After waiting for over 90 minutes to score against Iran, Lionel Messi took three to get one on Wednesday. And it took Nigeria only a minute to cancel that out through Ahmed Musa. It was the first time ever in a World Cup that both teams had scored inside the first five minutes.
Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates with his teammates after scoring his second goal during the World Cup Group F matcha gainst Nigeria at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre. (AP Photo)
Just to show it wasn't a fluke, the teams did it again in the first five minutes of the second half. Musa scored again breaking through the inner defence after a give-go with Emmanuel Emenike. Marcos Rojo then got his first international goal with the most fortuitous of knee touches. Argentina won 3-2 but both teams qualified to the pre-quarter finals.
Gonzalo Higuain could have made it 2-1 in the ninth minute but drove narrowly wide. That is how the first half ended with Messi conjuring up a magical free-kick. Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama had superb game on Wednesday, responsible for a hattrick Angel di Maria never got, but he just gave up on seeing how the ball was curling into the side-netting.
Porto Alegre had been left wet by a thunderstorm on Tuesday but at the Estadio Beira-Rio, it was raining goals. The southern city is close to Argentina and some 80,000 Argentines, media reports said, had come visiting. Messi made their trip worth it with an early goal.
It was superb long-range pass from Javier Mascherano that set Di Maria free. Di Maria's shot hit the upright, the rebound running loose inside Nigeria's penalty area. Racing in, Messi bulged the roof of the netting.
Nigeria hit back with panache inside 80 seconds. On the break, John Obi Mikel found Musa with a superb pass and Pablo Zabaleta needlessly cut giving Musa the space he needed. A little further up from where Jermaine Jones had struck for the USA against Portugal, Musa produced a similar effort. With a similar result.
Messi came close but failed to meet a Di Maria ball with a sliding effort. After looking out of sorts against Iran, Di Maria was a lot more active this afternoon. He and Messi were repeatedly running towards the Nigeria goal with Sergio Aguero and Higuain around, a goal seemed imminent.
It would have through a Di Maria long-ranger but Enyeama flew to his left to keep the 30-yard effort out. Argentina though were forced into an early substitution when Aguero limped out and Ezequiel Lavezzi came in. Lavezzi could have scored but for another reflex save from the Nigerian goalie.
Between withstanding an Argentine onslaught, Emenike ran through the inner defence before Peter Odemwingie went over. In the final quarter, Musa drove down the left and it took a superb tackle from Zabaleta to keep Argentina in front. Having lost the first duel, Zabaleta won all the remaining ones between him and Musa. Fernando Gago then got a leg in the way of Efe Ambrose's shot.
Iran go home empty handed
Bosnia beat Iran 3-1 in their Group F finale on Wednesday to record their first World Cup win and deny the West Asians any chance of reaching the knockout stage.
Already eliminated after two losses, Bosnia, went ahead in the 23rd minute through Edin Dzeko, who drilled a left-foot shot past Iran goalkeeper. Bosnia doubled their lead just before the hour through Miralem Pjanic.