Maradona's 'Hand of God' and the second coming - Argentina's notable World Cup exits and lucky escapes

Lionel Messi and Argentina are on the brink of elimination from the World Cup, so we look at their most notable exits and lucky escapes.

Lionel Messi against Nigeria in 2014   -  Getty Images

After struggling in its first two games of the World Cup, Argentina needs a win against Nigeria in the final group fixture to stand a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Not even star man Lionel Messi has been able to inspire this Argentina side to a victory against Iceland or Croatia - seeing a penalty saved against the former before a crushing 3-0 defeat to the latter.

Only a win against the Super Eagles will do for Jorge Sampaoli's men, who could do with group leader Croatia avoiding defeat to Iceland, and it would be a huge shock if Argentina were to miss out on the last 16.

Here we take look at some of Argentina's most notable exits and lucky escapes at previous World Cups.

WORLD CUP FLOPS

1994 - Romania 3-2 Argentina

Argentina finished third in its group thanks to its favourable head-to-head record against Bulgaria but progressed to the knockout stages as the highest-ranked third-place team, meeting Romania in the round of 16.

It could not get a foothold in that game, though. Romania took an early lead and instantly hit back after Gabriel Batistuta pulled Argentina level. Gheorghe Hagi made it 3-1 just short of the hour mark and Abel Balbo's 75th-minute effort was not enough to spark a turnaround.

2002 - Sweden 1-1 Argentina

Argentina was drawn in a tough group alongside England, Sweden and Nigeria and made a promising start with victory over the African nation.

However, it was downed by a David Beckham penalty against England and could only manage a 1-1 draw with Sweden in its crucial final group game, leaving it to finish third once again, but there was to be no reprieve on this occasion.

2010 - Argentina 0-4 Germany

Diego Maradona's 'second coming' as coach of the national team got off to an encouraging start at the 2010 event in South Africa, winning all three group matches against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

But the dream soon ended when, after seeing off Mexico in the last 16, it came up against Germany in the quarterfinals. Miroslav Klose scored twice as the team which would go on to win the World Cup final against Argentina four years later demonstrated its full potential.

LUCKY ESCAPES

1978 - Argentina 6-0 Peru

Host Argentina progressed to the second group stage as runner-up to Italy and looked on course for a third-place play-off against the same opponent as it entered the final match of the second phase level on points with Brazil.

Brazil beat Poland to move onto five points and a goal difference of +5, three goals better off than Argentina. But La Albiceleste stormed to a brilliant 6-0 victory over Peru to unseat its South American rival and qualify for a final it won 3-1 against Netherlands after extra time.

1986 - Argentina 3-2 West Germany

Maradona was Argentina's key player in the tournament and scored two of the most famous goals in football history on the way to the final, seeing off England in the last eight with the 'Hand of God' and 'Goal of the Century'.

Argentina led West Germany 2-0 in the final but was pegged back by goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller in the 74th and 80th minute respectively. However, the South Americans found a hero in Jorge Burruchaga, who slotted home a winner three minutes later as Argentina regained the trophy it surrendered in 1982.

2014 - Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (4-2 on pens)

Messi may be struggling to inspire his side in Russia but it was the Barcelona star who netted Argentina's first spot-kick of a semi-final shootout against Netherlands.

Sergio Romero had already saved a Ron Vlaar effort and the goalkeeper subsequently kept out Wesley Sneijder as Argentina's faultless form from the spot saw it roar into the final after its failure to find the net in 120 minutes of play.

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