World Cup Today: Suffering is over for Argentina after dramatic win

Argentina became the first team at the 2018 World Cup to reach the final 16 after entering the final day of group play in the bottom two.

It wasn't easy, but the Albiceleste advanced when it beat Nigeria, 2-1, on Marcos Rojo's volley in the 86th minute and Iceland lost to Croatia, 2-1.

What's next ...
June 30 Argentina vs. France (Winner Group C), in Kazan (10 am ET, Fox, Telemundo)
July 1 Croatia vs. Denmark (Runner-up Group C), in Nizhny Novgorod (2 pm ET, Fox, Telemundo)

Argentina began Tuesday night in last place in Group D, needing a win to have any chance of advancing, but it quickly moved into second place when Lionel Messi took a long pass from Ever Banega out of the air, played it off his left thigh to his right foot and scored in the 14th minute.

Messi had a chance later in the first half to make it 2-0 but his curling free kick hit the post.

But the defensive problems that had haunted Argentina in its 3-0 loss to Croatia returned in the second half when Javier Mascherano was called for a foul for pulling down Nigerian Leon Balogun in the 51st minute, and Victor Moses equalized from the penalty spot.

With Iceland tied with group leader Croatia, 1-1, in Rostov, Argentina was back to where it began the evening, in last place behind Nigeria in second and Iceland in third. La Albiceleste needed to win and for Iceland not to beat Croatia by as much as it beat Nigeria to go through with Croatia.

For the next half hour, it looked Nigeria was more likely to score. The turning point came when Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir turned down the Super Eagles' appeal for a penalty for a handball on Rojo in the area but not before going to the sidelines to consult the VAR screen.

One of the unlikely heroes of the Argentina win was goalkeeper Franco Armani, who was making his international debut at the age of 31 in place of Willy Caballero, responsible for the opening goal in the loss to Croatia. The River Plate keeper stopped Odion Ighalo from close range in the 83rd minute.

Three minutes later, the breakthrough came when Rojo, open in the middle, met Gabriel Mercado's cross and fired his shot past Nigeria's 19-year-old keeper Francis Uzoho. Bedlam broke out among the large contingent of Argentine fans at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

And the reaction among the Argentine players? Relief, said Messi.

“We knew it was going to be a difficult afternoon," he said. "We didn’t think we were going to suffer as much as we did.”

The win kept Argentina's streak of having advanced out of the group stage at every World Cup in which it has played since 1962 and set up a match on Saturday against France.

"We've been suffering for all these days," added Messi. "It would have been unfair if we had been knocked out."

Group D ...
Saturday, June 16
Argentina 1 Iceland 1.
(Aguero 19; Finnbogason 23. Att.: 44,190.)
Croatia 2 Nigeria 0.
(Own goal 32, Modric pen. 71. Att.: 31,136.)
Thursday, June 21
Croatia 3 Argentina 0.
(Rebic 53, Modric 80, Rakitic 90+1. Att.: 43,319.)
Friday, June 22

2 Iceland 0.
(Musa 49, 75. Att.: 40,904.)

Tuesday, June 26
Argentina 2 Nigeria 1.
(Messi 14, Rojo 86; Moses pen. 51. Att.: 64,468.)
Croatia 2 Iceland 1.
(Badelj 53, Perisic 90; Sigurosson pen. 76. Att.: 43,472.)

1. Croatia, 9 points (7-1)
2. Argentina, 4 points (3-5)
3. Nigeria, 3 points (3-4)
4. Iceland, 1 point (2-5)
In parentheses goal difference.

5 comments about "World Cup Today: Suffering is over for Argentina after dramatic win".
  1. beautiful game, June 26, 2018 at 10:15 p.m.

    Actually, the suffering has partial relif until the knockout round; and unless the Argentine NT begins to find its mojo the suffering wil end like a coup de grace.

  2. frank schoon replied, June 27, 2018 at 6:51 a.m.

    The only reason why I am happy to see Argentina win is not due to their fantastic play because they suck, but what else is left when you look at the rest of the contestants. As far as i’m concerned all the contestants can all go home. This WC is even worse than 14. They want to expand the field of contestants
    in the future...FOR WHAT !   Let them  first worry about playing a decent game of soccer!!!!!!

  3. John Soares, June 27, 2018 at 3:40 p.m.

    Frank, I see your some extent I agree. At least whrere the BIG names are concern Germany, Brazil, France, Argentina even Spain have been dissapointing so far, to say the least. BUT you should admit there has been some excelent and spirited play from many "lesser" teams, Nigeria, Croatia to name a couple.

  4. frank schoon replied, June 28, 2018 at 9:56 a.m.

    John, I believe the WC should be the top 16. The small countries have a chance during the qualifications to earn one of the top 16 spots. The top 16 teams should not bothered to play those insignificant teams because the FIFA wants more inclusion, and Diversity or better MORE MONEY at the cost of qaulity. The teams are filled with players just coming off a long ,long season. 16 teams is more than enough games to enjoy. But now these teams have to play more games against lousy teams who really have no chance to win but might be lucky for an that what we're looking for....I'm not. The qualification games leaves room for upsets by little teams. Let us enjoy the WC with the BEST and leave it at that. You know also these players will have a let down season following the WC for they really need a rest which they will not get 

  5. frank schoon replied, June 28, 2018 at 10:03 a.m.

    John, Croatia is a top team, I wouldn't be surprise if they win it.....

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