Messi off the mark as Argentina beat Bosnia

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IOL  Argentina Bosnia~36 AP Argentina's Lionel Messi scores his side's second goal during the Group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Bosnia at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Picture: Victor R. Caivano

Rio de Janiero - Lionel Messi scored a sparkling individual goal and created another as Argentina overcame a faltering performance to open their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Bosnia on Sunday.

The Barcelona superstar produced a trademark moment of magic on a night that also saw France beat Honduras 3-0, with the help of the first goal decided by goal-line technology. Switzerland came back to beat Ecuador 2-1.

Hordes of Argentina fans helped transform Rio's famous Maracana

Stadium into a corner of Buenos Aires as the South American giants eased past their Group F rivals.

Messi, hoping to secure his status as one of football's greats by shining at this World Cup, had a largely quiet game by his high standards.

But the diminutive striker provided the two decisive moments of the match for Argentina's goals.

Messi's teasing free-kick caused panic in the Bosnian defence after only two minutes and eight seconds, when the ball came off Sead Kolasinac's legs and went into his own net, the fastest own goal in World Cup history.

On 65 minutes Messi electrified the 78,800-capacity stadium with a moment of magic, jinking towards the area and unleashing a low shot which flew past Asmir Begovic in the Bosnian goal.

The only blemish for Argentina was a late goal from Bosnian substitute Vedad Ibisevic, who slid his shot below the advancing Sergio Romero.

“The second goal secured the three points and was special for me for the game I was having,” said Messi, who failed to score at the 2010 World Cup.

“Everyone was anxious to do well. The result was the most important.”

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella meanwhile sought to play down suggestions that Messi was under pressure to deliver at the World Cup.

“Messi is the best player in the world whatever happens at the World Cup and one of the best players of all time whatever he does at the World Cup,” Sabella said.

Elsewhere on Sunday, France made World Cup history by defeating Honduras 3-0 with the help of the first goal awarded in international football using computer generated 3-D technology.

Karim Benzema's strike early in the second half cannoned back off the inside of an upright across the goal at Porto Alegre's Beira-Rio Stadium.

Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares' tried to scoop it clear but the German-manufactured GoalControl goal-line technology system signalled the ball had crossed the line, prompting Brazilian referee Sandro Riccio to whistle for a score.

There was a brief delay as Ricci consulted his fourth official while Honduras manager Luis Fernando Suarez angrily protested. But Valladares's goal stood.

Goal-line technology is being used for the first time at a World Cup finals in an attempt to eradicate the type of unwanted controversies that saw England's Frank Lampard denied a valid goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

There are seven high-speed cameras, each capable of taking 500 pictures a second, trained on each goal in the World Cup games.

The system flashes a “GOAL” message to the referee's watch.

It is similar to the Hawkeye system used to decide whether a ball has stayed in play in tennis and cricket.

“I think it is a good solution and the goal then counts,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

The 48th-minute milestone was one of the talking points of a comfortable Group E victory for France, whose other goals came from Real Madrid star Benzema.

France now face European rivals Switzerland in Salvador on Friday, a game which could decide who tops the group.

The Swiss snatched a dramatic last-gasp 2-1 win over Ecuador in Brasilia earlier.

Haris Seferovic scored in the fourth and final minute of injury time to secure a remarkable win for the Swiss, the group's top seeds. - Sapa-AFP



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