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In the end it was not a Messi moment but an extraordinary volley from the right-boot of Marcos Rojo which saved Argentina at this World Cup, which sent them into the last-16 and which prolonged the international career of the best player the planet has probably ever seen.

Lionel Messi scored and scored a brilliant goal but, in itself, it was not enough against Nigeria who are out and will depart Russia with a sense of injustice and not least because at the identity of the man who sent them out. The Manchester United defender had already gone unpunished after catching Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho with a ridiculously high boot in the penalty area in the first-half and Rojo survived another spot-kick appeal - which even went to VAR after the referee Cuneyt Cakir was told to double-check it - when he headed the ball against his own arm in the second-half.
Then as Argentina seemed to be subsumed by their angst, by the devils which have gripped them and the weight of expectation which has overwhelmed them Messi intervened again. Except it was to roll a simple pass down the right touchline for Gabriel Mercado to send in a cross. Quite what Rojo was doing there in the first place who knows but such was Argentina’s plight at that point - when they had lost all shape and formation - that they needed something unlikely.

Instead of Gonzalo Higuain, instead of Sergio Aguero, who had also come on by that stage, it was the centre-half to strike the sweetest of volleys which tore past goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and into the net. There were 86 minutes on the clock. Just four minutes plus injury-time to go.


  1. 1

    Martin 203 days ago Permalink

    That was a very tough match, I couldn't believe Argentines would win

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