PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored twice to help the South American powerhouse beat the African Champion Nigeria 3-2 in a 2014 World Cup Group F match on Wednesday.
Argentina won the Group F with perfect nine points. Nigeria went into the last 16 following Argentina with four. Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1 in the other Group F match, and both teams were eliminated.
It was the fourth straight time for Argentina to beat Nigeria on the World Cup stage. Messi, who had two goals out of just four shooting attempts, was elected as Man of the Match.
"Messi is from another planet," Stephen Keshi.
It was a tough and wonderful match for both teams. Argentina moved ahead twice, and Nigeria leveled the score twice. "We conceded two goals, but we don't have any problem in defense," said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella when asked about the two goals Nigeria scored.
Neither of the teams did any change to the squad or formation entering the match.
The Argentina fans, who created a deafening air in the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, didn't wait long for the first goal. In the third minute, Angel Di Maria's cut in the left side of the box booked him a one-and-one encounter with Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama. The shot hit the post but Messi got the reflection and thundered it into the net on the half volley.
One minute later, Nigeria tied the score. Ahmed Musa got the ball from Babatunde, cut into the Argentina penalty area and curled the ball into the net.
Only twice before the match there had been two goals in the first four minutes of a World Cup match: Austria-Czechoslovakia (3rd min and 4th min) in 1954 and Soviet Union-Hungary (2nd min and 4th min) in 1986.
Both sides did a good job in attacking afterwards. Di Maria hit a couple of shots on the left side, and Nigeria's counter-attacks stayed threatening.
Sergio Aguero went down inside the centre circle in the 37th minute. After an urgent attendance by the Argentina medical staff, the Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella decided to replace him with Ezequiel Lavezzi.
The Argentinians kept creating chances, and Messi's free kick in the 43rd minute turned out to be a great challenge to Enyeama.
Messi didn't miss the second chance of another free-kick, which was in the same position on the right side of the box. The Barcelona star curled the ball into the right corner of the net before Enyeama had time to react.
The Argentina defense made a disastrous error in the 47th minute, when Musa receive the ball at the center of the Argentina penalty area. His sidefooted shot went past Sergio Romero and Nigeria tied the score again.
Obviously Argentina didn't like the tie, and they broke it only three minutes later after Rojo kneeing the ball into the goal. It was the first international goal for the 24-year-old defender and Argentina went back in leading position for the third time in the match.
Sabella replace Messi in the 63rd minute, and the double goal scorer received huge applause and noises from the fans.
"It was time for Messi to have some rest," said Sabella about this replacement.
"I feel good physically," said Messi after the match. "but it's OK for me about the replacement."
"It's the coach's decision."
Nigeria began to find more chances after the substitution of Messi. Both Musa and Peter Odemwingie got opportunities to score, and the Argentina defense was under pressure.
The match between two aggressive teams would never bore the spectators. Musa had a powerful shot blocked in the 79th minute and Ezequiel Garay missed a header just a little wide off the right post.
Nigeria dominated the pitch in the last ten minutes of the match, but they failed to level the score for the third time.
"We didn't do well in the first half," said Keshi. "We showed too much respect to our opponent."