Lionel Messi Argentina
Argentina skipper Lionel Messi is over the moon after scoring the winner against Bosnia-Herzegovina, 15 JuneReuters

For 64 minutes Lionel Messi looked like having one of those days when nothing would go right, the touch going awry, the shots missing the target, and the teammates also not quite finding their mark. However, everything went from bleak to brilliant in a couple of seconds, seconds which saw Messi make the trademark jinking run, followed by the patented left-foot shot which found the back of the net with unerring accuracy.

That epic Messi goal proved to be vital, and then some, for Argentina, who just about managed to repel a never-say-die Bosnia-Herzegovina side for a tense and uncomfortable 2-1 victory at the Maracana in Rio De Janeiro.

The match began swimmingly well for Argentina, with Sead Kolasinac scoring an own goal in just the third minute to give the South Americans the lead, a lead they would bulge, after resisting quite a bit of pressure, courtesy a magical Messi strike in the second half.

Bosnia-Herzegovina pulled a goal back in the dying moments, but could not find a second to force a draw as Argentina opened Group F with a nervy, yet infinitely precious win.

Argentina got off to the best possible start, barely a couple of kicks into the game, with Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the other hand getting off to the worst possible beginning at their first World Cup appearance.

Messi swung in a freekick from the left which was flicked on at the near post with the ball deflecting off a cannot-move-away-quickly enough Kolasinac and into the net.

Bosnia were shocked to concede so early in this historic game, with Sergio Aguero coming close a couple of minutes later, but once they settled down, they showed exactly why they were so impressive in European qualification.

The goals did not quite pour out as easily as it did in the qualifiers, but there was plenty of endeavour and little to no fear in their play on the biggest stage of them all.

Miralem Pjanic nearly created the opening with a wonderful through ball over the top of the Argentina defence, which has leaked in a few goals of late, but Izet Hajrovic just could not get his shot away in time, allowing Sergio Romero to come and bravely snuff the ball out.

Pjanic started to stamp his authority into the game more, but Bosnia-Herzegovina just could not quite get their main striker Edin Dzeko into the game as well as they would have liked, just like Argentina, who found it difficult to involve Messi going forward.

The 3-5-2 formation employed by Alejandro Sabella was not quite working for Argentina from an attacking point of view with Messi very much in the periphery. Those trademark bursts of pace and runs into the box were few and far between, and when he did find the right pass, the ensuing finish or pass was woefully misplaced by his teammates.

The frustration at the Maracana was growing with every passing broken move from Argentina, as Bosnia-Herzegovina grew into the game more and more. However, that goal just would not come for the debutants, with Argentina sneaking into halftime with a far from comfortable 1-0 lead.

Bosnia started the second half much like they finished the first, pouring forward looking for that equaliser, but there was also a bit more of a steely determination about Argentina, who had made a couple of halftime changes, bringing on Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago for Maxi Rodriguez and Hugo Campagnaro.

The change to a back-four seemed to work better for Argentina, who did look more of a threat going forward, but the longer the game stayed 1-0, the more treacherous the lead looked. With the game bearing a similar pattern to the first half, something needed to give, and it was that little man's moment to weave his magic.

Messi burst forward with his trademark pace, playing a one-two with Higuain, before cutting onto his left foot, like he has done thousands of times in the past, to fire in a low, unstoppable drive, which zoomed past Asmir Begovic and into the net off the base of post.

The pressure of that long wait for his second World Cup goal, which came after eight years and more than ten hours was released in the celebrations, and Argentina finally looked in a comfortable position for the first time in the match.

However, there is no give-up bone in this Bosnia-Herzegovina team's body, and Safet Susic's men kept at it, looking for one goal to at least make a game of it, even while leaving gaps at the back, which Argentina, thankfully for them, failed to exploit.

Bosnia's perseverance would finally pay off in the 86th minute, as Senad Lulic found a through ball for Vedad Ibisevic to latch onto, with the substitute making no mistake with the finish, squirming the ball through Romero's legs to cut the deficit in half and ensure Argentina would endure a nervous final few minutes.

The South Americans would hold on, though, despite Bosnia's relentless pressure, allowing skipper Messi to bask in the glory of a World Cup winning goal.

Quick Links