FULL TIME: Argentina 1-0 Iran

He's not bad, this Lionel Messi. Argentina weren't very good, and Iran were spectacularly brilliant, but there's no accounting for world-class strikes like that! A few tears from Ghoochannejhad, who could easily have won it for Iran not once but twice. They'll wonder about that penalty shout, too, but take solace from the fact that a win in their final game against Bosnia & Herzegovinia could still see them through. But it's two wins out of two for Argentina, and two stunning goals in two matches from Lionel Messi. Five more personal performances like this, and he'll have keys to The Club all right!

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90 min +4: Haghighi with a long throw into the Argentinian area from the left. Sadeghi, frustrated, is too physical and concedes a foul. Poor Iran. Poor deflated Iran.

90 min +3: In the third of the four added-on minutes, Di Maria is brought off, with Biglia coming on. Purely a time-wasting measure.

GOAL!!! Argentina 1-0 Iran (Messi 90+1)

Well, he's a little further down the road to settling The Big Argument. Messi takes up possession 30 yards out, level with the right-hand post. He takes a step forward, and a touch inside, then curls a stunning shot into the top-left corner! Unstoppable! Poor Haghighi had no chance!

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90 min: Messi looks to release Lavezzi down the right. Too strong. Goal kick. Di Maria down the left. Haghighi punches clear. Here's Tanay Padhi: "This Argentina performance is crying out for Carlos Tevez, isn't it?"

88 min: Hajsafi is replaced by Reza Haghighi.

86 min: Another Argentinian corner down the left. Again it's easily cleared, and suddenly Iran are on the break! Jahanbakhsh twists and turns down the left, then fires a pass down the wing to release Ghoochannejhad! He's clear! He's not got the pace to tear completely free, and is forced to shoot from the edge of the box. His attempt, aimed towards the top right, is parried away by Romero! Argentina mop up. What a chance! What a performance by Iran!

85 min: Dejagah is replaced by Jahanbakhsh. Palacio attempts to surprise Haghighi at the left-hand post, but the keeper batters away for a corner that's easily dealt with.

84 min: Ghoochannejhad wins a free kick down the right. Iran load the box, but Dejagah blooters the ball out of play.

82 min: Lavezzi wins a corner down the right, off Pouladi, with some determined play. The ball's lumped into the box towards Fernandez. Not quite. Back it comes, Lavezzi embarking on a rococo wander down the right wing. Nope. Then Rojo gets fed up and looks for the top-left corner from a position 25 yards down the inside right. Not too far away, that. But on the other hand, Iran will be happy to see Argentina reduced to taking potshots from distance.

81 min: Rojo wins a corner down the left. Di Maria whips it to the near post, but it's easily cleared, the set piece not beating the first man. Argentina are soon coming back at Iran, but Lavezzi's slide-rule pass down the right, intended to release Zabaleta into the area, is overcooked and rolls into the arms of Haghighi.

79 min: Ghoocghannejhad goes on a determined run down the inside-right channel, but is unceremoniously stopped in his tracks by a crunching tackle from Mascherano, who chased him back. There's a player who won't be happy at the way this is panning out. That tackle suggests he's had more than enough. "If this keeps going like this," begins Dave Hill, "the door man at The Club you mentioned in the preamble will make Messi stand outside in the line while all the others gain entrance."

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77 min: Time for change! Shojaei is replaced by Heydari, while Argentina make a double switch up front: the desperately poor Higuain and Aguero are hooked, with Lavezzi and Palacio coming on.

75 min: Argentina appear to have woken from their slumber. Di Maria - who has been busy today - breaks into the area and batters a low shot towards the bottom left. Haghighi is not of a mind to be beaten at his near post, and parries to take the sting off the shot, then falls on the ball to smother the danger.

74 min: ... with the box loaded, and everyone expecting a cross to the far post, whips the set piece towards the top left. He's beaten the flat-footed Haghighi, but the ball flaps into the side netting. The closest Argentina have come to a goal.

73 min: Shojaei is booked for bringing down Di Maria just outside the Iran area on the left. One of the few determined Argentinian bursts since the restart. In the whole match, really. But this is a free kick, to be taken by Messi, in a very dangerous position. He steps up, and ...

72 min: Pouladi crosses from the left, and Rojo is forced to bundle out of play on the right. Corner. It's swung to the far post, where Nekounam bustles with purpose, hoping to slam a shot home. But he's shoved Garay over. Free kick. Pressure off Argentina, who are rocking here!

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70 min: Di Maria crosses from the left, Haghighi punches clear. But then it's a corner for Argentina down the right. It comes to nothing, but at least Argentina have eaten up a little time, and Iran are kept away from their danger area for a couple of minutes.

68 min: Iran again nearly take the lead, with the best effort of the match! Montazeri curls in a high cross from the right. In the middle, Dejagah attempts to Keith Houchen a flying header into the net. It's going into the top left, but Romero, his back arced, fingertips over. Dejagah takes the corner himself, and it's claimed by the keeper. That would have been a picturebook header! Iran are playing wonderfully well. This is a majestic display!

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66 min: Hajsafi makes good down the left and swings a ball into the Argentinian area from the left. Garay slices a risible attempted clearance over his own crossbar. The corner: another scramble. Cleared: eventually. Argentina are beginning to show signs of panic. They're all over the shop!

65 min: Hajsafi has a dig from 25 yards. His shot balloons off an Argentinian leg and arcs out to the right of goal. For a second, that looked like sailing over Romero's head. Then, from the corner, what can only be described as a proper stramash in the Argentinian six-yard box! Ghoochannejhad can't get a shot away, and eventually Garay hacks clear. This is an appalling display by Argentina, and a brilliant one by Iran.

62 min: Argentina's day so far in microcosm: Messi twists and turns down the inside right, only to have the ball whipped off his toe by Teymourian. "In the recent protestations I couldn't help but notice the nicely embroidered match badges (with flags and opponents) on," writes Rory McGee, with reference to the kit problems Iran have been having lately. "Has the Iranian FA backtracked or does Carlos Quieroz have a nice little earner as the supreme seamstress of Iran?" The kits fit perfectly, too, so they haven't shrunk. Unless they bought a job-lot of XXXL shirts, in the full knowledge of what would happen once they stuffed them in the Indesit.

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61 min: Yep, Rojo has been Argentina's best player. He romps down the left and fires a low cross to the far post. Higuain is again asleep, and I'm not sure where Aguero is. The left back has been consistently excellent.

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60 min: But Argentina also have Messi, and he takes a Mascherano pass straight down the middle, then skitters directly towards the Iranian area. He opens up his body and looks for a sidefooter into the bottom left from just outside the area. Only inches wide.

59 min: Gago blooters miles over the bar from 35 yards. Argentina are a shower right now.

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58 min: Di Maria in space down the left. He drops a shoulder to beat Montazeri, but Sadeghi is quickly over to block as the Argentinian thinks about cutting back from the byline. "The greatest living Dundonian referenced on the MBM," writes Simon McMahon, having just spotted the name of David Narey, no doubt. "This World Cup has just come alive."

55 min: Wow, this is all action now! First Nekounam is booked for a clumsy lunge on Gago, the Iranian midfield man wrapping both legs round his opponent's standing leg. (Which makes it sound worst than it was; it wasn't in the leg-breaker category.) Then Ghoochannejhad chases after a long punt down the inside-left channel. Zabaleta comes over and cleans out the striker, who gets to the ball first, in the area! That's a dreadful decision. They should be having an uncontested whack from 12 yards right now.

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53 min: Here's another chance spurned. But this time it's by Iran! Dejagah is in acres down the right, as Iran break from the missed Aguero chance quickly. He whips a low ball into the centre, where Ghoochannejhad stoops to head from eight yards - straight at Romero. The Argentinian keeper parries, and gathers. That looked like the opener when the cross was coming over!

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52 min: Rojo is arguably Argentina's best player this afternoon. Again he skates into space down the left. He curls a ball to the near post, where Aguero should power a header home. He connects with it, but lamely. That's a great chance spurned.

50 min: A little burst of Messi magic as he goes on a high-speed baroque ramble down the inside right, dragging the ball past Sadeghi with almost insulting ease. He slips the ball to the outside, where Zabaleta meets it first time with a confident sidefoot aimed for the top-left corner. Not sure Haghighi had that one covered, but it's too high. Just. Fine play all round.

49 min: Space for Rojo down the left. His cross to the far post isn't that far from Higuain, but the ball's dealt with by Pouladi.

48 min: Mascherano plays a clever pass down the right wing with a view to releasing Gago. Actually, it's not quite so clever, skipping off the turf and out of play down the right for a goal kick. Argentina have certainly come out with renewed purpose. They needed to.

And we're off again! Argentina get the ball rolling, having presumably applied their gamefaces at half-time. They certainly weren't wearing them in that opening 45. "As a French fan, I am almost sneakily hoping Argentina finish second in their group, because France can play as underdogs against them (with most favouring Argentina)," writes Arun. "Not to mention the fact that Argentina have barely been impressive save for one magical Messi moment. As a France fan I had no hope for this team - I believed it would be the same old story of futility - and then they went and beat Honduras and Switzerland with such style that they have now given us some hope. I almost expect it to all end in tears if we end up facing Bosnia." I love how football supporters can sniff out reasons to be pessimistic, less than 24 hours after a 5-2 win. The beauty of the game, right there. We all understand it.

Half-time advertisement: Quite a few of Argentina's famous World Cup showdowns have been covered, MBM style, in And Gazza Misses The Final (authors unknown). Games against England ('66, '86 and '98), France ('78) and Romania ('94), to be precise. Here's a snippet from that 86 game, featuring no football action whatsoever:

29 min: Steven makes his way to the corner flag down the right, but his cross flies straight out of play. Time for the Mexican television cameras to take another sweep of the crowd. What service on offer at the Azteca! An usherette carrying a tray of 15 ready-poured lagers is ambling through the stand with a view to vending them to thirsty punters. One chap, a young gentlemen with a fashionable Zapata moustache, sits behind a big bass drum. 'Well, he doesn't have too much to say, does he, the Argentine drummer?" sniffs the BBC's Barry Davies, although it's not clear what he's expecting from the percussionist, one third of the way through with the scoreline goalless. A coruscating, Gene Krupa style, ten-minute big-band solo?

HALF TIME: Argentina 0-0 Iran

Hajsafi has a dig from 30 yards. Nope. And that's the last act of a very impressive half by Iran. Argentina: not so impressive. Messi needs to up his game, but he's far from the only one. "Carlos Queiroz seems to have the recipe to keep Messi quiet down pat," suggests Prateek Chadha. "Iran have been almost as effective at shutting him out of the game as Manchester United were in the 2008 Champions League semi-final. Perhaps Queiroz can make a living purely as an anti-Messi consultant? Ronaldo for one would certainly be supportive of such a career move."

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45 min: Corner for Argentina down the left after Di Maria busies himself. Fernandez leaps to meet it, 12 yards out, but can only send a weak effort high and wide right.

42 min: Zabaleta gives away a niggly foul down the left. Dejagah wheechs a high diagonal ball to the far post, where it comes off Rojo's back. Corner. Dejagah whips a stunning set piece to the right-hand corner of the six-yard box, where Hosseini rises brilliantly - and powers a header just over. He was looking for the top-right corner, and really should have found it from that range. Iran could easily be leading here. They certainly should have scored that, though I suppose that would have only equalised Garay's 36th minute strike if we're playing a game of If-ball.

40 min: Rojo has embarked on a couple of decent runs down the left. Again he finds a bit of space, but this time his cross flies straight into the fans behind the stand. Higuain, clear in the middle, isn't happy.

39 min: It's all Argentina, but Iran are right up in their grilles, and keeping their shape well. Pass, pass, passity, pass. Eventually Di Maria tries one flick too many, and Teymourian sticks a boot in to clear. Another defence of ITV's main man Tyldesley (24 min), this time from Fiona Jalinoos: "Actually Andranik is an Armenian Christian!"

36 min: Free kick for Argentina down the left. Messi whips a delicious, enticing cross to the far post, where Garay really should bury a header from a few yards out. But he can't keep it down. Terrible miss, but what delivery by Messi!

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34 min: Fernandez bundles over Dejagah down the left. Free kick. The ball's slipped down the wing for Hajsafi, whose low cross is dismal. A shame for Iran, because Argentina were fannying around there, half asleep, and a decent cross could have put them in a wee spot of trouble. As it is, Fernandez can clear up his own mess. He's even got enough time for a clumsy, heavy first touch. This isn't an impressive Argentina performance so far. France certainly wouldn't be too worried if the two ended up meeting in the second round.

32 min: Teymourian hacks down Messi, who is attempting to turn on the edge of the Iranian D having picked up a little pass from Higuain. Messi takes the free kick himself, and looks for the top right, but though he gets the ball over the wall, he can't get it back down again, and his effort whistles harmlessly over the bar. Messi looks pained, as well he might.

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30 min: It's fair to say that Romero hasn't had a whole lot to do so far. But then that's not really the point.

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29 min: Argentina are beginning to feel a little bit frustrated. Iran haven't had a whole load to deal with, and here's Di Maria, down the left, Koncheskying a cross into Row Z behind the goal. A few impatient boos ring around the stadium. Meanwhile Lee Wallace comes in defence of Tyldesley (24 min): "I wonder if he's attempting to make Andy Townsend feel smart?"

26 min: Aguero knocks over the corner flag in a fruitless pursuit of the ball. He doesn't bother to put it back in its hole. Put it back! He doesn't, walking off like he doesn't care. In the end, the referee runs half the length of the field to do the job himself. Back in 1986, in the quarter final between Argentina and England, a linesman stopped play for over a minute, forcing Diego Maradona to re-sheath one of the corner posts when its flag fell off. If fixing things up is good enough for Diego, it's good enough for you, Sergio, young man!

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24 min: Aguero wins a corner down the left. Argentina beginning to turn up the heat now. The ball's whipped into the area. Rojo meets the ball right in the middle of the box, and slaps a downward header inches wide of the right-hand post. A pithy critique of Clive Tyldesley by Charles Antaki: "ITV's commentator has just said that 'A lot of the Iranian players display their Christian names on their shirts'. Hmm."

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22 min: Argentina tiki-taka it around awhile. Are we still allowed to use that term in a non-pejorative fashion? Possibly. Anyway, they suddenly pick up speed and triangulate into the area down the inside left. Higuain has his back to the goal, and lays off to Aguero, who attempts to curl one into the top right. That's going in, too, but it's palmed away brilliantly by Haghighi.

19 min: Messi, 30 yards out down the inside-left channel, plays a cute little pass inside to Di Maria, who attempts to sidefoot into the top corner from the edge of the D. Which corner? Don't know. His first-time shot sails miles into the sky, centrally over the bar. All very good if we were playing rugby union, but we're not, are we. "I tried to explain to my 17 year-old son just how good Diego Maradona was," begins Gary Naylor, embracing one of the Great Impossible Tasks. "He's seen the youtube clips and knows about the stats, so I was trying to capture his essence (as it were). I ended up saying that everybody on the pitch, in the stands and watching on television was looking at him all the time, because he was the game. Messi isn't there yet - not many have been. Maybe Platini and Cryuff at their peaks and Beckenbauer at his most imperious."

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18 min: Dejagah wins a corner for Iran down the right. Very determined and persistent. Fernandez clears the set piece with a fierce header. And Argentina are on the break, Di Maria zipping the yards away! Then Messi has the ball, heading towards the area. He rolls a pass out left for Higuain, who is about to cock his leg to batter a shot goalwards from the edge of the box, but Montazeri slides in to block.

16 min: Argentina haven't had too much joy. Iran will be happy enough with the way this game is going so far. Then again, Switzerland would have been saying the same thing at this point against France last night, and look what happened there.

13 min: Gago rakes a pass down the inside-right channel, prising open Iran with one thrust and releasing Higuain in the area. Haghighi rushes off his line and smothers the resulting shot brilliantly. The keeper's taken a rare old clatter there, Higuain having accidentally raked his shin and kneed him in the coupon too. He'll be OK, writes Dr Murray, the Guardian's resident quack who doesn't actually know. But he is sitting up, his leg strapped by the Iranian doctor, and not looking discombobulated in the slightest.

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10 min: Not a great deal from Messi yet, but Di Maria twists and pirouettes down the inside-left channel, and is very close to releasing Higuain into the area with a back-heel. Very delicate and pretty.

8 min: Argentina are enjoying the lion's share of possession, although nothing much is happening right now. Rojo makes another run down the left and appears to have won a corner off Montazeri, but that's another set piece Argentina won't be taking. A poor decision. "I'm watching this in Berlin - and the build-up on the box is a ten-minute piece on Bach's organ," reports Matthew Tempest, formerly of this parish, I'll be bound. "Intellectual bunch, the Germans. Oops, I've got the wrong channel on." I'm sure the point stands. Funniest Ever You've Been Framed was on ITV2 before this match.

5 min: Aguero twists and turns in the Iranian box, just to the right of the goal. He's crowded out, the ball clanking off an Iran player's leg and away for a corner, but Argentina won't get the set piece, as the flag's gone up, presumably for an offside. Or a handball. Who needs detail?

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4 min: A free kick for Iran, Hajsafi swinging it into the Argentina box from the left. The favourites don't deal with it particularly well, Fernandez and Garay allowing the ball to sail over their heads and out of play to the right of goal. Hosseini wasn't too far from meeting that with his neep, ten yards out.

3 min: A fairly bitty start to this game. Argentina finally string a couple of passes together, Rojo making good down the left. His cross into the centre is easily gathered by Haghighi. Meanwhile, just to clarify, the Queiroz gesture against South Korea was less a finger, more a full on up-yours fist. The sort that's often accompanied by a fruity bellow of GERTCHA in London drinkers, just before patrons enter into the nightly philosophical discussion.

And we're off! Iran get the ball rolling. "Please add Ronaldo to The Club," asks Nicholas. "You can't name everyone but you definitely need to name Ronaldo." The list wasn't meant to be definitive by any means, but Brazil's hero of 2002 is of course worthy, Nicholas. As is, say, Didi. And Bobby Moore. And David Narey.

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The teams are out! Argentina in their famous and beautiful sky blue and white shirts AND WHITE SHORTS, THIS IS A COMPLETE DISGRACE, A SNOOK COCKED IN THE FACE OF TRADITION while Iran sport radiant red. Then the national anthems. Both songs are coming from the same place, with emancipation the common theme:

"Hear, mortals, the sacred cry: Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! / Hear the noise of broken chains! See the noble Equality enthroned!"

"Your message, O Imam, of independence, and freedom, is imprinted on our souls!"

Classy melodies both. Iran's in particular should be commended for its deep-rooted sense of pride, grandeur, tradition and good taste, no mean feat seeing it was only written in 1990, the year of Candy Flip, MC Hammer, and Gazza & Lindisfarne.

Before we get going, let's tip a collective titfer to Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, formerly of Portugal, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Partly for getting Iran to Brazil with wins over Qatar, Lebanon and South Korea. But mainly for spectacularly spoiling for a fight with Korean manager Choi Kang-hee, who had bitterly complained of "bad treatment" when his team lost a qualifier in Iran, and as a result found himself the subject of a t-shirt when the two sides met again in Ulsan. Queiroz wore a photo of a sulking Choi in press conferences ahead of the game, then showed the Korean bench the finger after the match, star striker Reza Ghoochannejhad having scored the only goal. Magnificent. He didn't spend all that time working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson without picking up a trick or two.

Dramatis personæ

Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Federico Fernandez, Rojo, Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria, Aguero, Messi, Higuain.
Subs: Orion, Campagnaro, Biglia, Perez, Maxi Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Demichelis, Palacio, Alvarez, Lavezzi, Basanta, Andujar.

Iran: Alireza Haghighi, Montazeri, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Pouladi, Shojaei, Teymourian, Nekounam, Hajsafi, Dejagah, Ghoochannejhad.
Subs: Ahmadi, Heydari, Reza Haghighi, Jahanbakhsh, Ansarifard, Hadadifar, Mahini, Alnameh, Rahmani, Beikzadeh, Beitashour, Davari.

Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)

Poor old Lionel Messi. 243 goals in 277 league games for Barcelona. 67 in 86 Champions League matches. 39 in 87 for Argentina. He's got six La Liga winners medals to his name, three from the Champions League, a couple of Club World Cups, four Ballon d'Ors, he's commonly regarded as the star of one of the greatest club sides ever, and the best player in the world of his generation. A poor season for him, as the one just gone supposedly was, saw him deliver 41 goals in 44 matches. This is not normal behaviour, whichever way you slice it.

All that achievement, all that brilliance, and yet if he doesn't make his mark on a World Cup, he'll never be admitted to The Club, the elite band of the greatest ever: Maradona, Pele, Garrincha, Varela, Beckenbauer, Muller, Zidane. It might not be fair, you might not like it, you might not agree with it, but it's the way a sizeable section of fans will see it. Good luck getting consensus on that!

One brilliant World Cup, though, and it's argument over, with admission papers to The Club signed in triplicate and seconded. He doesn't even have to win the thing - Puskas, Cruyff and Socrates never got their hands on the trophy, and they've got keys to this particular executive bathroom. A few stellar performances on his way to a semi-final would be enough to erase the one question mark still hanging over Messi. Can he make the 2014 World Cup his own? it's not as though the odds are stacked against him: an easy group and decent draw through to the semis; a fine supporting cast in the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez and Gonzalo Higuain; and the knowledge that a South American side always wins World Cups staged in South America, Argentina themselves having won the last one.

The initial signs are good, with a stunning goal against Bosnia & Herzegovina lighting up a fairly dull display by much-fancied Argentina. Another masterclass against Iran, and it'll be two down, seven to go! It's a tough business, no other poor bugger has to live up to these preposterous standards. But if you want to join The Club, this is the way it's got to be. And he's not getting in with trainers on, either!

As for Iran? They shouldn't put up much of a fight against one of the tournament favourites. They're 750-1 outsiders, have been squabbling amongst themselves, struggle for goals, are overly defensive, wear a kit made from material that does not react well to time spent in a washing machine, were part of a turgid 0-0 draw with Nigeria last Monday, and have only ever won one match in their four appearances at the finals to date, rather hilariously against the USA in 1998. Argentina are desperate to win their first World Cup since 1986. They're desperate to win their first major trophy since the 1993 Copa America. And their star player is desperate for the keys to The Club. It should be a shoo-in. Can Iran hold out? We'll soon see. It's on!

Kick off: 5pm in London, 1pm at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, 1pm in Buenos Aires, 8pm in Tehran.