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Ghana’s Harrison Afful leaps over the challenge of Germany’s Benedikt Hoewedes during the Group G World Cup soccer match at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Saturday, June 21. (AP)
Brave Ghana hold Germany in WCup thriller Messi sends Argentina through

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 21, (Agencies): Lionel Messi saved Argentina’s blushes with a brilliant curling stoppage time winner against unheralded Iran at the World Cup on Saturday to give the South Americans a 1-0 victory and send them into the last 16. Argentina’s fabled “Fab Four” strike force had appeared heading for a blank at the Mineirao stadium despite dominating possession to the frustration of their massed ranks of fans who came expecting a goalfest at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium. But four-times world player of the year Messi curled the ball in during stoppage time to send them wild with only his third ever World Cup goal. The result gives Argentina six points from two games and takes them into the knockout stage. But they will need more guile and precision against better opponents. Iran, on just one point after a draw with Nigeria, will at least take heart from a fantastic performance against one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Constantly crowded out by two and sometimes three Iranians, Messi had until the end been unable to pull the strings and again vomited on the pitch in the first half. The Argentine captain put two free kicks wide in either half, and saw a shot go wide after a trademark run early in the second. In a succession of wasted Argentine first half chances, Gonzalo Higuain was quickly shut down by goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi in a one-on-one in the 13th minute, Angel Di Maria shot over the bar and Sergio Aguero had a curling shot well saved. Marcos Rojo and Ezequiel Garay put headers off target. With their increasingly hopeful supporters heavily outnumbered but cheering “Ole, ole, Iran!”, Asia’s highest-ranked team defended en masse but also enjoyed some forays forward that could have caused a sensational result.

Sensing an upset might be possible at 0-0, Iran were bolder in the second half. Lone striker Reza Ghoochannejhad broke free in the 53rd minute but shot at Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero before Ashkan Dejagah saw a strong header tipped over. Then Ghoochannejhad got behind the Argentine defence in the 86th minute but saw his shot again well saved by Romero. Miroslav Klose equalled Brazilian legend Ronaldo’s record of 15 World Cup goals with the equaliser for Germany in their 2-2 Group G draw with Ghana in Fortaleza on Saturday. Mario Goetze had given Germany the lead before goals from Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan turned the game on its head and threatened to cause a major upset for the Black Stars. But Klose had the last laugh with a poacher’s goal a yard out 19 minutes from time. Having at times bossed the first half, and only been denied by two fantastic Manuel Neuer saves from Sulley Muntari and Christian Atsu, Ghana switched off at the start of the second.

Thomas Mueller picked out Goetze running into the box and the Bayern Munich midfielder stopped unconvincingly to head goalwards with the ball going straight down onto his knee before rebounding past Ghana goalkeeper Abdul-Fatawu Dauda, who like his two centre-backs had been ball-watching.
The lead lasted only three minutes before Harrison Afful crossed into the box and Ayew, on his 50th appearance for the Black Stars, climbed above Shkodran Mustafi and the static Per Mertesacker, playing his 100th game for Germany, to flick a header beyond Neuer. Nine minutes later things got even better for Ghana as Muntari dispossessed Germany captain Philipp Lahm in midfield and slid the ball through to Black Stars captain Gyan to smash the ball past Neuer. Ghana were running riot and Germany hanging on by their fingernails but an inspired substitution by coach Joachim Loew brought Klose into the fray to stab home from a yard out after Benedikt Hoewedes flicked on Toni Kroos’s corner.

World Cup Results/Standings
Results
Argentina    1    Iran    0
Ecuador    3    Honduras    1
Germany    2    Ghana    2
Standings
Group A
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Brazil    2    1    1    0    3    1    4
Mexico    2    1    1    0    1    0    4
Croatia    2    1    0    1    5    3    3
Cameroon    2    0    0    2    0    5    0
Group B
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Netherlands*    2    2    0    0    8    3    6
Chile*    2    2    0    0    5    1    6
Australia    2    0    0    2    3    6    0
Spain    2    0    0    2    1    7    0
Group C
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Colombia*    2    2    0    0    5    1    6
Ivory Coast    2    1    0    1    3    3    3
Japan    2    0    1    1    1    2    1
Greece    2    0    1    1    0    3    1
Group D
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Costa Rica*    2    2    0    0    4    1    6
Italy    2    1    0    1    2    2    3
Uruguay    2    1    0    1    3    4    3
England    2    0    0    2    2    4    0
Group E
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
France    2    2    0    0    8    2    6
Ecuador    2    1    0    1    3    3    3
Switzerland    2    1    0    1    4    6    3
Honduras    2    0    0    2    1    5    0
Group F
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Argentina*    2    2    0    0    3    1    6
Nigeria    1    0    1    0    0    0    1
Iran    2    0    1    1    0    1    1
Bosnia    1    0    0    1    1    2    0
Group G
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Germany    2    1    1    0    6    2    4
United States    1    1    0    0    2    1    3
Ghana    2    0    1    1    3    4    1
Portugal    1    0    0    1    0    4    0
Group H
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Belgium    1    1    0    0    2    1    3
South Korea    1    0    1    0    1    1    1
Russia    1    0    1    0    1    1    1
Algeria    1    0    0    1    1    2    0
Note: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points. (RTRS)

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