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World Cup: Argentina vs. Nigeria Match Preview

Argentina go into the last group game with some room to breathe. They are already qualified to the next round, but will want to secure first place in the group.

Ronald Martinez

Likely Argentina XI (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di María; Messi, Agüero, Higuain

Argentina go into this game full of contradictions

They have won both games, so far, but done so meekly.

Their star, Lionel Messi, has bailed them out with supreme solo plays, but never quite dominated the match as he is capable of doing.

Their feared offense has contributed 0 goals apart from Messi's 2 strikes and a Bosnian own goal. And their defense, which was billed as a weakness, has only conceded one goal, though there have been many close calls.

They have qualified into the next round, but they have not won the group yet. They can't exactly take it easy - it's not like Nigeria are pushovers.

Still, there's plenty of hope around. They need only a draw to win the group, and Nigeria are not exactly favorites. MF Angel Di Maria said the team is improving each game. They'll need it to get further in the competition.

On paper at least, winning the group seems crucial. Qualify second, and the opponent is, in all likelihood, the red-hot French team that has averaged 4 goals per game. Win the group, and the opponent is, in all likelihood, Switzerland - whom France hammered 5-2 - or Ecuador - who lost to the Swiss.

Group F has become a particularly defensive group. It features the only team yet to concede - Nigeria - and the only team yet to score - Iran - in the World Cup.

Lionel Messi has outscored every team in the group, including Argentina, if you don't count his goals. In fact, he has scored 40% of the goals in this group.

Nigeria boasts some fine attacking options, in particular Emmanuel Emenike, who was a terror on Bosnia and Herzegovina's left flank. But their star is Vincent Enyeama, a goalkeeper who pulled off a series of stunning saves against Argentina in the last World Cup.

He is the last goalkeeper yet to concede a goal and he will probably produce another worthy performance to boost Nigeria into the knockout stages.

Argentina will probably retain their 4-3-3 formation, and again, the result may depend on whether Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are fully fit or in good form. Against Iran, the two forwards weren't really either.

Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria, and Messi have been dubbed the "Fantastic Four" by the Argentine press, but so far, it's been the "Fantastic One." Argentina can only go so long on Messi miracles.

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