Football Fever | Messi finally scores - Argentina advance at World Cup

From his thigh to his foot to the back of the net, Lionel Messi finally scored a goal at this year's World Cup.

The exquisite strike from the Argentina great sparked the first of several celebrations from an animated Diego Maradona, who screamed, shouted and made obscene gestures - and raised concerns for his health.

Argentina staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria on Tuesday, getting a late goal from Marcos Rojo.

Messi's goal - his 65th for Argentina - was surely enough to impress even Maradona.

From a long pass over the defence by Ever Banega, Messi caressed the ball with his left thigh, took another touch with his left foot, and then delivered a smooth right-footed finish into the corner.

Messi fell to his knees and pointed his fingers upward in celebration. At the same time, Maradona crossed his arms with his hands on his shoulders and looked to the sky.

"I knew that God is with us," Messi said, "and he wouldn't let us get eliminated."

Messi, who later hit the post off a free kick, and Banega controlled the game in the first half. Rojo finished it off in the second by cushioning a volley with his right foot into the bottom corner and ensuring Messi's quest for a first World Cup title continued.

Argentina will play France in the last 16 in Kazan on Saturday. If the Argentines win and Portugal beat Uruguay on Saturday, Messi would face Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarter-finals.

Without that late goal from Rojo, the 31-year-old Messi might have retired from international soccer for a second time - and for good this time.

Instead, it was Messi who was at the centre of the celebrations. His teammates formed a circle around him while striker Gonzalo Higuain cried nearby. Messi then clenched his fist as he turned towards the Argentina fans.

"He's above everybody else," Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said. "The most important thing for Leo is his human side. He cries. He suffers. He's happy when Argentina wins. I know him."


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