Argentina finished the 2014 World Cup group stages with the maximum of points on Wednesday, defeating Nigeria 3-2 in a highly entertaining match.
Lionel Messi opened the score in the third minute, reacting fastest to a loose ball in the box to slot it home with authority. FIFA World Cup has the Vine:
The Nigerians equalised through Ahmed Musa just a minute later, and both teams were evenly matched for much of the first half. Angel di Maria had a few good shots on goal, but it was once again Messi who put his team in front with a perfect free-kick just before half-time.
Here's the second goal, via Bleacher Report UK:
Musa again pulled his team level just after the break, but Marco Rojo put the final score on the board just minutes later with a powerful header.
Messi was all over the pitch during the first half, building on two solid performances that saw him score the match winners against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran. Per WhoScored.com, he's been in fine form so far:
Infostrada Sports knew the opening goal was the fastest of Messi's incredible career:
His second goal gave him four in the tournament, good enough to join Brazil's Neymar as top scorer, via Squawka:
Bleacher Report's Karl Matchett was lost for words:
Golfer Gary Player also didn't hide his admiration for Messi:
Messi left the pitch after 60 minutes to a standing ovation from the crowd:
He wasn't the only standout performer, however. Di Maria was the team's most threatening player for much of the match, dominating the left wing and taking several good shots at the goal of Vincent Enyeama.
Real Madrid Info thought the Nigerian stopper had seen enough going into half-time:
Live Echo News' Jay Riley was in awe of the winger, who didn't see his excellent performance rewarded with a goal:
The Daily Mirror's Ed Malyon thinks Di Maria often benefits from playing with some of the biggest stars, though he too expressed his admiration for the player:
Bleacher Report's Dan Colasimone thinks perhaps it's the other way round:
Yet talkSPORT's Lee Roden did see one weakness:
Argentina will have to wait for the results of the matches in Group E, played later on Wednesday, to know whom their first opponents of the knockout stages will be.
Switzerland are the most likely candidates, though Ecuador also still have a chance providing they can get a positive result against the French team. Ecuador's over-reliance on wing-play would no doubt give Argentina the easier matchup, but Switzerland have struggled defending their own goal.
Regardless of the opponents, the Albiceleste will feel good about their chances in the round of 16, having played their best match of the tournament against a surprisingly challenging Nigerian team.
The defence is still a massive question mark, however, so the Argentine fans will once again have to rely on the brilliance of their attacking unit led by Messi and Di Maria to save the day.
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