Argentina were saved by a stoppage time Lionel Messi goal after a horribly poor performance against resilient Iran. The World Cup Group F encounter, which will be looked at by other nations as a tell-tale sign of Argentina's average playing abilities, would have been the greatest achievement in Iranian footballing history if not for the late heroics of the Barcelona player. Iran should feel hard done by, having created better chances throughout the 90 minutes, but it wasn't to be as Messi's long distance strike in the 91st minute sealed all three points for an undeserving Argentina. 

The match opened up with Iran playing very physically and getting 11 men behind the ball as expected. Argentina looked poised to control possession and attack but the first chance of the match surprisingly fell to Iran as a nicely taken free kick found an the open head of Seyed Hosseini, whose attempt went well wide of the target. In the 13th minute a lovely ball from Fernando Gago found Gonzalo Higuain in behind the Iranian defense but the Napoli striker hit the ball directly at the Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi who made a good save. The first 20 minutes saw near total Argentinian control but Le Albiceleste failed to crack the resolute Iranian defense. The breakthrough nearly came on 22 minutes when Sergio Aguero latched on to a great lay off in the box by Higuain but his shot was fantastically turned away by Haghighi.

RTR3V00F Lionel Messi takes a freekick against Iran during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte Reuters

The Argentines maintained high pressure on the Iranians with two free kick opportunities within five minutes of each other, but Messi's shot went over the bar and then a Messi delivery found a free Ezequiel Garay, but the defender was unable to hit the target with his header. Iran nearly found a goal in the 42nd minute off a corner kick but fortunately for Argentina Hosseini's header went high and wide. Iran were happy to go into the break even, having defended well throughout the first 45 minutes. 

Argentina started the second half pressuring high up the field but the first chance came to Reza Ghoochannejhad but 'Gucci's' header was met well by Sergio Romero. On 60 minutes Lionel Messi should have beat Haghighi but the shot following his excellent run missed the target. The Iranians didn't let up and began seeing more of the ball as the game wore on. Romero was called into action to keep his side level on 68 minutes when a wonderful header by Ashkan Dejagah nearly caught out the Argentinian keeper, who was agile in his recovery. 

RTR3UZVX Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain misses a chance to score against Iran's Alireza Haghighi Reuters

Argentina brought on two substitutions -- Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rordigo Palacio for Higuain and Aguero -- in the 76th minute of play, and the two did what they could to help Argentina keep the high pressure. The best chance in the closing minutes, before Messi's goal, came to Reza, who found himself behind the Argentine defense but Romero was again well placed to deflect the shot away. But as the stoppage time board indicated an additional four minutes of play, Messi picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired home the game winning strike. One-nil was all the Argentines needed to advance to the round of 16, but moving forward the South Americans will need much, much more if they expect to go very far in this tournament.