Nigeria 2, Argentina 3: 2014 FIFA World Cup | Group F Match Recap
Well, that was five goals' worth of fun – until events across the Atlantic cast a late shadow on the proceedings, even if the players didn't know it at the time.
Argentina's Lionel Messi and Nigeria's Ahmed Musa both found the net twice in their Group F finale, with Messi's side prevailing 3-2 to win the group. Nigeria also will move on to the knockout stage for the first time since 1998, despite Wednesday's result in Porto Alegre.
Late in the match, as the Super Eagles continued to pursue an equalizer, the Associated Press reported that a bombing at a mall in the Nigerian capital of Abuja had killed 21 people and wounded 17.
EARLY RETURNS: Messi, who scored in second-half stoppage time when Argentina beat Iran 1-0 in their last group outing, didn't wait to show up this time out. The match wasn't even three minutes old when the Barca star swooped down on Angel Di Maria's shot, saved off the post by Vincent Enyeama, and smashed it into the roof of the net with his left foot.
EARLY RESPONSE: The Super Eagles got one right back, not even a minute later, with their fastest goal ever in World Cup play. Musa took Michael Babatunde's pass on the left side, cut inside and worked the ball onto his right foot, then curled it just inside the far post for the equalizer.
IF AT FIRST: Enyeama came up with an athletic save of Messi's curling free kick late in the first half, but Messi came off the winner in their restart rematch a few minutes later in stoppage time. Enyeama was slow to react and was punished for it when Messi drove his kick just inside the right post for a 2-1 lead. It was his fourth goal in three matches in this tournament after being shut out in South Africa four years ago.
MESSI, MUSA, MESSI, MUSA: Musa had to wait until after the half to deliver his second response, but true to form in this game, he didn't wait long. In the 47th minute, he took a through ball from Emmanuel Emenike, split a pair of defenders in the area and fired in the equalizer.
ROJO CRASHES BOX, SCORING PARTY: The flurry of offense wasn't over yet after Musa's second goal. Three minutes later, Argentina's Marcos Rojo, in the penalty area for a corner kick, put the match-winner in off his knee.
EFFICIENCY: Messi played 63 minutes before being lifted as a precaution, with Argentina's spot in the Round of 16 well secure. Of his four shots, he put three on frame.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Musa. Messi's free kick was gorgeous enough, and his opener a booming bit of opportunism, but Musa's quick responses both times kept Nigeria in it – and kept the energy level high for a match that could have been a formality.