The Super Eagles of Nigeria lost 3-2 to Argentina, but qualified for the Round-of-16 after Iran failed to get the maximum points in a 3-1 loss to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Argentina consequently claimed the top spot in Group F, with the highest-possible 9 points.
Twice, Lionel Messi put La Albiceleste ahead, and twice Ahmed Musa equalised for Nigeria. But in the end, it was a Marcos Rojo goal off a poorly-defended corner kick in the 50th minute that proved the difference.
Argentina took over 90 minutes to take the lead against Iran, but they took less than three minutes for them to jump ahead of Nigeria.
Angel di Maria’s initial shot bounced off the post towards an onrushing Lionel Messi, who was more than happy to guard a ferociously-hit ball into the empty to give his side a 1-0 lead.
That lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as Nigeria struck back in the 4th minute, thanks to Ahmed Musa. Argentina’s defence collapsed on Michael Babatunde, leaving Musa open on the left wing. Babatunde found him with a pass, and Musa did the rest, firing a shot that eluded a diving Sergio Romero and nestled inside the far post to make it 1-1.
Sergio Aguero was taken off in the 38th minute, after picking up what appeared to be a minor injury. He was able to walk off the pitch under his own power, with only the slight appearance of a limp. Ezquiel Lavezzi took his place on the pitch.
Nigeria made the mistake of giving Lionel Messi two dangerous free kick chances late in the first half. He was denied by Vincent Enyeama on the first chance, but two minutes into stoppage time, he made them pay. Messi lifted a shot up and over the wall, curling it away from Enyeama, who could do little but watch the ball fly past him into the back of the net.
Once again, the lead didn’t last long for Argentina, as two minutes into the second half, Musa scored his second goal of the match. After playing a ball in to Emmanuel Emenike, who held up play, Musa made a cutting run through a gap in the middle of the Argentina defence. Emenike found Musa on the run, and he sold a dummy to Romero, before sending a shot low and left to make it 2-2.
Argentina fired right back in the 50th minute on a corner kick. Marcos Rojo was left completely unmarked in the box as a couple Nigerian players were caught ball-watching. Rojo went up and got a knee on the ball to direct it past Enyeama to give La Albiceleste a 3-2 lead.
Nigeria are likely to play France, who are expected to maintain their stranglehold atop their group, while Argentina are expected to meet either Ecuador or Switzerland in the second round.
Nigeria: Enyeama, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo, Ambrose, Onazi, Mikel, Babatunde (Uchebo 66′), Odemingie (Nwofor 80′), Musa, Emenike
Goals: Musa (4′, 47′)
Argentina: Romero, Rojo, Garay, Fernandez, Zabaleta, Mascherano, Gago, Di Maria, Messi (Alvaráz 63′), Higuain (Biglia 91′), Agüero (Lavezzi 38′)
Goals: Messi (3′, 46′), Rojo (50′)