Nigeria’s Super Eagles will have to put in their best performance when they trade-tackle against Argentina in Saint Petersburg this evening to guarantee a second Round berth at the ongoing FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
La Albiceleste of Argentina have met the Super Eagles four times, all in World Cup group stages and have won all four times. Though, the margin of victory has always been one goal difference as – 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002, 1-0 in 2010 and 3-2 in 2014. But the result must switch to Eagles’ favour this evening for Nigerians to progress.
The current Eagles’ squad are determined on getting that persistent monkey off their back, as a win would guarantee their spot in the last 16 for a fourth time. It will be interesting to see how these John Mikel Obi-led young Eagles handle their nerves in a game that Ahmed Musa has described as “do-or-die”. The victory against Iceland has boosted confidence throughout the team, which now strongly believes it can advance.
The Eagles are also buoyed after seeing Croatia’s dominant display against the disjointed two-time World Cup winners. The fallout from Argentina’s defeat potentially promises plenty of changes to their line-up, while Ahmed Musa will be pushing for a starting berth after his two-goal showing against the debutants, Iceland.
Argentina are in desperate situation following a score-draw in their first game against Iceland and comprehensive defeat by Croatia, and will throw everything at their disposal at the Super Eagles. But the African flag-bearers are not a team to be easily browbeaten, and have adopted an ‘Argentina Must Fall’ motto since flaying Iceland in Volgograd.
The 0-3 defeat by Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday was the heaviest World Cup group stage defeat suffered by Argentina since they were annihilated 6-1 by then Czechoslovakia in Helsinborg (Sweden) 60 years ago.
Poor form and intense media hype about collapse of order in their camp notwithstanding, the two –time world champions are known to rise to the big occasion and this evening’s encounter is poised as the biggest occasion for their array of superstars in recent years.
It is redemption time for Argentina’s captain, Lionel Messi, who could be making his last FIFA World Cup appearance and the Eagles must be prepared, as he will stretch every sinew in his wiry frame to get a positive result for La Albiceleste.
For Nigeria, Captain Mikel Obi is also perhaps playing in his last World Cup. Like Messi, he would have been playing in his fourth World Cup, but he missed Germany 2006 by the whiskers (Nigeria thwarted by head-to-head voodoo) and South Africa 2010 as a result of injury.
In 2005, Messi won gold and Mikel silver at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Netherlands, and while Messi was named Player of the Tournament, Mikel was named second best. Three years later, when Messi led Argentina to defeat Nigeria by the odd goal in the Men’s Olympics Final in Beijing, Mikel was absent. Both men were involved when Argentina edged Nigeria 3-2 in Porto Alegre at the last World Cup.
These are some of the reasons why both team leaders will give their very all this evening, with high –level determination, tactical awareness, technical hue and energy sure to be in abundant display.
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