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God was with us – Messi

MARVELOUS

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – Argentina rescued its World Cup hopes in dramatic fashion on Tuesday as defender Marcos Rojo scored a stunning volley to snatch a late 2-1 win over Nigeria and set up a last-16 match against France.

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Lionel Messi set the two-time winner on their way with his first goal in Russia but Victor Moses equalized from the penalty spot and as time ticked away the increasingly ragged South Americans appeared to be heading home.

But Rojo made a surprise appearance in the box to turn home a cross from Gabriel Mercado with a crisp side-footed volley in the 86th minute to send the Argentine fans in Saint Petersburg, including legendary 1986 World Cup winner Diego Maradona, into raptures.

A highly emotional Maradona rushed to the front of the VIP box where he was watching and gave a one-fingered salute with both hands and shouted an obscene insult.

Maradona later fell unwell and a video emerged of him being helped by two people in his entourage into a chair.

Photographs showed the 57-year-old being tended to by parademics, although Argentinian daily Ola reported he later went to his hotel.

VAR ESCAPE
Argentina’s escape came after Rojo came close to having a penalty awarded against for handball minutes earlier until he was saved by a controversial VAR review.

“It is marvelous to have won it in this manner. It is a deserved joy,” Messi said in quotes on Argentina’s official Twitter account. “We knew God was with us and wasn’t going to let us go out.”

“I thank all the fans that are here, for all their sacrifice and to all those in Argentina that were always with us.”

At the drama played out, 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) away in Rostov-on-Don Croatia snuffed out the challenge of Iceland, scoring late through Ivan Perisic to seal a 2-1 win and complete a perfect group stage.

Croatia will face Denmark in the first knockout round in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday but Nigeria and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland will head home.

Croatia took the lead thanks to a slick second-half volley by Milan Badelj. Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised from the penalty spot before Perisic struck late.

Croatia were already through to the last 16 and coach Zlatko Dalic rested most of the side that thumped Argentina 3-0, with only captain Luka Modric and the winger Perisic keeping their places.

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