Nigeria took on Argentina in a game where both teams were expected to qualify. It would be a nervy affair and Lionel Messi & Co. were hoping for another win. Nigeria were expected to put up a tough fight, with one of the most over performing backline this World Cup.
The game ended Nigeria 2 -3 Argentina and the way events played out were shocking but amazing.
At this stage, Argentina will have to settle for a Round of 16 match against Switzerland in São Paulo on Tuesday. Nigeria, which finished second in the group despite the defeat, will face France, the winner of Group E, in Brasília on Monday.
In only the third minute of this final group game, Lionel Messi scored the opening goal for Argentina against Nigeria at the World Cup on Wednesday. Leo Messi’s goal was cancelled out immediately by Ahmed Musa, who scored within a minute, and now Nigeria were back in it. Messi scored again in added time at the end of the first half with a perfectly judged free kick from 25 yards that curled over the Nigerian wall and nestled into the upper right corner of the net with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama looking hapless.
At half-time, it seemed to be heading Argentina’s way. The second half began with Nigeria equalizing. The score stood at Musa 2 – 2 Messi. Game on.
Anyone who missed the only World Cup staged in Argentina in 1978 now has a fine idea of what a World Cup there might be like as the amount of noise made inside the stadium was deafening.
But the loudest roars of approval were reserved for the third Argentine goal. It was scored by defender Marcos Rojo in the 50th minute, just three minutes after Ahmed Musa had scored his second goal of the match for Nigeria.
Argentina regained the lead with a corner kick that was headed on by Ezequiel Garay and came to Rojo, who was already in mid leap and knocked the ball into the goal with a knee. With Iran kneeding Argentina to win the game in order to qualify, this goal was welcome.
It was not nearly as artful as a Messi free kick, but it turned out to be the winner, and Messi — who is tied with Brazil’s Neymar for the tournament lead, with four goals — soon took a seat on the bench after being replaced in the 63rd minute with an eye on preserving him for the second round.
The team still has its concerns, including its intermittently shaky defense and forward Sergio Agüero, who limped off with an apparent left thigh injury in the 38th minute.
But this was still an upbeat ending to Round 1, and it was joy and delight for Argentina and Nigeria, who became the first African nation through to the R/16.
FIFA/Our Man Of The Match: Lionel Messi
The little magician scored 2 goals and led Argentina to victory. We cannot ask more than that at a World Cup. First a rebound volley and second a sumptuous free-kick. He looked dangerous every time he got the ball and is now top scorer of the tournament with 4 goals.
Our Flop Of The Match: Peter Odemwingie
The man who broke Bosnian hearts days ago, could not do anything versus Argentina. He was invisible for major periods of the game and was overshadowed by Ahmed Musa. Nigeria will need this man if they want to progress and he better step up his game by a few notches.