World Cup : Group toppers Argentina, France avoid round-of-16 clash

Rio de Janeiro, June 26 :

Argentina and France reached the World Cup last 16 as Group F and Group E leaders respectively Wednesday to avoid a clash with each other in the knockout stage.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored twice, including a spectacular free kick from almost 30 yards out to help his team beat the African champions Nigeria 3-2 and win Group F, reports Xinhua.FIFA World Cup

“Messi is from another planet,” Nigeria’s head coach Stephen Keshi said after the match.

France drew with 10-man Ecuador in a tight game, but it was enough to for the European side to top Group E.

Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia was shown a red card only five minutes into the second half for a challenge against French defender Lucas Digne.

France had crushed Honduras 3-0, Switzerland 5-2, topping the group with six points and a six-goal advantage. Ecuador lost 2-1 to Switzerland but beat Honduras 2-1, sharing three points with Switzerland, but standing second with goal advantage.

Ecuador’s chances evaporated as Switzerland took the other berth by beating Honduras 3-0. Bayern Munich player Xherdan Shaqiri scored a hat-trick.

France will next face Nigeria and Argentina take on Switzerland in the round of 16.

Argentina collected nine points with a perfect record. Nigeria also advanced by finishing second with four points.

Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1 in the other Group F match, and both teams were eliminated.

It was the fourth straight time for Argentina to beat Nigeria on the World Cup stage. Messi, who had two goals out of just four shooting attempts, was named Man of the Match.

In the third minute, Angel di Maria’s cut in the left side of the box booked him a one-and-one encounter with Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama. The shot hit the post, but Messi caught the ball on the rebound and thundered it into the net on a half volley.

A minute later, Nigeria tied the score. Ahmed Musa got the ball from Babatunde, cut into the Argentine penalty area and curled the ball into the net.

Messi then took Argentina ahead again with a freekick. The Barcelona star curled the ball into the right corner of the net before Nigerian keeper Enyeama had time to react.

The Argentina defence made a disastrous error in the 47th minute, when Musa receive the ball at the center of the Argentina penalty area. His side-footed shot went past Sergio Romero and Nigeria tied the score again.

Three minutes later, Rojo knelt the ball into the goal. It was the first international goal for the 24-year-old defender and Argentina led for the third time and subsequently winning the game.


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