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Argentina defeats Nigeria in dramatic fashion, joins Croatia in Round of 16

Thanks to a late goal by Marcos Rojo, Argentina has advanced out of Group D.

Nigeria v Argentina: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Final scores: Argentina 2-1 Nigeria, Croatia 2-1 Iceland

We can hardly say that Argentina figured out their problems on Tuesday. They were still outplayed by Nigeria at times, and looked like they’d be heading home for much of the game. But Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo pulled off some surprise moments of brilliance, and now the Argentines have a Round of 16 date with France.

If you don’t like how Argentina got through, well, here’s what Diego Maradona thinks.

Croatia, meanwhile, took care of business against Iceland despite resting some stars. Iceland actually had a decent chance to steal second place from Argentina until the very end of their match, when they conceded a winner to Croatia while taking some desperate risks. Croatia will meet Denmark in the next round.

GOAL Ivan Perisic! Croatia 2-1 Iceland

That’ll do it for Iceland, a cruel couple of minutes for them. Perisic shows off his pace and blasts a shot past Halldorsson.

GOAL Marcos Rojo! Argentina 2-1 Nigeria

Marcos Rojo? Yes, Marcos Rojo! The often maligned Argentina defender has fired his team into second place for the time being with a stunning volley. Of all the players to be the hero...

PENALTY! Handball on Dejan Lovren. Gylfi Sigurdsson scores! Croatia 1-1 Iceland.

Iceland back in it! But they don’t just need one more goal, they either need multiple goals or help in the other game. This was an easy call for the ref, and Sigurdsson buried his spot kick.

Meanwhile, in the other game, there’s just been a huge no-penalty call. Marcos Rojo handled the ball, but VAR determined that it was done so inadvertently, so no penalty for Nigeria.

GOAL Milan Badelj! Croatia 1-0 Iceland

Double terrible news for Iceland. Just after Nigeria equalizes, they concede, and now they’re a few goals away from getting into second place.

PENALTY! Javier Mascherano fouls Leon Balogun. Victor Moses scores! Argentina 1-1 Nigeria

This might be soft, but it’s a penalty for sure. Mascherano was warned by the referee to not pull shirts on the corner, then does it when the ref is looking right at him. Dumb. Moses makes no mistake from the spot, and Nigeria is back in second place.

Halftime scores: Argentina 1-0 Nigeria, Croatia 0-0 Iceland

As it stands, Lionel Messi and Argentina are through to the next round. Messi’s goal blew our minds.

But thanks to Croatia’s heavy victory over the Argentines, Iceland still has a slight tiebreaker advantage. If Iceland scores and nothing else happens, that’ll send Iceland to the next round.

You can find all the highlights and the live Group D standings below.

40’ — Huge chance for Alfred Finnbogason

Iceland was this close to taking the lead.

34’ — Lionel Messi free kick hits the post

What a shot. Really unlucky to not score. It looks like goalkeeper Francis Uzoho just barely gets a finger to it.

GOAL Lionel Messi! Argentina 1-0 Nigeria

Oh come on, did you really think he wouldn’t step up in a do-or-die moment? Ever Banega set up the goal with a wonderful pass, but Messi’s first and second touches, then finish were even better.

World Cup Group D standings

Through to the Round of 16: Croatia, Argentina

Group D table

Team Points Goal Diff. Goals Scored
Team Points Goal Diff. Goals Scored
Croatia 9 6 7
Argentina 4 -2 3
Nigeria 2 -1 3
Iceland 1 -3 2

If Lionel Messi is indeed the de facto Argentina coach, having taken over from Jorge Sampaoli during a rumored player revolt, he hasn’t made changes that are too dramatic. Everyone in the team started one of the first two games save for goalkeeper Franco Armani, who replaces the disastrous Willy Caballero. The Argentina lineup looks most likely to be a 4-3-3, but who knows how it actually plays.

Narritive control is going well for Leo, at least.

In the other match, Croatia rest fewer stars than you may have guessed. Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, and Dejan Lovren are on the bench, but Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic still start.

Croatia vs. Iceland and Argentina vs. Nigeria lineups


Group D kicks off its final matches of group play for the 2018 World Cup, both set for 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Nigeria and Argentina face off at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, while Iceland and Croatia meet at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don, Russia.

Follow along here for the live blog of key moments and score updates as Argentina tries to not be eliminated, Nigeria looks to hold its second-place spot in the standings for Group D, Croatia works to hold its first-place standing and Iceland tries for a chance at the knockout stage.

Depending on the results of both games, determining who will move on to the Round of 16 could come down to tiebreakers.

In order for Argentina to move on, Messi and his team need a win against Nigeria and at least a draw from Croatia against Iceland. If Croatia draws and Argentina wins, Argentina will move on to the knockout stage. If both Iceland and Argentina win, determining which of the two move on will come down to goal differential.

Here is how goal differential works:

Goal differential

The first tiebreaker that is used if teams are even on points, goal differential is simply goals scored minus goals allowed. It’s a nice, basic performance quality measure that’s easy to calculate. You want to score as many goals as possible, and give up as few as possible, so the bigger positive number you have in goal differential, the better you’ve been playing.

If Nigeria pulls off the win, Argentina’s World Cup run will be over, and unless Iceland beats Croatia, Nigeria will move on to the knockout stage. If Iceland does topple Croatia, we’ll have another goal differential scenario to first try to settle which team will move on.