ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — From his thigh to his foot to the back of the net, Lionel Messi finally scored a goal at this year’s World Cup.

The exquisite strike from the Argentina great sparked the first of several celebrations from an animated Diego Maradona, who screamed, shouted and made obscene gestures – and raised concerns for his health.

Argentina staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria on Tuesday, getting a late goal from Marcos Rojo. Maradona showed both middle fingers to the crowd after the 86th-minute winner.

A short time later, videos posted on social media showed Maradona needing help out of the stands and into an adjoining luxury box at the stadium. He appeared to have his eyes closed and a later photo showed a pair of paramedics attending to him.

There was no immediate information on his health, but about two hours later he was photographed smiling at an airport. Another photo posted on Twitter appeared to show him sitting on a plane.

Messi’s goal – his 65th for Argentina – was surely enough to impress even Maradona.

From a long pass over the defense by Ever Banega, Messi caressed the ball with his left thigh, took another touch with his left foot, and then delivered a smooth right-footed finish into the corner.

Messi fell to his knees and pointed his fingers upward in celebration. At the same time, Maradona crossed his arms with his hands on his shoulders and looked to the sky.

“I knew that God is with us,” Messi said, “and he wouldn’t let us get eliminated.”

Messi and Banega controlled the game in the first half. Rojo finished it off in the second by cushioning a volley with his right foot into the bottom corner and ensuring Messi’s quest for a first World Cup title continued.

Argentina will play France in the Round of 16 in Kazan on Saturday. If Argentina wins and Portugal beats Uruguay on Saturday, Messi would face Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarterfinals.

Without that late goal from Rojo, the 31-year-old Messi might have retired from international soccer for a second time – and for good this time.

Instead, it was Messi who was at the center of the celebrations. His teammates formed a circle around him while striker Gonzalo Higuain cried nearby.

“He’s above everybody else,” Argentina Coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “The most important thing for Leo is his human side. He cries. He suffers. He’s happy when Argentina wins. I know him.

“Many people say Leo does not enjoy playing for Argentina, but I do not agree. He enjoys and suffers like all the other players and that makes him even bigger.”

Before Rojo’s goal, Nigeria had been only a few minutes from qualifying for the Round of 16 for the fourth time.

Javier Mascherano gave away a penalty with a pull on Leon Balogun at a 49th-minute corner. Victor Moses converted – and marked the goal with a somersault – to put Nigeria back in control of the race for second place in the group.

Nigeria complained about not being awarded a second penalty.

There were about 15 minutes remaining, and Nigeria was enjoying a strong spell of pressure when the latest video review talking point of the tournament came.

Rojo was the only Argentina defender in the penalty box, and under pressure from striker Odion Ighalo lurking behind him, when he jumped high to head Ahmed Musa’s deflected cross away from danger.

He didn’t succeed.

Instead, Rojo completely mistimed the header and the ball ended up glancing off his left arm, and then falling invitingly to Ighalo near the penalty spot. Ighalo had lots of time to pick his spot, but blazed the ball wide of the left post.

Nigeria’s players were sure it was a penalty, however, and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir – who awarded Nigeria a penalty early in the second half – used video to review this one and stood by his initial decision not to award a spot kick, much to the frustration of Nigeria’s players.

“I don’t understand how that was not a penalty,” captain John Obi Mikel said. “It was a clear handball.”