The soccer bar in Iran is so low that national team supporters have suggested its historical apex occurred last week when the team played to a scoreless draw in its World Cup opener.
It was clear Saturday that Iran's strategy against Argentina was to not allow any goals. Their game plan worked to perfection for 90 minutes, but there is only stopping Lionel Messi for so long. His incredible curveball into the corner of the net during the first of four minutes in extra time rescued Argentina to a win 1-0 win.
With the victory, Argentina advances to the Round of 16.
Iran's 0-0 tie against Nigeria last week made evident the blueprint for Iran's World Cup venture. The three most important factors in real estate are commonly identified as location, location and location. For Iran, the emphasis is on defense, defense and defense.
Iran adroitly protected the real estate around the Argentine goal Saturday, shutting off passing lanes with every player displaying devotion to defense.
Messi had misfired five times, though a pair were blocked just off his foot. He overshot the goal once, then cringed as two other tries spun tantalizingly wide left.
As Argentina grew increasingly antsy and brought players up the field more, Iran cleverly counter-attacked and nearly broke through for an incomprehensible lead. Its best scoring chance came in the 67th minute on a barely saved header.
Iran, whose lone World Cup triumph was over the U.S. in 1998, conspired to shut out the world's premier scorer and his potent mates for an hour and a half.
Then came heart-stoppage time for the relieved Argentines -- and heartbreak for Iran.