Argentina & Croatia progressed to the World Cup knockout stages

Argentina & Croatia progressed to the World Cup knockout stages
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Lionel Messi

Marcos Rojo scored a fine late volley to send Argentina through to the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup with a dramatic victory over Nigeria in St Petersburg.

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, who had scored a brilliant opener, jumped on Rojo’s back as he sprinted away in delirious celebration, joined by the entire Argentina bench in the corner.

It was a result they scarcely deserved after a poor second half showing, epitomised by the Javier Mascherano 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.

They 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.

His opening goal displayed all his talent and composure. With Ever Banega looking to go over the top from deep, Messi cut sharply right and surged in behind the defence, with the Sevilla midfielder picking him out with a terrific pass.

Messi’s first touch to cushion the ball on his left thigh was sublime, the second off his left boot to draw it away from Kenneth Omeruo exquisite, the finish into the far corner with his right emphatic.