Messi scores and lifts Argentina 2-1 over Bosnia
By KARL RITTER
RIO DE JANEIRO — It took Lionel Messi just over an hour in Argentina’s World Cup opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina to show why so many fans consider him the best in the world.
After a frustrating first half, the Argentina captain scored in trademark style in the 65th minute on Sunday night, completing a quick 1-2 connection with Gonzalo Higuain and running through defenders before striking a brilliant left-footed shot off the post.
The goal — only the second for Messi on football’s biggest stage — set off wild celebrations among the throngs of Argentine fans that had turned the famed Maracana stadium into a sea of blue and white. It also energized an unimpressive Argentina team that was ahead at that point only because of an early own goal by Bosnia.
Vedad Ibisevic scored a close-in goal in the 85th, but Argentina held on to win 2-1 in the Group F match.
“It’s the first game, I was anxious, nervous,” Messi said. “It was important to start with a win. We’ve got to improve certain things, but it was important to start with the three points.”
Bosnia got the worst possible start to its first World Cup when Sead Kolasinovic scored an own goal after just three minutes.
Messi sent a free kick from the left flank into the penalty area that Marcos Rojo barely touched before the ball bounced off Kolasinovic’s foot into Bosnia’s goal.
Bosnia bounced back after the early setback, with Izet Hajrovic slipping through Argentina’s five-man defense but failing to beat goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Five minutes before the break, Senad Lulic tested Romero’s reflexes with a well-timed header on a corner kick.
Meanwhile, there was no sign of Argentina’s vaunted attack, as Bosnia gave Messi no space to work his magic and Sergio Aguero hardly touched the ball.
Coach Alejandro Sabella put in Higuain at halftime, which allowed Messi to take a step back. That shift proved crucial, getting the Barcelona star more involved in the action.
“The changes gave Messi more support,” Sabella said. “He doesn’t need much, because he’s the best in the world. But there is always a context that can enhance him a little bit more.”
FRANCE 3, HONDURAS 0
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Karim Benzema scored twice and set up another that was confirmed by goal-line technology to help France beat Honduras in their Group E opener.
Benzema’s first goal came from the penalty spot just before halftime after Wilson Palacios was sent off with his second yellow card for charging into Paul Pogba. The Real Madrid striker calmly slotted the ball to the left of Noel Valladares.
SWITZERLAND 2, ECUADOR 1
BRASILIA, Brazil -- Haris Seferovic scored deep in stoppage time gave Switzerland a dramatic victory over Ecuador in their Group E opener.
Seferovic fired home the winner from close range in the last of three minutes of injury time. Ecuador barely had time to restart before the final whistle.
Enner Valencia gave Ecuador the lead in the 22nd minute, and Admir Mehmedi tied it in the 48th.
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