By Salifu Usman, Abuja
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have been drawn against perennial rival, Argentina, for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
In the final draw conducted yesterday in Moscow, Russia, the three –time African champions were pitched against the South American giant Argentina alongside two European nations, Croatia and Iceland, in Group D.
This is the fifth time in six FIFA World Cup appearances that Nigeria will be playing against Argentina in the group stage of the global soccer showpiece.
Nigeria played against Argentina in the group phase of the FIFA World Cup in 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014, and lost by the odd goal in each of their five group matches with the South American soccer giant, including a 3-2 loss to a team inspired by Lionel Messi in Brazil 2014.
However, in a last friendly game between the two sides played in Russian, Super Eagles came from two goals down to defeat the two –time world champions 4-2.
Reacting after the draws yesterday, Argentina coach, Jorge Sampaoli, described the Super Eagles as an unpredictable team.
“They are rivals who come with few obligations and a lot of enthusiasm. The World Cup gives them a unique opportunity,’’ said Sampaoli to Argentine TV sports channel, TyC Sports.
‘’Iceland will put up a fight like everyone. Croatia has an excellent midfield with Modric, Rakitic and Perisic; they are a very strong team.
‘’Nigeria are unpredictable; they are very quick in their play. We recently overcame them clearly in the first half, but they got a result later. We have to beat them.’’
The Super Eagles will battle the South Americans at the Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg on June 26, 2018, in both countries’ final group game.
Nigeria’s opening match will be against Croatia at the 35,000 –capacity Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday, June 16, 2018, before taking on Iceland on Friday, June 22, 2018 for the second group match.
Argentina will start Group D as the strong favourites. Argentina won the FIFA World Cup title in 1978 and 1986, and were losing finalists in Italy in 1990 (losing to Germany courtesy of a late penalty) and in Brazil in 2014 (losing in extra time by Germany).
The opening match of Russia 2018 will be between Russia and Saudi Arabia, starting at 6pm at the 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow – the venue that will also host the final match on July 15, 2018.