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 By Sam Kelly

Late win shouldn't worry Albiceleste

Not for the first time in this World Cup, Argentina needed a moment of genius from Lionel Messi to decide a tight match. Not for the first time in this World Cup, the world's best footballer produced just that. Argentina as a whole have yet to really click in this World Cup, but Messi, at least, has hit the ground running.

ArgentinaArgentina
IranIran
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Match 27
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If the sparks we expected didn't fly until almost the very end of the match, there were justifiable reasons this time that had less to do with Argentina's own mistakes than in their opening performance against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On Sunday, Argentina shot themselves in the foot to an extent, but on Saturday they came up against supremely organised opponents who deserve a large chunk of the credit for making the match as awkward as it was.

For all their attacking talent, Argentina aren't a side who are set to dominate possession and play slowly through a massed defence, and that showed in Belo Horizonte. Against sides who play more expansively, Argentina -- the Argentina of this fast-paced 4-3-3 -- will be afforded more space behind, and for that reason there is no need to panic just yet.

The above is not to do down Iran's performance, though; they were superb, closed down space well throughout the match and could have snatched a winner. Romantic though that winner would have been, it has to be said it would have been a little incongruous in terms of the raw numbers and the overall balance of the match.

It was a laboured effort, but Lionel Messi and Argentina overcame Iran to advance to the second round.
Argentina had to rely on Lionel Messi to provide them a late winner.

All the same, it's difficult not to feel for opponents who were close to getting a very respectable result from the match.

The World Cup isn't won in the first two matches (though Spain and England, among others, have demonstrated it can certainly be lost), and Argentina have sealed their qualification with a game to go. If the World Cup is often won by the team who grow into the tournament as it goes on, Argentina have certainly got the room to do that, and it's hard to believe they'll face any sides who'll play quite the way Iran did once the knockout stages begin.

One can't help thinking that had one of Argentina's first half chances gone in, the game would have looked very different. Three Albiceleste defenders had a good chance each from set pieces, and Gonzalo Higuaín should have gotten a shot off at the end of a fine counterattack following Iran's first corner, but a heavy touch saw the ball get away from him.

Forcing Iran to come out of their shells earlier would have made things easier for Argentina. In that respect, Argentina's finishing was as much of a problem for them as Iran's defending.

Alejandro Sabella wasn't trying to hide his concerns after the game, though. "I've got the same worries as you lot," he told journalists at the postmatch news conference.

"We all want to win," he said. "We're still looking for that balance in the team."

About Messi, who has two goals and, if we count free kicks ending in own goals, one assist from two 2014 World Cup matches, Sabella was less concerned.

"He's a genius," he said. "And luckily for us, he's Argentine."

Those back home being too gloomy about Argentina's chances after two narrower-than-expected victories would do well to remember that. Argentina might need to call on the best player in the world to decide matches, but that becomes a bit less of a problem when you've got him in the squad.

Sam Kelly covers Argentine football and the Argentine national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @HEGS_com.