Nigeria’s Super Eagles were just seven minutes away from progressing to the last 16 at the expense of Argentina before conceding late to suffer a 2-1 defeat in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
The Nigerians simply needed a draw to reach the second round bar a three-goal win by Iceland unlike Argentina playing for an outright win and hoping that Iceland fail to beat Croatia.
It was the fifth meeting at the World Cup between both nations and the South Americans have now won all five.
Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead after 14 minutes before Victor Moses evened things after the restart. Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo netted a late winner for the South Americans.
Gernot Rohr named an unchanged Nigeria side that defeated Iceland 2-0 in their second game in Volgograd.
The Argentines presented their oldest starting line-up in World Cup that included 30-year-old plus players in Franco Armani, Gabriel Mercado, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Nicolas Otamendi and Messi.
Early moments, the pace of Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho troubled the Argentina defence and the latter failed to make the best of a loose ball from Mascherano and allowed the South Americans clear their lines.
One moment of lapse, Ever Banega’s long pass over the Super Eagles defence picked out Messi who made no error before drilling the ball with his weaker foot past goalkeeper Francis Uzoho after 14 minutes.
After Messi’s goal, Rohr’s men lost their way and allowed the South Americans dominate possession. The Super Eagles left pockets of space unattended to and Messi and his teammates simply took advantage though failed to add that insurance strike.
Uzoho’s bravery close to the half hour mark denied Higuain who was played through on goal by Messi.
Close to half-time, Messi’s freekick just grazed the fingers of Uzoho onto the upright.
Rohr’s team have shown that they are a second half side, and they lived up to that by hauling themselves back into contention four minutes into the restart.
Mascherano wrestled down Leon Balogun in the box, and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir did not hesitate to award a spot kick. Moses made no error from the spot.
The goal proved to be a fillip in Nigeria’s play but momentarily.
Odion Ighalo who had come on at the start of the second half for Iheanacho had a chance to put the game to bed despite Rojo nodding the ball to his own arm in a bid to clear Musa’s deflected cross. But the Changchun Yatai forward aimed his attempt wide.
In the closing stages. Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli sent on Sergio Aguero in a bid to force a win with Rohr’s men defending very deep.
After holding off the South Americans who were staring an early exit from the World Cup, Rojo popped up in the box to score a striker’s goal off a well-whipped in cross by Mercado.
The win ensures Argentina set up a last 16 meeting with France in Kazan on June 30. For Nigeria, they will now turn their focus on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification starting with a trip to Seychelles in September this year.
NIGERIA: Francis Uzoho; Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo (Alex Iwobi 90′); Victor Moses, Oghenekaro Etebo, Mikel John Obi (c), Wilfried Ndidi, Bryan Idowu; Ahmed Musa (Simeon Nwankwo 90′), Kelechi Iheanacho (Odion Ighalo 46′)
ARGENTINA: Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico (Sergio Aguero 80′); Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, Enzo Perez (Cristian Pavon 61′), Angel Di Maria (Maximiliano Meza 72′); Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi (c)
© The Predictor NG