Argentina vs. Iran, 2014 World Cup: Final score 1-0, Lionel Messi bails out La Albiceleste

Iran inexplicably outplayed Argentina. Then Lionel Messi struck.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Argentina got outplayed by Iran for most of their World Cup encounter, gifting them the best chances of the match, but Lionel Messi came up absolutely massive in the end. The Albiceleste were only in position to win the match because of the brilliance of their goalkeeper, but they won't care after Messi's stoppage time wonderstrike guided them to a 1-0 win.

The Iranians had three pretty distinctive spells in the first half, ultimately leading to them holding onto a clean sheet into the break. They actually looked like the better team for the opening five to 10 minutes, then started to fall apart a little bit. But they regained their composure about a half-hour into the match and even created a couple of decent set piece opportunities late in the first half, despite not really attacking.

During Iran's shaky 20-minute spell, Argentina got close to scoring on a couple occasions. Gonzalo Higuain forced Ali Reza Haghighi into a save in the 13th minute, poking a shot into his stomach off a through ball from Fernando Gago. Marcos Rojo should have scored with a free header nine minutes later, but put his shot was just wide.

Sergio Aguero should have scored in the 52nd minute, but stunningly whiffed. Rojo served the ball up on a silver platter with a brilliant cross from the left wing, but Aguero couldn't direct the ball on target.

That almost turned into a goal on the other end just under a minute later, with Iran creating a brilliant chance. Raza Ghoochannejhad got on the end of a header from eight yards, but hit it right at Sergio Romero, who was able to make a save. Another two minutes after that, Iran should have had a penalty. Pablo Zabaleta hacked down Askhan Dejagah in the box in the 54th minute, but the referee didn't spot it and thought Zabaleta got all ball.

As the half wore on, Iran got more and more confident, and they were only prevented from taking the lead in the 67th minute by the fingertips of Romero, who made a world class save on Dejagah. He directed a gorgeous looping header on target from the center of the box, but Romero was able to just barely tip it over the crossbar.

Astonishingly, despite his team's struggles, it took Alejandro Sabella 77 minutes to make changes. When he did, he changed attackers, opting for different types of players. Ezequiel Lavezzi came on for Sergio Aguero to give the team a true wide man, while Rodrigo Palacio entered for Gonzalo Higuain to help with link-up play.

It certainly didn't work initially, and as Argentina pushed harder for a winner, lanes opened up for Iran to counter into. Romero was forced into yet another excellent save in the 86th minute when Ghoochannejhad challenged him with a shot to the far post on the end of a quick break.

But in the end, it was Messi's day. In stoppage time, he hit a stunner from 25 yards, breaking Iranian hearts. After producing nothing all match, the Barcelona star curled a perfect shot into the back of the net, and just like that, Argentina had all three points and a ticket to the knockout round. They might not deserve it, but they probably don't care.

Argentina: Romero, Rojo, Garay, Fernandez, Zabaleta, Mascherano, Gago, Maria, Messi, Higuain (Palacio 77'), Aguero (Lavezzi 77')

Goals: Messi (90')

Iran: Haghighi, Pooladi, Montazeri, Hossein Sadeghi, Hosseini, Nekounam, Teymourian, Shojaei (Heydari 77'), Hajsafi (Haghighi 88'), Ghoochannejhad, Dejagah (Jahanbakhsh 85')

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