Argentina beat Iran 1-0 to advance at soccer’s World Cup as Nigeria defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 to move to second behind the South Americans. Germany drew 2-2 with Ghana, missing a chance to control its group in Brazil.
Lionel Messi scored in second-half injury time yesterday to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran in their Group F match. The South Americans qualified for the Round of 16 with the victory.
The four-time World Player of the Year -- frustrated by the Iranians’s defense for most of the day in Belo Horizonte - - curled his shot into the goal in the 91st minute.
“It was very difficult,” Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella said. “We had the possession and the control in the first half. Iran played a great game. They defended deep and hit us on the counter, creating some good chances.”
Iran had several opportunities to take a lead and had a second-half penalty appeal turned down. Its players made 29 clearances to Argentina’s 8 as they allowed the South Americans to control the ball for more than 70 percent of the game.
It was Messi’s second goal in two matches, and came again as his team struggled. His goal in the opening game against Bosnia-Herzegovina gave Argentina a 2-1 victory, and was his first at a World Cup match in eight years.
Today in Group H, undefeated Belgium takes on Russia in Rio De Janeiro and Korea meets Algeria in Porto Algre. The U.S. plays Portugal, which features current World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. The Americans could take control of Group G with a win in Manaus on the edge of the Amazon.
In yesterday’s other Group F’s match, Peter Odemwingie scored in the 29th minute after Emmanuel Emenike ran past Emir Spahic’s challenge and centered the ball to his fellow forward in Cuiaba in the center of the country.
The weather -- 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) and 55 percent humidity -- started to slow the players in the second half. Edin Dzeko’s injury-time header went straight into the arms of Vincent Enyeama in goal, and the Nigerian goalkeeper blocked another shot with his legs minutes later.
Argentina has taken the six available points from its first two matches, although it hasn’t been easy. Nigeria has four points after today’s win and Iran has 1 point. Bosnia has no points.
In the day’s other match, Ghana drew 2-2 with Germany after taking the lead with two goals in 10 minutes of the second half. Substitute Miroslav Klose scored to gain a tie for the Europeans in their Group G match in Fortaleza.
“We conceded two goals we should never have conceded,” German forward Mario Gotze said. “It was a very difficult game overall. Now we need to recover, prepare well for our match against the U.S. and pick up all three points.”
The result leaves the Germans at four points and Ghana with one point after two games. The U.S., which has three points after beating the African team in their opener, has an opportunity to go to the top of the group tomorrow against Portugal, which has no points after its 4-0 loss to Germany.
Klose was on the field two minutes before scoring in the 71st minute. He put the ball in after a corner kick reached him at the far post. It was his 15th goal in a World Cup, tying him with retired Brazilian Ronaldo for the most in tournament history.
Germany had gone in front when Goetze, who was replaced by Klose, used his knee to score after cutting between two defenders and meeting a pass from Thomas Mueller in the 51st minute.
Ghana tied the match and took the lead in a short period of the second half. Defender Mats Hummels mistimed his challenge and allowed Asamoah Gyan to slip past, and the forward’s shot beat Manuel Neuer in the 63rd minute. Ten minutes earlier, Andre Ayew headed the ball into the corner of Neuer’s goal to tie the game.
In the final round of opening games on June 26, Germany takes on the U.S. and Portugal meets Ghana to decide the group.
“I believe attack is the best form of defense and that’s what we tried to put into practice,” Ghana coach Akwasi Appiah said. “It won’t be easy to reach the Round of 16. There are still a few games left to play in our group and although it’ll be tough, it is possible. You can only stop Cristiano Ronaldo, the best player in the world, by working as a team. We can’t let him show what he can do.”