In a tense affair, Argentina defeated Nigeria in their final games of Group D. This ensured Argentina’s position in the next round of the World Cup. Nigeria, despite looking positive in this game, now find themselves eliminated from the tournament.
Nigeria- Moses 51′(p)
Uzoho, Idowu, Ndidi, Ekong, Balogun, Musa (Nwankwo 90+1′), Etebo, Mikel, Moses, Iheanacho (Ighalo 45′), Omeruo (Iwobi 89′)
You could tell how high the stakes are in this game purely by the atmosphere. The Argentine fans were in fine voice right from the national anthem to the first whistle. Perhaps they were all celebrating the dropping of Willy Caballero after his horrific error in the previous game. Unfortunately, Nigeria did not wear that jazzy primary kit. Their dark green affair has a 100% losing record in this World Cup- perhaps a sign that the Football Gods are looking down upon Argentina tonight.
Indeed, Argentina looked positive early on in the half, with Lionel Messi showing some impressive dribbling in the centre circle before being fouled. That’s the sort of play we have been wanting to see from Messi throughout this World Cup. Perhaps there is hope for Argentina?
Sure enough, the Messi resurgence continued when he deftly controlled the ball in the box after a high cross, before rifling the ball into the net. With this, Argentina may have been given the boost they needed. The chants of ‘Messi’ ring out throughout the Krestovsky stadium. As it stands, with the Iceland game remaining goalless, Argentina would gain qualification. However, Argentina have thrown away a lead already in this tournament. Argentina need to retain this momentum to ensure their chance of progression.
As the second half progressed, Argentina clearly looked like the better team. The South Americans continued to constantly apply pressure on the Nigerian defense, with a Messi free-kick rattling the post. Compared to the sorry state of the Argentine team in their first two games, this side seems like a completely different set of players.
That’s all she wrote for the first half. Argentina with a very strong start here. A positive second half will only enhance their qualification hopes. This coming half will certainly be an interesting one. Half time, Argentina 1-0 Nigeria.
The second half, however, began in nightmarish fashion for the South Americans. A penalty was given to Nigeria after Javier Mascherano was caught holding a Nigerian player in the box during a corner. After a small fracas between Nigerian and Argentine players, Victor Moses calmly slotted the ball into the net. The Chelsea player deserves praise not only for his expertly taken penalty and composure, but also for his extravagant celebration. A possible lifeline here- not only for Nigeria, but also for Iceland. Game on.
After this knock, Argentina seemed to have lost their swagger. Nigeria were constantly allowed to encroach through the Argentine wings, with Lionel Messi again disappearing after his early goal. The defensive blunders of this side are resonant of the despondent Argentina side which was showcased in their first two games. The South Americans could be in trouble here if Nigeria solidify their attacking prowess in this game.
This nervy play from Argentina only seemed to worsen as the second half progressed, with badly timed passes leaving the defense on the back foot several times. Argentina were allowing Nigeria far too many clear chances. From the beginning of the tournament, it was clear that the Argentine defense would be the weak spot of the team. This tournament alone proves that you can have all the talent in the world over the rest of the pitch, but with one bad position group, the team simply cannot function.
Alarm bells should be ringing for Argentina as they enter the last ten minutes of the game. As it stands, Argentina will not be progressing to the next round- and I can hardly claim this to be an injustice. It has been a highly disappointing campaign from a side which promised so much more.
It’s never over, however, until the fat lady sings. After a disappointing half from the Argentines, a cross falls straight to Marcos Rojo(God knows what he’s doing this far up the pitch)who finishes the ball cleanly into the bottom corner of the net. The Football Gods well and truly are smiling down upon the South Americans today.
And that’s the game. Argentina progress to the next round of the World Cup. Nigeria and Iceland both fail to qualify. Final score, Argentina 2-1 Nigeria.
The Lazy Fan View
After this game, Nigeria have now definitely been eliminated from the World Cup. However, they by no means have disappointed anyone. Despite their first game, in which they showed a definite lack of promise, the Super Eagles have certainly lived up to their nickname. They have proved to be one of the more entertaining sides to watch this summer. Not to mention the travesty that Nigeria only wore their brilliant home kits once this tournament- which coincidentally ended up being their strongest performance. Ultimately though, however, Nigeria can return to Africa in high spirits.
Argentina, on the other hand, have only played one half of good football in this tournament, yet have miraculously progressed. In my opinion, the team certainly did not deserve to qualify. Throughout both of their first two games, Argentina were lethargic and uninspiring. For a short time, in the first half of this game, they actually looked like a decent side. This was undermined, however, by a swift return to form in a largely horrific second half. Yet somehow, they will take a place in the next round of the tournament. Apart from Lionel Messi, I can honestly say that I do not feel happiness for any of these players. For Messi to exit the competition at this stage would have be a shame. With this lifeline, he now has a chance to prove his worth after a wholly uninspiring three games. Good luck to him.