World Cup wrap, Day 13: Rojo the late hero for Argentina as Albiceleste advance
Story of the day
Argentina lives to fight another day. Astonishingly, Marcos Rojo was on hand to turn the tide for the beleaguered South Americans in the 86th minute of this absorbing World Cup match which ended in bitter heartbreak for Nigeria.
For a long time it looked like Leo Messi's sensational 15th-minute goal would prove the springboard to take the Albiceleste beyond the Super Eagles, but the Africans bounced back from that early blow to come back into it shortly after half-time. Nigeria got their equalizer from the penalty spot after Javier Mascherano foolishly grappled inside the box and didn't get away with it.
The Celeste huffed, puffed and toiled away but never really looked like recovering from that Victor Moses spot-kick. That was until the dying embers, when Rojo – the most unlikely of heroes – converted to send the sea of blue and white inside the Krestovsky Stadium rippling into life. This is the tournament that keeps on giving.
Today in 30 seconds
There were no surprises in Group C: France and Denmark knew a draw would take them both through, so played out one of the most lamentable goalless stalemates imaginable. Highlight reels showed nothing but a late Nabil Fekir effort which flew into the side-netting. Fekir came on as a substitute in the 68th minute.
Peru was already out but beat Australia 2-0 anyway, dragging the Socceroos down the trapdoor with them. Watford's Andre Carrillo opened the scoring with a well-taken first-half strike, before veteran Paolo Guerrero – who was only permitted to play in this World Cup after a tribunal overturned his 14-month drug ban – completed the scoring.
Croatia win Group D after stealing a late win from Iceland, which needed victory to go through at Argentina's expense. Gylfi Sigurdsson leveled with a 76th-minute penalty, but that only canceled out Milan Badelj's opener on 53 minutes. But Ivan Perisic stole in late to make it nine points from nine and set up a meeting with Denmark.
Play of the day
Messi announced his presence at Russia 2018 with that gorgeous opening goal against Nigeria – aesthetically and technically, one of the best goals of this tournament so far. Maverick midfielder Ever Banega was finally handed a start in Jorge Sampaoli's XI and shone in a first half of incisive passing; never more so than with his carefully guided ball over the top of Nigeria's defence which set Messi on his way.
But it was all Leo from there. First he beckoned the ball down with his thigh, then cushioned it under control with his boot before firing right-footed into the top corner. Francis Uzoho didn't stand a chance.
Man of the moment
Rojo: from much-maligned Manchester United man to national hero in an instant. The World Cup can do funny things.
The wacky and weird
FIFA decided to fine Switzerland duo Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka for their incendiary celebrations against Serbia – but at this rate, neither of them will have to shell out from their own pockets. The pair were fined CHF 10,000 each ($10,000), but an Albanian crowdfunding campaign has already raised $14,000 in less than 24 hours to support them. The Swiss stars in question have Albanian and Kosovan heritage, and made what looked like an eagle sign with their hands to mimic the one on the Albanian flag.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state, and tensions between the countries are ever-high. Albania's Minister of Trade and Industry, Bajram Hasani, has pledged one month's salary to the cause. "There is no money to pay for the emotions Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri brought us when they celebrated with the eagle," he said.
10 a.m. ET: South Korea vs. Germany, FS1 / Telemundo
10 a.m. ET: Mexico vs. Sweden, FOX / Telemundo
2 p.m. ET: Serbia vs. Brazil, FOX / Telemundo
2 p.m. ET: Switzerland vs. Costa Rica, FS1 / Telemundo