messi and Argentina's World Cup hopes alive to see off Nigeria 2-1 on Tuesday and set up a last 16 meeting with France.
As it happened: Nigeria 1-2 Argentina
Lionel Messi set the two-time
winners on their way with his first goal in Russia but Victor Moses
equalised from the penalty spot and as time ticked away the increasingly
ragged South Americans appeared to be heading home.
But Rojo made
a surprise appearance in the box to turn home a cross from Gabriel
Mercado with a crisp side-footed volley in the 86th minute to send the
Argentine fans in Saint Petersburg, including legendary 1986 World Cup
winner Diego Maradona, into raptures.
A highly emotional Maradona
rushed to the front of the VIP box where he was watching and gave a
one-fingered salute with both hands and shouted an obscene insult.
later fell unwell and a video emerged of him being helped by two people
in his entourage into a chair. Photographs showed the 57-year-old being
tended to by parademics, although Argentinian daily Ola reported he
later went to his hotel.
Rojo's VAR escape
escape came after Rojo came close to having a penalty awarded against
for handball minutes earlier until he was saved by a controversial VAR
"It is marvellous to have won it in this manner. It is a
deserved joy," Messi said in quotes on Argentina's official Twitter
"We knew God was with us and wasn't going to let us go out.
"I thank all the fans that are here, for all their sacrifice and to all those in Argentina that were always with us."
were held by Iceland in their tournament opener and then humiliated 3-0
by Croatia, putting the 2014 finalists on the brink of a first-round
Their struggles came after their pre-tournament preparations
were wracked by controversy and poor form, coupled with a reliance on
an ageing, unbalanced squad.
The Argentine federation was even
forced to confirm that Jorge Sampaoli would continue for the final group
game amid rumours of a rift between players and coach.
drama played out, 1 500 kilometres away in Rostov-on-Don
Croatia snuffed out the challenge of Iceland, scoring late through Ivan
Perisic to seal a 2-1 win and complete a perfect group stage.
will face Denmark in the first knockout round in Nizhny Novgorod on
Sunday but Nigeria and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland will head
Croatia took the lead thanks to a slick second-half volley
by Milan Badelj. Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised from the penalty spot before
Perisic struck late.
Croatia were already through to the last 16
and coach Zlatko Dalic rested most of the side that thumped Argentina
3-0, with only captain Luka Modric and the winger Perisic keeping their
"Our goal is achieved," said man-of-the-match Badelj. "We
are top of the group and we are ready to compete in the second round of
the World Cup.
"Now we can concentrate on preparations for the
knockout stage. This is a big new win for Croatia. There is no special
celebration, let's go further, step by step through the tournament."
France top group
France and Denmark produced the first goalless match of the tournament
in front of 78,000 spectators at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Deschamps rested goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and midfielder Paul Pogba among
six changes and his side struggled to create any clear-cut chances
against a determined Denmark.
Deschamps immediately switched his focus towards what he called the "second competition" after the uninspiring contest.
a second competition that's going to start, the last 16 is straight
elimination," said the coach, who must now prepare his players to face
Messi and Argentina.
"There's a mountain in front of us now. But we're there and we're full of ambition to get to the next stage."
will go back to the drawing board after they ended bottom of Group C
with a solitary point following a 2-0 defeat to Peru, who are also
Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero, the veteran who
was only cleared to play days before the tournament after having a ban
for taking cocaine lifted, scored in Sochi.
Tim Cahill, the
38-year-old Australian midfielder, came on as a substitute for his first
appearance in his fourth World Cup but was unable to influence the
outcome and the Socceroos will have to look to the future with talents
such as 19-year-old Iranian-born Daniel Arzani.