A world cup without Lionel Messi’s magic would be an incomplete world cup and just when pundits have started marking him as a failure in national kit, he delivers at the biggest stage of football. From now on, Argentina has to keep on winning five games till they lift the world cup and they started with the first one against Nigeria. It was Nigeria that cleared the grey clouds above Argentina and gave their world cup dream a hope by beating Iceland. And, today Nigeria lost to that Argentina only. If Nigeria would have displayed the same efforts they did in their opener against Luka Modric’s Croatia, Argentina’s hope would have ended completely but by winning the game Nigeria turned the points table around and except for Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina all had a claim to the 2nd spot.
It was a very tensed match from the start and Argentina looked more committed in grabbing their ticket out from elimination in this game as they started building their game, the Nigerians started looking fragile in both defense and attack. With mispasses from each other, Nigeria lost a very big amount of possession to Argentina. In a game of this temper, ball possession held the key.
Lionel Messi receives a beautiful loft through ball from Ever Banega, and with two soft touches with his left foot he created space for himself and finishes it off with his wrong foot into the far corner of the net, past the Nigerian goalie.
Lionel Messi puts Argentina on the lead. Scoreboard, says Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria. Just when everyone started off criticising him, he scored for Argentina and in a beautiful way. The pressure of the game was building when the the half time arrived and the players walked into the tunnel with Argentina and Lionel Messi in a sigh of relief.
As the second half started, Nigeria made one change and brought in Odion Ighalo in the place of Kelechi Iheanacho.
Three minutes later, Javier Mascherano did what he always does in a pressure situation, becoming reckless in their own 18 yards box. He held and pulled down a Nigerian in their box and the referee caught that in his own eyes. A penalty was awarded to the Nigerians and Victor Moses took it calmly and scored the equalizer. All hope for Argentina getting through to the knockout phase were once again hung on a string. Mascherano’s attempt became the turning point of the game. The score stand tied between the two teams and if Nigeria could hold on to the draw, they are through to the next round eliminating Argentina in the process.
In the 61st minute Argentina saw their first change as Cristian Pavon entered the field at Enzo Perez’s expense. Jorge Sampaoli was shouting at the players and when things didn’t turn up as expected Angel Di Maria was called off for Maximiliano Meza in the 72nd minute.
8 minutes later, Sergio Aguero was left on the ground to hunt down their victory and Nicolas Tagliafico was taken out. Only eight minutes remain for Argentina and Gonzalo Higuain already wasted a golden opportunity.
It was all going down for Argentina when Marcos Rojo scores the winner in the 86th minute from a Mercado superb cross that Marcos Rojo tucks in style and with speed. Lionel Messi jumped up on Marcos Rojo’s back because he just saved Argentina. The game was given an added four minutes which went on for trying and failing attempts for Nigeria.
The game ends, Lionel Messi’s Argentina are through to the next round and they would face France in the Round of 16 stage match.