The Argentina national football team has always given their Nigerian opponents the blues at FIFA World Cups. On Tuesday, however, the result must be different for Nigerians to progress.
La Albiceleste of Argentina have met the Super Eagles of Nigeria four times, all in World Cup group stages and have won all four times. Though the margin of victory has always been very close – 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002, 1-0 in 2010 and 3-2 in 2014.
Javier Mascherano says it is destiny giving Argentina another chance, the Eagles should make it an occasion of making Argentina history in Russia.
Head to head
Three duels to watch
Lionel Messi v Mikel Obi
Having made their acquaintance in 2005 in the Netherlands, Mikel Obi has the brain and the defensive mindset to be on Messi’s case for all 90 minutes when their countries clash on Tuesday.
It is redemption time for Argentina’s captain and the Eagles must be prepared, as he will stretch every sinew in his wiry frame to get a positive result for La Albiceleste. Mikel showed his shackling ability against Yaya Toure in a Nations Cup match in 2013, he must do the same on Tuesday.
Current Form [Last 5 matches]
Nicolas Otamendi v Kelechi Iheanacho
The Argentines are largely frustrated at the moment and any incident will exacerbate that. Iheanacho knows this defender well from their Manchester City days and should understand what is needed to get Otamendi to flare up – for he has a short temper. The faster he loses his temper, the faster his concentration will be short, and the better for Nigeria’s chances of scoring.
Javier Mascherano v Oghenekaro Etebo
The best Eagle [arguably] after the first two matches has been Etebo, with his direct running and ball control. Against 34-year-old Mascherano, Etebo has the perfect opponent. He must drive at the Argentine midfielder and make him commit fouls from the beginning of the match. The faster he is on a yellow card, the easier the match will become for the Eagles.
Notable stats after first two matches
Referee in charge: 41-year-old Cuneyt Çakır is an insurance agent from Turkey, who has a penchant for the red card.
Venue: The Saint Petersburg Stadium is a 67,000-capacity arena also known as the Krestovsky Stadium. It has a retractable roof and is currently valued at $1.1 billion.
World Cup fact: The margin of victory for Argentina at four World Cup confrontations has always been 1.
Prediction: Argentina 1-3 Nigeria.