Soccer / Sports

Argentina beats Nigeria 3-2, both advance

What distinguishes Lionel Messi from lesser players, which pretty much means all humankind, is an uncanny knack of ball control while on the move.

Such preternatural power was missing on his two goals that accentuated Argentina's 3-2 win over Nigeria, but it was not required. Messi's thunderbolts came on one-timers. They doubled his goals output for the World Cup, pulling him even with Brazil's Neymar for the Golden Boot.

For the Nigerians (1-1-1), the day was like a plate of blueberry lemon pancakes -- bittersweet but ultimately satisfying. They maintained second place in Group F as Bosnia-Herzegovina downed Iran, 3-1, and will accompany Argentina (3-0) into the knockout round.

The two advancing teams collaborated on a historical first at the Cup with bang-bang goals in the opening five minutes, and then repeated the feat at the start of the second half.

Messi ignited the flurry, collecting a saved shot off the post at the doorstep of the goal for, by his standard, a gimme.

With halftime approaching, Messi drew a tripping foul some 25 yards out, which set up the maestro for a direct free kick that had goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama screaming at his teammates to properly form a wall. It did not matter. Messi's shot made like a remote-controlled drone and found the upper-right pocket of the net as Enyeama watched helplessly.

Ahmed Musa had promptly answered Argentina's initial goal by Messi with one for Nigeria, then did it again after Marcos Rojo kneed in a corner kick to make it 3-1. Musa nearly notched a hat trick on a few occasions, which would have evened the match and left Argentina concerned about its leaky defense.

Bosnia, with nothing at stake, played loosey-goosey and got a goal in the 23rd minute from Edin Dzeko, who had missed every which way in the crucial loss to Nigeria.

Iran paid dearly for a turnover in the 59th minute, and a no-sweat goal by Miralem Paianic boosted Bosnia in front 2-0.

Iran turned up the heat with a score in the 82nd minute, only to see it canceled out on Bosnia's goal just after the ball was put back into play.

The outcomes spared FIFA from having to draw lots to determine whether Nigeria or Iran, which could have been even after all tie-breaker measures were applied, moved on.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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