Make-or-mar: Nigeria confronts Argentina in World Cup decider

Mazino Dickson

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All roads lead to St. Petersburg as the Super Eagles of Nigeria will lock horns with Argentina to decide who takes the second slot for group D at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Nigeria currently occupy the second position with three points, after losing their first game to Croatia 2-0, but bounced back in their second game to secure a convincing 2-0 triumph over Iceland on Friday.

But the Albiceleste of Argentina are currently struggling to make their tag of favourites count, as they have only one point to show for their efforts in Russia.

The two-time World Cup winners have been very disappointing – drawing with debutants Iceland 1-1; and losing scandalously 3-0 to Croatia.

There is nowhere to run; nowhere to hide.

A simple win or draw will see Nigeria safely through to the knock-out stage for the second World Cup running.

How Nigeria started

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr started the tournament using the 4-5-1 formation against Croatia.

The seeming isolation of Eagles’ lone striker Odion Ighalo upfront due to poor service from the midfield ensured Nigeria posed no attacking threat to the Croats.

Playing captain John Mikel Obi behind Ighalo meant the Super Eagles surrendered control of the middle to Rackitic and Modric.

Rohr saw the folly in this approach and switched to a 3-5-2 formation against Iceland, and the result was a convincing 2-0 win for Nigeria.

The Super Eagles’ win restored the confidence and hope of millions as wing-man Ahmed Musa seized the game by the scruff of the neck by scoring a brace against the shell-shocked Icelanders, who could barely cope with the pace, physique and technique of the young Nigerians.

Disarray

The Argentine squad is estimated to be worth over $500 million; however on the pitch they have looked anything but that.

Indeed they have been very poor, slow, shoddy and sloppy.

Team captain and talisman Lionel Messi has been a shadow of himself throughout the mundial.

He even failed to score a penalty against Iceland and was a passenger throughout the encounter with Croatia.

Goal keeper Willy Caballero has surely played his last game for the South Americans, as his fumble against Iceland and most especially against Croatia has proved costly.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli has faced something of a mutiny from the players, with many questioning his tactics, substitutions and general conduct.

Argentina’s football idol Diego Maradona earlier warned Sampaoli “not to return home” should the team crash out of Russia 2018 unceremoniously.

There are reports that goal-poacher Sergio Aguero might be dropped for his loud disapproval of Sampaoli’s substitutions in the 0-3 hiding by Croatia.

Nigeria last met Argentina in November last year in a friendly, with Eagles cancelling out a 0-2 deficit to record a confident 4-2 win.

Can lightening strike twice?

The answer will be known after 90 minutes in St. Petersburg.