Argentina v Nigeria Preview: It must be fifth time lucky for the Eagles

Super Eagles of Nigeria
Super Eagles of Nigeria (Photo Credit: Reuters)

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

25 Jun 1994 Argentina 2 – 1 Nigeria FIFA World Cup
10 Jan 1995 Nigeria 0 – 0 Argentina FIFA Confederations Cup
02 Jun 2002 Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria FIFA World Cup
12 Jun 2010 Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria FIFA World Cup
01 Jun 2011 Nigeria 4 – 1 Argentina International Friendly
06 Sep 2011 Argentina 3 – 1 Nigeria International Friendly
25 Jun 2014 Nigeria 2 – 3 Argentina FIFA World Cup
14 Nov 2017 Argentina 2 – 4 Nigeria International Friendly

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]

                    Argentina Nigeria
Argentina       2 – 0    Italy Nigeria            1 – 1    Congo DR
Spain              6 – 1    Argentina England         2 – 1    Nigeria
Argentina       4 – 0    Haiti Nigeria            0 – 1    Czech Rep.
Argentina       1 – 1    Iceland Croatia          2 – 0    Nigeria
Argentina       0 – 3    Croatia Iceland          0 – 2    Nigeria

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

Stats/Country Argentina Nigeria
No. of Tackles 27 13
Avg. Pass Accuracy 86% 84%
Distance Covered 202Km 201Km
Avg. Possession 65% 52%

 

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.


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