A late goal by Marcos Rojo gave Argentina a dramatic 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Group D and sent the twice champions through to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup .

Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the tournament in the 14th minute with an expertly taken shot. However, Nigeria were level six minutes after the restart, when Javier Mascherano fouled Leon Balogun in the area and Victor Moses stepped up to slot the resulting penalty past Franco Armani.

With the game ebbing away from Argentina, Gabriel Mercado crossed from the right in the 86th minute and Rojo turned the ball into the goal with a first time strike to spark wild celebrations from the Argentines.

Argentina face France in the last 16 after finishing second in the group, while Croatia, who beat Iceland 2-1, take on Group C runners-up Denmark.

Nigeria and Iceland are out after finishing third and fourth, respectively.

Earlier France and Denmark qualified for the last 16 after playing out a goal-less draw in their last Group C match with the French finishing top.

Thirty-six games in Russia had failed to result in a goalless stalemate, but neither France nor Denmark ever looked like scoring in a tedious affair.

France were already assured qualification but wanted to go through in top spot to avoid a likely last-16 clash with in-form Croatia.

Denmark could have only been denied qualification had they lost to France and had Australia beaten Peru in the match being simultaneously played in Sochi.

However Australia’s participation at the World Cup came to a limp end as they were beaten 2-0 by Peru in their final group C match.

Peru were also eliminated.

In five appearances at the finals, Australia have only once made it out of group play (2006).

Dutchman Bert van Marwijk’s short reign as coach has come to an end and he says their main issue in Russia was an inability to convert their scoring chances.

France and Demark’s next opponents will be determined later when Nigeria play Argentina in Saint Petersburg, and Iceland face Croatia in Rostov-on-Don.

Reuters

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