Nigeria and Argentina gave us the World Cup at its finest form with a truly breathtaking match that finished 2-1 in favor of the Albiceleste. Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the tournament, Argentina looked really good for a while but they conceded and left it very late before Marcos Rojo rescued them, and the 2014 finalists are now a very dangerous opponent in the knockout rounds.
After over a year of bad decisions and strange choices, Jorge Sampaoli seems to have finally found a competent Argentina team. With a 4-3-3 formation designed to dominate possession and have a strong defensive structure, the Albiceleste finally played good football and looked like an actual football team.
Lionel Messi played on the right wing, which turned out to be a great call because it gave Ever Banega a chance to play in midfield and the two absolutely dominated the game. Messi was taking players on throughout the half while Banega controlled the pace and played some insane passes.
The two combined on Argentina’s early goal of the half when a beautiful ball over the top by Ever found Lionel in a great position, and the captain used his right foot to beat the keeper and give his team the lead. Messi hit the post on a free kick that was created by another incredible pass by Banega, and Nigeria were very lucky to only be down one goal at halftime.
With Iceland unable to score against Croatia in the other game, Argentina were advancing but could they complete the job?
The second half could not have started worse for Argentina as Javier Mascherano conceded a very poor penalty and Victor Moses easily scored from the spot for make it 1-1. The Albiceleste had 40 minutes to find a winner and finish second place, and all the good work from the first half disappeared.
Argentina were nervous with their passing and poor at making decisions, and the clock began to tick with the 2014 finalists not looking likely to score a winner unless Messi happened. Messi didn’t happen, but Marcos Rojo did: the Manchester United full-back gave his country the lead with a fantastic volley after a great cross from Gabriel Mercado with just five minutes to go.
Nigeria through all of the bodies forward looking for a goal, but Messi and his buddies did a great job wasting time until the final whistle. The final whistle came, an exhausted captain fell to the ground, and the Albiceleste will now face France. Wow.
Nigeria: Uzoho; Moses, Balogun, Ekong, Omeruo (Iwobi), Idowu; Ndidi, Mikel, Etebo; Iheanacho (Ighalo), Musa (Nwankwo)
Goal: Moses (51’)
Argentina: Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico (Agüero); Pérez (Pavón), Mascherano, Banega; Messi, Higuaín, Di María (Meza)
Goals: Messi (14’), Rojo (86’)