For more than 90 minutes, this looked like being one of the shocks of the tournament, as Iran simply refused to buckle to Argentina. The South Americans, reverting to Leo Messi's preferred 4-3-3 formation, fielded Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain alongisde the little No.10 with Angel di Maria among the supporting acts, but couldn't break through until Messi finally found the target in injury time.
Argentina started at pace, racking up passes with starling speed. In the first 10 minutes, they completed 67 of 71 to Iran's mere 4 of 8.
Nor were all those passes deep and safe. A couple of minutes later, Argentina had completed 30 of 36 up the sharp end, with Iran luckless with their 3.
The pattern continued, with Argentina keeping their pass completion percentage in the 90s while Iran were only connecting with half of theirs.
By halfway through the first period Argentina had piled up 50 completed final-third passes.
The Player Influence screen, which shows each player's average position on the ball and involvement with it, told a tale.
However, for all their 87.5% possession Argentina only managed two shots on target in the first half-hour.
Argentina's central midfielders Javier Mascherano & Fernando Gago had each completed more passes than the entire Iran team.
Whatever Iran's defensive masterplan was, it certainly wasn't centred on interceptions.
By half-time Argentina had had 10 shots but only two on target.
With 80.2% possession, their passes were up to 242 of 265 (91% completion), with Iran on 40/64 (62%).
Argentina had also completed 86 of 104 in the final third, compared to Iran's mere 6 of 15.
Despite not having the tallest front three, Argentina had connected with 5 of their 18 crosses - mainly from corners.
HT 130 of ARG's 242 completed passes have been forward
Argentina didn't manage an accurate shot in the first 20 minutes after the break - but Iran did.
Argentina were still amassing passes, but not in the danger zone.
With 19 minutes left, Lionel Messi had still only received one pass in the area, and completed three himself.
Iran were standing firm with tackles and clearances, but still only 3 interceptions.
But then, in injury time, that man Messi curled a beaut into the far corner to end Iran's resistance.
Messi scored with Argentina's 21st and final shot, only their 4th on target.
In all Argentina completed 462 of 512 passes (90%), Iran 87 of 130 (67%).
In the final third, these figures were 151 of 187 (81%), and 21 of 39 (54%).
Argentina whipped in 41 crosses...
...but Iran cleared and tackled with aplomb.
Gago and Mascherano each attempted 100 passes or more.
The goal was Messi's first accurate effort of 6; Reza Ghoochanneijhad got 2 of his 3 on target, but the only one that counted was Messi's final effort...
Facts and figures
- Argentina have won 11 and lost just 1 of their last 14 World Cup group games (D2), scoring 27 and conceding just 5 in total in this run.
- Iran have won only 1 of their 11 games at the World Cup (D3 L7). Indeed, Iran have gone 6 World Cup matches without a win, losing 4 and drawing 2.
- 11 of the last 12 goals Iran have conceded at the World Cup have come in the second half.
- Lionel Messi has scored 8 goals in his last 7 appearances for Argentina.
- Messi has now scored 40 goals for his country.
- Lionel Messi has scored 2 goals in 2 games at the 2014 World Cup, that’s already more than in his 8 matches at the World Cups 2006 and 2010 combined (1).
- It’s the third World Cup in a row that Argentina have won their opening 2 games of the tournament.
- 7 of Argentina’s last 10 goals at the World Cup have arrived in the second half (70%).
- Iran attempted just 130 passes against Argentina; the fewest made by a team in a World Cup match since 1966.
- Iran are the first team to concede World Cup goals to both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.