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Before the match, Iran faced criticism for its defensive tactics after a dour 0-0 draw against Nigeria. But before Messi’s strike, Iranian and Brazilian fans were singing “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Iran Iran!” in recognition of the team’s attempts to score a winner.

But Messi denied Iran what would have ranked as its greatest result by drawing with the former world champions.

Despite the defeat, after opening with a 0-0 draw against Nigeria, Iran can still hope to qualify for the second round. Nigeria plays Bosnia-Herzegovina, which lost its opener 2-1 to Argentina, later on Saturday.

The victory sent the pro-Argentina crowd into raptures and most of them stayed in the stands well after the match, chanting and waving scarves and flags, and watching highlights - including Messi’s goal - on the big screens.

It almost looked like Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella’s decision to return to an attacking lineup would backfire. In Argentina’s 2-1 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Group F opener, Sabella started with a more defensive 5-3-2 lineup with only two strikers.

He then changed to a 4-3-3 formation in the second half - a system favored by Messi - and he continued with that lineup at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte. In the first half, it looked like Argentina would score at least one goal, but Iran’s defense stood firm and the South Americans nearly paid for several missed chances until Messi’s winner.



Argentina: Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Federico Fernandez, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo, Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria (Lucas Biglia, 90, injury time), Lionel Messi (captain), Sergio Aguero (Ezequiel Lavezzi, 76), Gonzalo Higuain (Rodrigo Palacio, 76).

Iran: Alireza Haghighi, Jalal Hosseini, Amirhossein Sadeghi, Pejman Montazeri, Mehrdad Pooladi, Ehsan Haji Safi (Reza Haghighi, 88), Javad Nekounam (captain), Andranik Teymourian, Ashkan Dejagah (Alireza Jahanbakhsh, 85), Masoud Shojaei (Khosro Heydari, 76), Reza Ghoochannejhad.