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World Cupstart Review: Day 10

Lionel Messi's sensational late match-winner against Iran leads Riley Beveridge's Day 10 wrap-up from Brazil.

It’s quickly beginning to turn into Lionel Messi’s World Cup.

For the second consecutive match, one instinctive moment of genius from Messi separated Argentina from their opponents, this time in a late 1-0 victory over Iran in Belo Horizonte.

As a result, the queries surrounding whether he could ever drag Argentina through the tournament, à la Diego Maradona in 1986, are beginning to fade.

It was therefore fitting that Maradona was in the stands on a day where the diminutive forward continued to stamp his authority on the World Cup.

His goal, which came in the first minute of stoppage time, was one that sent waves of relief, rather than jubilation, throughout the Argentinean support.

For 90 minutes, they had knocked on the door of their Iranian opponents, unable to muster a piece of incisiveness that would decide the game. 77% of possession, 21 shots and 10 corners had rained upon Iran’s defence, who had held firm in what was an outstanding defensive display.

But just when it seemed like all hope of collecting maximum points was lost, up stepped Messi. A superb curling effort from 25 yards finally had Alireza Haghighi beaten in goal, nestling into the bottom corner.

The stoppage-time strike, along with Messi’s incredible solo effort in Argentina’s first match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, ensured the South Americans a passage through to the round of 16. Without both moments of magic, Alejandro Sabella’s side might have had an uphill battle on their hands.

For Iran, defeat was cruel. Carlos Queiroz had perfected his tactics, loading men behind the ball who broke forward on the counter within an instant of retrieving possession.

And despite only stringing together 130 passes in 90 minutes, the lowest in a World Cup match since 1966, they might have had the game’s best chances.

Jalal Hosseini headed narrowly wide in the first half, Ashkan Dejagah had a legitimate penalty appeal waved away and Reza Ghoochannejad struck a vicious late effort that forced Argentine ‘keeper Sergio Romero into a fine reflex stop.

But ultimately Messi was the difference.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard that in this World Cup. Don’t bank on it being the last.

While Messi was trying to create history, Germany striker Miroslav Klose was in the process of doing exactly that. His equalising goal in a 2-2 draw with Ghana took him to 15 goals, equal with Ronaldo for the most ever in the tournament’s history.

And it was a goal that the Germans desperately needed after being surprised by their plucky African opponents.

From the outset, Germany knew there would be no stroll in the park like there was last time out against Portugal. Instead, Ghana had set up nicely, frustrating their European counterparts and looking to strike on the counter.

But eventually the quality of Germany shone through, with Thomas Muller crossing for Mario Gotze, who unorthodoxly headed home via a deflection off his own knee.

Ghana continued to fight and soon struck twice in nine minutes to take the lead. Andre Ayew nodded home Harrison Afful’s cross, before Asamoah Gyan fired past Manuel Neuer to send the Fortaleza crowd into raptures.

But they would soon witness history. Klose’s first touch after being introduced from the bench was to prod Benedikt Howedes’s near-post flick-on into the back of the net, earning Germany a valuable point and equalling Ronaldo’s record.

In the day’s final match, Nigeria moved one step closer to qualification for the round of 16, defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in Cuiaba.

Peter Odemwingie was the scorer of the game’s solitary goal in a controversial encounter that left tournament debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina eliminated.

The Bosnians thought they had taken the lead when Edin Dzeko, clearly onside, was slipped through on goal and scored. However an incorrect decision from the linesman meant the effort was chalked out.

Just minutes later and Emmanuel Emenike outmuscled his marker and crossed for Odemwingie, who calmly gave Nigeria the lead.

Despite having to play Argentina in their final group match, Nigeria now have one foot inside the knockout stages.

  • Tweet of the Day
  • Quote of the Day

“The referee was shameful in this competition. We are going home. We are sad because of that, but this referee should be going home too. He changed the result and he changed the game. That is why we lost.”

– Edin Dzeko

  • Sibling Rivalry of the Day

For the second consecutive World Cup, brothers Jerome Boateng (of Germany) and Kevin-Prince Boateng (of Ghana) faced off against each other. Both were born in Germany to a Ghanaian father, with each given the choice of which country they represented.

  • Player of the Day

After being within seconds of helping Iran keep what would have been a famous clean sheet against Argentina, defender Jalal Hosseini was the standout player on Day 10. He marshalled Lionel Messi and Argentina’s other dangerous forwards brilliantly and had no chance of stopping an incredible late match-winner.

  • Tomorrow’s Schedule

The second round of group matches concludes when Belgium take on Russia in Rio.

South Korea and Algeria will then both be looking to build on impressive performances in their first matches when they face off in Port Alegre.

Following the 2-2 draw between Germany and Ghana on Day 10, Portugal then has the chance to reassert themselves on Group G when they play the USA in Manaus.

Riley Beveridge is a third-year Bachelor of Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University and is the editor of upstart’s Sport and World Cup department. You can follow him on Twitter: @RileyBev.

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