Nigeria joined Argentina from Group F in the last 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, despite losing 3-2 to the South Americans in Porto Alegre.
Lionel Messi’s two goals were both quickly cancelled out by a brace from Ahmed Musa, before Marcos Rojo scored what proved to be the winner in the 50th minute. Iran missed the chance to capitalise on Nigeria’s defeat against an already-eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina, as they slipped to a 3-1 defeat in Salvador.
Goals from Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic put the Europeans two up. Talisman Reza Ghoochannejhad replied for the Iranians with their only goal of the tournament, but Advija Vrsajevic secured Bosnia’s first ever victory in the finals.
It was a battle for top spot at Estadio Beira-Rio with Argentina needing just a draw to seal it and take both sides through, while Nigeria needed a win to move into first place.
Messi put Alex Sabella’s men ahead after just three minutes when he smashed a rebound into the roof of the net, after Angel di Maria’s initial effort came back off the post. Nigeria responded immediately as Musa cut inside Pablo Zabaleta before curling a shot beautifully around the dive of Sergio Romero.
The world’s best player restored his side’s lead just before half-time, when he bent a free kick into the top corner with Vincent Enyeama left flat-footed. But Musi responded once again two minutes after the break, bursting through the defence before slotting the ball home with aplomb.
Just three minutes later though, Rojo scored what proved to the winner as he scrambled home Ezequiel Garay’s flick-on from Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner. It was enough to secure a 100% group record for the Argies for a second straight tournament.
As this was going on, Iran needed to beat Bosnia to progress to the knockout stages for the first time ever. But their chances began to look bleak when Dzeko found himself in space outside the area, before drilling home a sweet left-footed effort.
The lack of pressure was evident on Safet Susic’s men as they made it two on 59 minutes, when a neat move was rounded off by a well-taken finish from Pjanic.
Their opponents had to wait until the 82nd minute for a breakthrough, and it arrived courtesy of the man whose goals were significant in getting them to the finals. Ghoochannejhad was on hand to finish the simplest of chances after Javad Nekounam’s ball across the six-yard area.
But Bosnia put the game to bed within a minute following a crisp counter-attack that saw full-back Vrsajevic race in behind the defence and fire home number three. Confirmation of the Group F standings then see Argentina top with maximum points and Nigeria joining them in the knockout stages with four, Bosnia leapfrog one-point Iran into third with three.
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