They left it late but Argentina remains alive at the FIFA World Cup™ after scoring an 86th-minute winner to advance to the knockout stage in a thrilling climax in Group D.
Elsewhere, Croatia maintained their perfect tournament so far, while it was a drab goalless draw between France and Denmark to ensure both advanced out of the Socceroos’ Group C.
It means the next two Round of 16 fixtures have been decided with some intriguing match-ups:
France v Argentina, Sunday 1 July 12am (AEST), Kazan Arena
Croatia v Denmark, Monday 2 July 4am (AEST), Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Here’s a wrap of all the overnight action in the FIFA World Cup™.
ARGENTINA 2-1 NIGERIA
Lionel Messi finally came alive in Russia but it was an unlikely hero that saved Argentina from an embarrassing early exit from the tournament.
With scores locked at 1-1 with just four minutes left, defender Marcos Rojo scored with a sensational low volley to send Argentina through.
It was a heart-breaking end for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, who for long periods looked on course to get the desired draw to make the Round of 16.
While Nigeria fell behind on 14 minutes when Messi controlled Ever Banega’s ball over the top on his thigh before lashing an unstoppable shot past the keeper to bring up the 100th goal of the 2018 tournament.
But Victor Moses restored parity early in the second half, converting from the penalty spot after Javier Mascherano dragged down Leon Balogun in the box.
Just as Nigeria were dreaming of a spot in the last 16, Rojo came up with a moment of magic to spare Argentina’s blushes and spark wild celebrations.
The drama was too much for Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who was reportedly hospitalised after exuberant celebrations in the wake of the victory.
ICELAND 1-2 CROATIA
Croatia finished with maximum points in Group D thanks to an Ivan Perisic winner in the final minute to knock out a resilient Iceland in Rostov-on-Don.
Already assured of their place in the last 16, Croatia was looking to make it three wins out of three and took the lead early in the second half through Milan Badelj.
Iceland knew they had to win to stay alive and came storming back, levelling the scores with 14 minutes left when Gylfi Sigurdsson converted a penalty.
But as Iceland chased a winner to keep their chances of progression alive, they were hit with a sucker-punch down the other end in the final minute.
Badelj turned provider this time with his neat through-ball allowing Perisic to get in behind his marker and finish to enhance Croatia’s reputation as a dark horse in Russia.
FRANCE 0-0 DENMARK
In the first goalless draw of the tournament, both France and Denmark secured their spots in the last 16 with a drab encounter at the Luzhniki Stadium.
French boss Didier Deschamps made six changes to his starting side with one eye on their Round of 16 clash and it contributed to a disjointed performance from the 1998 champions.
It didn’t bother the Danes who were happy to sit back and play for the point which would ensure their progression, which was assured when the Socceroos lost to Peru anyway.
Antoine Griezmann had the best chance of the first half but his shot was straight at keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Christian Eriksen was at the heart of Denmark’s best moments but they were few and far between, with a late penalty appeal when Olivier Giroud went down in the box the major scare at the other end.
Arnie’s Caltex Socceroos take shape as attacking stars shine
The Graham Arnold era has gotten off to a flying start, less than three months out from the opening game of the Caltex Socceroos’ AFC Asian Cup title defence. Apostolos Giannou, Tom Rogic, debutant Awer Mabil and an own goal were the difference as Australia cruised to a 4-0 wi
Caltex Socceroos outclass Kuwait as Arnie starts with a win
Graham Arnold’s reign as new Caltex Socceroos boss has got off to a perfect start with Australia crushing Kuwait 4-0 on Tuesday morning (AEDT). In a perfect start to Australian football’s new era, the Caltex Socceroos scored twice in each half to cap an encouraging and excitin
Re-live the Caltex Socceroos' big win over Kuwait
The Caltex Socceroos have made the ideal start to their march towards January's AFC Asian Cup with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Kuwait on Tuesday morning (AEDT). An own goal and further strikes from Apostolos Giannou, Tom Rogic and debutant Awer Mabil were enough to hand new b
History repeats: the stats you need to know ahead of Kuwait v Caltex Socceroos
It’s nearly time – your Caltex Socceroos go head to head with Kuwait on Tuesday morning (3.30am AEDT). Anticipation for the start of the Graham Arnold era has been rising for some time now, but it all finally gets underway on the pitch in Australia’s clash with the Middle East