Argentina did not look good. They were sloppy and languid.
Iran were organized and showing belief.
And it almost resulted in a shock - with 90 minutes gone, Iran and Argentina stood on a goalless draw.
You could even say Argentina were fortunate to be in this position. Iran came close to scoring more than once, with GK Sergio Romero having to make important saves.
A side fancied to win the World Cup should not be having these kinds of problems against a minnow like Iran (with all due respect).
But credit where it's due: Iran played a great match. They worked hard for each other. They were intelligent in their positioning, drilled by globetrotting coach Carlos Queiroz.
Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were off-color. Angel Di Maria, though he showed more spark, was still a long way from his best. And Messi himself was quiet, too isolated and lacking a clear shot at goal.
And yet there it was. Messi found himself with a patch of grass to his own for once. It was injury time and he was outside the penalty box.
With a mighty whack of his magical left leg, he broke 77 million hearts back in Iran. It was another solo effort. His highly-vaunted forward partners had little to do with it.
Argentina are in the knockout stages now, with a 1-0 victory. For the second game in a row, the difference for Argentina was an act of divine inspiration. Against Bosnia, they won 2-1. The first goal from a Messi free kick that resulted in an own goal, the second from a magical Houdini-like escape of a dribble and a cannon of a shot.
Argentina in general made too many simple mistakes. They lacked real conviction. They perhaps lacked a good gameplan. The few times Argentina were able to counterattack, they looked menacing. But against opposition that sat deep, they looked out of ideas.
It's worrying, to be sure, when seeing much more complete opposition such as Germany and France play. But if Argentina's defense can hold up - and it will be crucial if Romero continues in a good vein of form - they will always have their #10 card in the backpocket. And this one's better than an ace.