Lavezzi stunner sinks Aussies
© AFP

Ezequiel Lavezzi's 76th minute goal, the result of a sumptuous passing move, was enough to get Argentina past a defensive Australia, and into the tournament quarter-finals.

Australia adopted a defensive posture from the outset, and Argentina took control of the game early. In the 8th minute, a fine pass from Juan Roman Riquelme found Sergio Aguero on the right; the Atletico Madrid man crossed for Lionel Messi, who put his shot over the bar.

One of many intricate passing moves from Sergio Batista's team in the 12th minute ended with a thumping shot from distance by Javier Mascherano, but Adam Federici in the Australian goal was equal to the task. The Australian keeper was called into action again two minutes later, when Messi surged through the area only to be denied by Federici's legs. 

For the remainder of the half, Argentina continued pressing but created few clear chances, and it was Australia who actually came closest to scoring, when Archie Thompson broke free on 39 minutes only to screw his shot well wide of the target.

The one-way traffic continued in the second period, but so did the frustration for the Albiceleste. Mascherano shot just wide of goal in the 49th minute, and for all Argentina's smooth, intelligent play, they could not penetrate the resolute Australian backline.

Australian substitute Nikita Rukavytsya nearly scored with his first touch of the game when he eluded Federico Fazio in the area on 71 minutes, but he could only find the side netting with his left foot. One minute later, Messi once again bored his way through the Australian defence, but sent his close-range effort over the bar.

The deadlock was finally broken fourteen minutes from the close. Riquelme and Messi combined nonchalantly in the middle and forced the ball out to Angel Di Maria on the left, who crossed neatly for Lavezzi to volley home the winner by the far post.

Having gained their just reward, Argentina were happy to maintain possession in the closing stages and protect their lead. Another well-deserved three points for the defending champions, and another uninspiring performance by Australia.