Argentina came back from two goals down to secure top in Group E thanks to a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, who themselves progress in third.
Argentina knew a point was all they needed to clinch a clash with Ukraine, and avoid a sticky last-16 encounter with Spain. Both teams threatened early, but the game progressed in a scrappy and disjointed fashion.
Neither side were able to make clear headway in the final third, with both defences well organised and closing down opportunities quickly. When efforts on goal did come they were invariably just wide of the target, though Costa Rica’s Alvaro Santamaria was the busier of the two goalkeepers.
This was until right on half-time when, at the fourth attempt, Juan Cordero tucked Costa Rica ahead – a scoreline at the break that saw Argentina cede top spot to Kazakhstan. Cordero’s night got a lot worse once they returned, though, seeing red for hauling down Cristian Borruto.
While a man to the good it took a goal-saving block from Edwin Cubillo and more smart work from Santamaria to deny Argentina getting back on terms, with the second-half pendulum firmly swinging in La Albiceleste’s favour.
But momentum can be defied and Cubillo did just that – doubling Costa Rica’s lead on the counter, only for Santiago Basile to cancel it out with a drive from distance. As Argentina pushed for an equaliser, it was then left to captain Fernando Wilhelm to slam home elegantly from nine metres, before Nicolas Sarmineto saved an Erick Brenes second penalty to ensure they clung on to top spot.
Argentina’s clash with Ukraine will take place on Thursday in Bucaramanga, with Costa Rica left waiting until the completion of Group F to find out the identity of their opponent.