Now or never for Nigeria against lacklustre Argentina

World Cup 2018 By: Lolade Adewuyi | 26/06/2018

Ahmed Musa

While the world anticipates an Argentina victory against Nigeria in order that Lionel Messi may continue to be at this year’s World Cup, the Super Eagles have an axe of their own to grind.

Meeting in Saint Petersburg for the fifth time at the World Cup on Tuesday, Nigeria have suffered four previous defeats but this generation of players have the self-belief that they can turn things around. After all, they defeated the Argentine team, albeit without Messi, in a friendly game played in Krasnodar last November.

And with the Argentina camp in a chaotic place following their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia last week, there is not a better time for the Eagles to win a game against their perennial World Cup foes.

Sampaoli denies Argentina rift, wary of two-faced Nigeria

All the four matches played between both sides at the World Cup have been very tight. A 2-1 victory for a Diego Maradona-inspired side at USA ’94 was followed by a 1-0 win at Japan/South Korea 2002 before another 1-0 win at South Africa 2010.

There was a higher appetite for goals when they met at Brazil 2014 where it ended 3-2 with both Messi and Nigeria talisman, Ahmed Musa, scoring two apiece before Marcos Rojo grabbed the winner from a corner kick.

The Argentines have scored all but one of their seven goals against Nigeria at the World Cup from set pieces but now face a Nigeria side that stopped Iceland from scoring from the dead ball situation last Friday in Volgograd.

There is a contrast in confidence between both teams. Nigeria defeated Iceland 2-0 through Ahmed Musa’s brace while Argentina suffered an unlikely group stage mauling at the hands of Croatia in a game that ended 3-0.

Mascherano: Messi is desperate and frustrated

La Albiceleste have one point going into their last group game and need a win to qualify. Nigeria could do with a draw while hoping that Croatia do not lose to Iceland in the other game.

Both coaches were evasive on Monday as they declined to talk about their tactics. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr praised the hard work of his star players Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel, both men who chose to play a more defensive role rather their an attacking one in their victory against Iceland.

He also said that Musa was ready to re-enact his form against Iceland in the encounter while they had tried to work on their weaknesses.

Jorge Sampaoli faced the scrutiny of the large Argentine travelling press corps and defended his struggling team. He said that Tuesday’s game could be the beginning of a positive campaign for his team and he wanted to ensure that every person will be in the right state of mind to excel.

Argentina are low in confidence but they will count on a resurgent Messi to bring back the glory for them. The Nigerians are not unaware that this could be the final World Cup game for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner if they stop his side.

Defender Bryan Idowu was confident that they are capable of making sure the great player who turned 31 on Sunday ends his career without a World Cup. He was backed by his coach Rohr, who declared that there will be “no mercy” for the highly admired Argentina captain.

This Nigeria side has a rare opportunity where it is in a better psychological state than Argentina for the first time in 24 years. What they do with that opportunity will be talked about for all of football history.

Just like the game against Nigeria at USA ’94 became the last for Diego Maradona who went on to test positive for a banned substance, they would fancy making this Messi’s last game as well.