He’s had a relatively poor World Cup thus far but Lionel Messi scored arguably the best goal of the competition with a sublime finish.
The spotlight was on Messi as his Argentina side battled for a place in the Round of 16, knowing only a win would see them through.
On this occasion, Messi was not a one-man band. For once, the burden was shared.
Marcos Rojo – fortunate to not concede a first-half penalty for a high boot – appeared from nowhere to offer salvation when everything appeared lost for Argentina.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s charges came into this anticipated contest on the back of widespread reports of mutiny. They had been sparked by Thursday’s 3-0 humbling served up by Croatia.
On that night, Messi, uncharacteristically, was missing in action. Lost in the dumbfounding switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation that was not fit for purpose.
This followed the opening 1-1 draw against Iceland in which the Barcelona icon had been everywhere, and delivered only a pained second-half penalty miss.
On Tuesday night, they went ahead on 14 minutes as the great man provided the requisite control from a perfect Banega pass of pure beauty. The supreme Sevilla centre midfielder should not had been forced to wait until then for his first World Cup start.
But then, retreat followed and Nigeria knew that only a draw was needed.
Mascherano’s gift was duly taken. Argentina stuttered as ignominy awaited.
The likes of Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain – again guilty of an alarming miss – have all previously stumbled in Messi’s shadow. The great man carried them through qualifying, as he’d done towards four previous final defeats at World Cups and Copa Americas.
Then Rojo arrived late to fire Argentina into the next round. The dream, somehow, remains alive.
Harvey Neville, the son of Phil Neville, has signed a contract with Manchester United.
The 16-year-old, who will now link up with the United Academy, has shared a photograph of himself signing the agreement via Instagram.
He wrote: “I am very proud and excited to have signed for the club I have supported my whole life @manchesterunited.”
Neville previously played at United as a junior before moving to Manchester City and then to Valencia when his father took up a coaching position with the Spanish club.
Phil Neville, 41, and his brother Gary were members of United’s famed ‘Class of 92’ which enjoyed considerable success under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.
He also played for Everton, earned 59 caps for England and is is currently manager of England Women.
Phil Neville wrote: “Proud of you @harvey.neville. Go follow your dreams!”
Provided by Press Association Sport
VAR might be helping the tournament in Russia break all sorts of records but it was Egypt’s Essam El Hadary who is the latest to re-write the history books.
The goalkeeper became the oldest player to appear at the World Cup aged 45 years and 161 days as Egypt slumped to defeat to Saudi Arabia. El Hadary’s celebrations were short-lived as The Green Falcons swooped in with an injury-time penalty to take all three points.
A subdued Mohamed Salah got on the scoresheet for Egypt but could not avoid a third-successive World Cup 2018 loss as Salem Al Dawsari earned a deserved 2-1 win for Saudi Arabia in the final throes at Volgograd Arena.
Salah, 26, belied nagging doubts about a shoulder injury and off-field reports of imminent retirement to lob the Pharaohs into the lead on 22 minutes.
The ascendant Green Falcons had two first-half penalties that needed review by VAR. Fahad Al Muwallad’s first was saved by 45-year-old record-breaking goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, before Salman Al Faraj did the business deep into first-half injury time.
A draw then seemed apparent before a delightful move was finished off by Villarreal loanee Al Dawsari’s lashed effort into the bottom corner.
El-Hadary is six years older than Mexico’s Rafael Marquez, who is making his fifth appearance in the World Cup for Mexico, the third player in the World Cup to ever do so, aged 39. The next-oldest keeper in the competition is Argentina’s Willy Caballero, 36, who is filling in for the injured Sergio Romero.
El-Hadary, won his 159th cap for his country with that appearance, made his full international debut aged 23 back in 1996. Since then the goalkeeper has gone on to win four African Cup of Nations titles with Egypt and has been named the best goalkeeper at the tournament on three occasions. He replaces Faryd Mondragon at the top of the all-time World Cup list – who featured at the 2014 tournament in Brazil for Colombia at 43 years and three days old in a 4-1 victory over Japan and forced some famous names further down the list.
Former Cameroon international Roger Milla remains the oldest outfield player ever to set foot on the World Cup stage, while El-Hadary’s appearance will see Northern Ireland and England legends Pat Jennings and Peter Shilton slip into fourth and fifth on the list respectively.