Nigeria vs Argentina – Tuesday, June 26, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Saint-Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia
It is a real playoff match between Nigeria and Argentina on matchday 3 in Group D. Rightfully, labelled the group of death both countries are facing early elimination.
For Argentina, the development has been in particularly shocking. Drawing Iceland 1-1 on matchday 1 the Albiceleste experienced a nightmare on matchday 2 against Croatia. With no sign of life and with an over-reliance of their superstar Lionel Messi, who was not enough to stem the tide against a brilliant Croatia side, Argentina hit rock bottom after going down 3-0.
That game, in particular, laid open all the problems ravaging Argentinian football. Following the match, reports suggested that head coach Jorge Sampaoli could face the axe – receiving in the region of €17 million in compensation. Reports have also suggested that the squad has taken over the duties of the manager and are going to select the side that will face Nigeria themselves.
Other reports, in the meantime, have suggested that Sampaoli remains in control and has the full backing of the Argentinian FA. Either way, the situation in the Argentina camp is confusing. All of this is the backdrop to a match that Argentina need to win and hope that Croatia do not lose to Iceland.
Much will also depend on what Nigeria side shows up of course. The Super Eagles were very much a lame duck in the first match against Croatia. Without ideas and inspiration, Croatia had an easy time to dispose of the West Africans winning the match 2-0.
The story was very different on matchday 2. Facing Iceland, who were brilliant on matchday 1 against Argentina, Nigeria showed their full talent and dominated an Iceland side that was finally punished for its technical and tactical short-comings.
“Most of the teams that lost the first match also lost the second match,” Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr explained. “We were able to turn around”, he further added.
Rohr is optimistic about Nigeria’s chances against Argentina, however. “I think it is a fifty-fifty game. We will attempt to attack and play our own game.”
With everything on the line, this will be one of the most intriguing matches on Tuesday. Can Argentina salvage their World Cup campaign? Can Nigeria advance and knock out the two times world champions. Given the trouble, in the Argentina camp, Nigeria’s chances were never better.
Nigeria vs Argentina – Players to look out for:
Ahmed Musa #7 – Nigeria (CSKA Moscow on loan from Leicester City)
Ahmed Musa will be the most experienced Nigerian on the field when it comes to playing in Russia. Musa returned to CSKA Moscow this winter after an 18-month to forget with former English champions Leicester City. Back in Russia Musa helped CSKA Moscow to finish second in the Russian Football Premier League by scoring six goals in ten RFPL games. CSKA, however, have since announced that they would not buy Musa this summer, which means the forward will be returning to England. Going by his recent form, however – the striker scored both goals in Nigeria’s win over Iceland on matchday 2 – Leicester should be happy that the forward is returning to Premier League. At the very least the Nigerian forward should command a decent transfer fee this summer.
Lionel Messi #10 – Argentina (Barcelona)
Everything will once again depend on Messi as Argentina are on the brink of elimination. The 30-year-old forward and captain of Argentina has scored 34 goals in 36 games for Barcelona this season. In many ways, the Argentine remains the pinnacle of the world game, but at the same time, he is missing that one trophy that could make him eternal back home in Argentina where he is still often compared to Diego Maradona. That trophy is unlikely to arrive at this tournament and an early exit could even mean the end of Lionel Messi’s Argentina career.
Nigeria vs Argentina – Match Stats
- Four of the eight matches between Nigeria and Argentina took place at the World Cup. Argentina won all four of those matches.
- Nigeria have faced Argentina in the last three tournaments they have taken part in (2002, 2010 and 2014).
- Argentina have been without a win at a World Cup in four-match their longest winless stretch in history (D2 L2)
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Nigeria vs Argentina – 2-1
Nigeria vs Argentina – Lineups
Uzoho – Bryan Idowu, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Shehu – Ndidi, Etebo – Iwobi, Obi, Moses – Musa
Head Coach: Gernot Rohr
Armani – Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico – Enzo Perez, Mascherano, Banega, Di Maria – Messi, Higuain
Head Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.