BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil - Lionel Messi spared Argentina's blushes with a wonderful last-gasp winner against unheralded Iran at the World Cup on Saturday to give the South Americans a 1-0 victory and passage to the last 16.
Argentina's fabled "Fab Four" strike force had appeared heading for a blank despite dominating possession to the frustration of their massed hordes of fans who came expecting a goalfest at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao stadium.
But four-times world player of the year Messi, who has struggled to reproduce his Barcelona form at past World Cups, curled the ball in during stoppage time to send them wild with his second goal of two games in Brazil.
"With Messi, everything is possible," said relieved Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, praising Iran for playing a "great" game and making it difficult for his side.
Watched by past Argentine great Diego Maradona in a 57,698 crowd, Messi had appeared in an unthreatening position when he received the ball on the right in the 91st minute.
Then dropping his shoulder and cutting quickly inside, he curled a simply brilliant 25-yard left-foot shot over Iran's massed defence and into the far corner past outstanding goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi's outstretched hand.
"Not even two goalkeepers could have stopped that Lionel shot," Sabella added.
The result was probably fair given Argentina's 71 percent possession and superior ballplay in the middle but felt cruel after Iran had grown in confidence and begun counter-attacking neatly to complement their solid defence.
The result leaves Argentina on top of Group F with six points from two games and takes them into the knockout stage.