Nigeria and Argentina will renew their rivalry when they meet in a crunch Group D clash at the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday, June 26. Kick-off at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg is set for 20h00 CAT.
Nigeria opened their campaign with a poor showing against Croatia, succumbing 0-2 in Kaliningrad thanks to an unfortunate own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a penalty from Luka Modric.
Defending at set pieces and starting the game slowly was once again the weakness for Gernot Rohr’s side, who where further tested on these aspects in their second match against Iceland in Volgograd on June 22. Luckily the Super Eagles dominated the second half of their match against Iceland and they scored a vital three points thanks to the 2-0 win. Leicester player Ahmed Musa scored two great goals against Iceland securing the win for Niaja.
The Super Eagles will view midfield dominance as their best chance to upset the South Americans in their final group clash, with the athleticism of Wilfred Ndidi in the engine room and John Obi Mikel’s ability to direct their attacking flow likely to be key facets to their game plan.
In addition defenders, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong will have to be on top of their games to hold at bay Argentina’s world-class forwards, such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.
Angel Di Maria will also be an important figure – assuming he is given a chance to play by manager Jorge Sampaoli – with his ability to drift in off the flank and provide cutting-edge through balls or crosses giving ‘La Albiceleste’ an unpredictability to their attack which is difficult to counteract.
Argentina comes into the game in deep trouble, having picked up just one point from their opening two matches. Their disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland could have been written off as a team finding their feet early in the tournament, but the 3-0 loss to Croatia on Thursday would have been considered a national embarrassment in the football-crazy country.
Nigeria VS Argentina
In head-to-head terms, Nigeria and Argentina have met in eight matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. The ‘Albiceleste’ have claimed five wins compared to two for the ‘Super Eagles’, while just one game has been drawn.
This will be the fifth time the teams have met in the World Cup, dating back to Nigeria’s debut in 1994. The bad news for the African team is that Argentina has emerged victorious all four times the sides have crossed swords in the ‘Mundial’, including a 3-2 triumph at the 2014 finals in Brazil, where Lionel Messi netted two goals.
However, Nigeria can take some hope from the most recent meeting of the teams: a friendly in Krasnodar, Russia, in November last year which saw the ‘Super Eagles’ come from 0-2 down to win 4-2, thanks to goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi (two) and Brian Idowu.
The other Group D match between European sides Croatia and Iceland will be played simultaneously at the Rostov Arena.
Nigeria v Argentina – head-to-head
Matches played 8
Nigeria wins 2
Argentina wins 5
Nigeria goals 12
Argentina goals 13