Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates for scoring his second goal during a Group F match between Nigeria and Argentina of 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Estadio Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on June 25,2014.(Xinhua/Li Ga)
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Argentina and France reached the World Cup last 16 as Group F and Group E leaders respectively on Wednesday to avoid a clash with each other in the knockout stage.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored twice, including a spectacular free kick from 30 meters, to help his team beat the African champions Nigeria 3-2 and win Group F.
"Messi is from another planet," Nigeria's head coach Stephen Keshi said after the match.
France drew with 10-man Ecuador in a tight game but it was enough to lift the European side to top Group E.
Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia was shown a red card only five minutes into the second half for a challenge with French defender Lucas Digne.
France had crushed Honduras 3-0, Switzerland 5-2, topping the group with six points and six-goal advantage. Ecuador lost 2-1 to Switzerland but beat Honduras 2-1, sharing three points with Switzerland but standing second with goal advantage.
Ecuador's chances evaporated as Switzerland took the other berth by beating Honduras 3-0. Bayern Munich player Xherdan Shaqiri scored a hat-trick.
France will next face Nigeria and Argentina take on Switzerland in the round of 16.
Argentina collected nine points with a perfect record. Nigeria also advanced by finished second with four points.
Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1 in the other Group F match, and both teams were eliminated.
It was the fourth straight time for Argentina to beat Nigeria on the World Cup stage. Messi, who had two goals out of just four shooting attempts, was elected as Man of the Match.
In the third minute, Angel Di Maria's cut in the left side of the box booked him a one-and-one encounter with Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama. The shot hit the post but Messi got the reflection and thundered it into the net on the half volley.
One minute later, Nigeria tied the score. Ahmed Musa got the ball from Babatunde, cut into the Argentina penalty area and curled the ball into the net.
Messi then took Argentina ahead again with a freekick. The Barcelona star curled the ball into the right corner of the net before Nigerian keeper Enyeama had time to react.
The Argentina defense made a disastrous error in the 47th minute, when Musa receive the ball at the center of the Argentina penalty area. His sidefooted shot went past Sergio Romero and Nigeria tied the score again.
Three minutes later, Rojo knelt the ball into the goal. It was the first international goal for the 24-year-old defender and Argentina went back in leading position for the third time in the match.
BUENOS AIRES, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Star Argentinean footballer Lionel Messi Wednesday became his country's fifth top scorer at a World Cup, after scoring two of three goals to defeat Nigeria 3-2 at the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
Argentina's No. 1 World Cup scorer is Gabriel Batistuta, with an amazing 10 goals, followed by Guillermo Stabile and Diego Maradona (8), Mario Kempes (6) and now Messi (5). Full story
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 25 (Xinhua) -- A tight but goalless draw ensured France the winners of World Cup Group E, but sent 10-man Ecuador home here on Wednesday.
Ecuador became the first team to be eliminated despite earning at least four points and the only South American country to be eliminated during the group stage, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay all successfully navigating into the round of 16.Full story