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.
Degenek not taking his foot off the gas
Twelve months ago, Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek was playing in Japan — now, he’s tearing up Serbia’s SuperLiga, having been named in the league’s best eleven for the first half of the season. It’s a credit to Degenek, 24, who signed with Red Star Belgrade in July
Degenek named in Serbian Superliga's best XI
Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has been named in the Serbian Superliga’s best eleven players of the first half of the season after his performances for Red Star Belgrade. AUSSIES ABROAD: Sainsbury denies former club Inter in first UCL start READ MORE: Where you can w
FFA to conduct additional injury assessment with Aaron Mooy
Football Federation Australia (FFA) acknowledges Huddersfield Town’s statement regarding Aaron Mooy released on Thursday morning (AEDT). Due to the significance of the AFC Asian Cup to the Caltex Socceroos, FFA will proceed with a plan to deploy its High Performance Coordina
Aussies Abroad: Rogic and Vukovic progress to Europa League Round of 32
The Europa League Round of 32 will have an Aussie flavour after Tom Rogic and Danny Vukovic both sealed their progression to the knockout stage of Europe’s second-tier competition. Rogic played 90 minutes as Celtic did it the hard way, their 2-1 loss at the hands of FC Salzbur