Zabaleta: Iran defended with 11 men behind the ball

The full-back admits his side made things difficult for themselves in the Group F clash until Lionel Messi's injury-time winner sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win
By Ben Hayward at the Estadio Mineirao

Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta says his side struggled to beat Iran in their Group F clash in Belo Horizonte on Saturday because their rivals were defending with 11 men behind the ball.

Keep up with all the latest news from Brazil and get involved in the debate on Twitter with our new World Cup Social Hub
Lionel Messi's injury-time winner secured all three points for the Albiceleste and sealed a place in the last 16 for Alejandro Sabella's side, but Iran had frustrated the South Americans for the entire 90 minutes of regular time and also missed two fantastic opportunities of their own in the second half.

"It was a difficult game and we knew it would be because Iran defended with practically 11 players behind the ball," the Manchester City left-back said in the mixed zone after the match.

"It was difficult to find spaces and they had two or three chances on the counter as well.

"That can happen because when we have the ball we try to attack quickly and in numbers - and sometimes that means we leave too many spaces at the back."

Sabella switched back to 4-3-3 after starting with 5-3-2 against Bosnia last weekend, but in the end the outcome was similar as it needed Messi's brilliance to settle it for Argentina.

"We made things difficult for ourselves in the second half," he continued. "But we created chances and we were able to win it in the end.

"When you have a player of Leo's quality who can pop up and be decisive, you always have a chance.

"We enjoy having the best player in the world and we know that he'll be there for us in a lot of situations when we need him, like today."