The Argentina boss admitted his side struggled to deal with Iran's counter-attacks but were able to rely on their "decisive" captain
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However, the South Americans scraped to victory against Carlos Queiroz's men when the Barcelona star took the ball on and, with all 11 Iran players in front of him, smashed it home from 20 yards in injury-time.
The victory secures Argentina's place in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, but Sabella admitted it was a difficult match for his side.
"It was a tough game," he told reporters. "Iran defended well with many people and waited for us but had their chances.
"In the first half we had four or five clear goalscoring chances.
"Then, in the second half, we had complications with their counter-attacks. They are a strong and well worked team.
"But Messi was very strong. He persevered and with him, anything is possible. He is a decisive player."