The final games of Group D for these two teams hold a great deal of importance. For Argentina, it is a chance to redeem themselves after a lackluster World Cup thus far. For Nigeria, it is a chance to shock the entire world and advance to the next round despite no-one originally giving them a chance.
Group D was never going to be an easy one to predict. I heavily doubt, however, that anyone would foretell such a pathetic showing from Argentina. They looked like the lesser side in both of their first two games against Iceland and Croatia. Many writers, me included, heavily rated the formidable attack of the side. This, however, has only resulted in a single goal for the Argentines in this campaign. Many defensive blunders only further increased the grief of the side, including *that* Caballero mistake against Croatia.
Their performances have been universally slammed by pundits and fans alike, with Argentina legend Osvaldo Ardiles christening them as the ‘Worst in their history’. This claim seems unlikely when you consider the fact that the side contains none other than Lionel Messi, possibly the greatest footballer of my generation. However, his performances at this tournament provide no evidence to support this idea. Messi has been non-existent throughout the World Cup. His fellow players seem reluctant to give him the ball, and without the creativity of his Barcelona team-mates, he has struggled to perform. Argentina can still qualify with a win against Nigeria and an Iceland loss. If they fail to qualify, however, they have only themselves to blame.
Similarly to Argentina, Nigeria also suffered a poor start to their World Cup campaign. They showed nothing of promise in their opening fixture against Croatia in a wholly disheartening performance. Their second game against Iceland, however, was a much different story. Ahmed Musa emerged as a key player for the Super Eagles, exhibiting superb ball control, pace and finishing. With this win, Nigeria moved to second place within Group D, behind only the already qualified Croatia. A victory against Argentina would guarantee them a spot in the next round. A draw, however, would suffice if Iceland fail to win their game.
Ultimately, I think the Argentine players have turned on their coach, as shown by their recent performances. Given Nigeria’s current form, a win for the Super Eagles would not surprise me in the slightest. For Argentina, sadly, I think their tournament ends here.