Marcos Rojo scored a brilliant late goal against Nigeria to rescue Argentina’s World Cup hopes on Tuesday, progressing from Group D alongside Croatia to set up a last-16 match against France.
A lacklustre Argentina were on the verge of an embarrassing exit, before Manchester United defender Rojo surged into the area to place Gabriel Mercado’s cross into the bottom corner.
Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the tournament in the first half but Victor Moses equalised shortly after half-time to put the South Americans on the brink of an exit before Rojo’s late strike.
It was a result they scarcely deserved after a poor second half showing, epitomised by Javier Mascherano’s error that allowed Victor Moses to equalise with a penalty.
But once their ragged defence had held on to the final whistle, the Argentina players embraced each other in the centre of the pitch, waving to their vociferous fans, a disjointed side united for now.
In the other match, Croatia beat Iceland 2-1 to top the group with nine points.
Argentina will face Group C winners France in the last 16 in Kazan on Saturday, while Group D winners Croatia, who secured top spot by beating Iceland 2-1, play Denmark.