Big match feature: Nigeria vs Argentina
The Super Eagles bounced back from a disappointing goalless draw with Iran to record their first three points of the 2014 Fifa World Cup with a 1-0 win over the Blue Dragons of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second Group F game.
That victory has put Nigeria on course for a potential spot in the round of 16 alongside favourites Argentina who have already gone through with six points from two games.
Coach Stephen Keshi and his wards know that they have to try and get a point from the game to aces when the chips are down in the group considering Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have been eliminated might rest on their oars.
The Iranians have proved to be difficult customers as they frustrated both Nigeria and Argentina and only a piece of individual brilliance by Lionel Messi in added time could separate Iran from the Albiceleste.
The Super Eagles and the Albiceleste have meet a total of six times at full international level, with the former winning one, drawing one and losing four. Nigeria have scored six goals against Argentina while conceding eight in the process.
This will be Nigeria’s fourth meeting with the South American giants at the Fifa World Cup after previous clashes at USA 1994, Japan/Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010.
Argentina have won all of those World Cup games against the Super Eagles by the odd goal. Keshi and his players will hope to break that hoodoo when the teams clash on June 25 at the Estádio Beira-Rio (José Pinheiro Borda) in Porto Alegre.
June 1, 2011 Nigeria 4 ( I. Uche -2, Nsofor (p), Emenike) Argentina 1 (Boselli)
Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama, Taiye Taiwo, Efe Ambrose, Chibuzor Okonkwo, Joseph Yobo, Joel Obi, John Obi Mikel, Ikechukwu Uche, Victor Nsofor, Victor Anichebe, Kalu Uche
Argentina: A. Gabbarini, P. Zabaleta, E. Garay, E. Insua, F. Fazio, F. Belluschi, M. Bollati, N. Gaitan, A. Costa, D. Perotti, M. Boselli
Nigeria come into this game with four points from two matches. A goalless draw with Iran and a pulsating lone goal victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina has put Nigeria in pole position for the runners-up slot in the group.
There is also the added incentive that Nigeria can also win the group if they manage to beat Argentina, but whatever the outcome, the Super Eagles have to make sure they get something out of the game so that their destiny would not lie elsewhere.
Argentina have not exactly been as firing on all cylinders as expected as they laboured against Bosnia-Herzegovina and twice needed Messi to cushion their victories. The Barcelona striker has scored two goal in two games so far and will be the one the Super Eagles need to keep an eye on.
Nigeria defender, Godfrey Oboabona, has started training against after picking up an injury in the goalless draw with Iran. The Caykur Rizespor defender is still a doubt for the game and if he does not make it in time Joseph Yobo will continue in his place.
Victor Moses had slight niggle before the Bosnia-Herzegovina game but should be fit in time to face Argentina. Michael Babatunde is also available after recovering from a knock he suffered against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Argentina coach, Alejandro Sabella has the full compliment of his side to choose from going into this game with midfielder Fernando Gago gradually getting back to full fitness.
Nigeria will need to avoid defeat to advance to the round of 16.
The Super Eagles can still qualify if Bosnia defeat Iran by any margin.
Argentina will need to avoid defeat to Nigeria to claim pole position in the group going into the round of 16.
A draw of whatever kind will be enough for Argentina and Nigeria to go through to the next round.
If Nigeria and Iran finish with identical records in the group, then a toss of coin or draws from a hat will be used to adjudge who will go through.
Group F facts:
Argentina lead the group by six points, Nigeria in second, have four points while Iran have a single point. Bosnia-Herzegovina have been eliminated with no point from two matches.
Messi is top scorer in the group with two goals
Nigeria are the only team in the group yet to concede a goal going into match day three of Group F.
Players to watch:
John Obi Mikel: The talented Chelsea midfielder has not been in the mix of things in this tournament so far with insipid performances against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The game with Argentina might just be what he needs to get back into the groove and help Nigeria qualify for the second for the first time since 1998 in France.
Vincent Enyeama: The Nigerian number one goalkeeper has been one of standout performers at the World Cup with very important saves.
His heroics against the Bosnians including a last minute save from Edin Dzeko’s effort will surely make the highlight reel and he could yet be the man to stop the Argentines.
<argentina:< p=””> Lionel Messi: The Barcelona forward needs no introduction. He has been the main catalyst for this Argentine side who have stumbled through out the tournament so far.
His last gasp winner against Iran was his second goal in as many games and will be in the thick of things as the Albiceleste tackle the Super Eagles.
Sergio Romero: Argentina are known for their potent striker force, but at the rear end, the AS Monaco goalkeeper has gone about his business quietly, keeping the South Americans in the hunt whenever he ws called upon.
He has had two decent games so far and might turn out to be the hero for Sabella’s side than his more illustrious compatriots.
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Chigozie Agbim
Defenders: Joseph Yobo, Juwon Oshaniwa, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kenneth Omeruo, Efe Ambrose, Kunle Odunlami
Midfielders: John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi, Ramon Azeez, Michael Uchebo, Reuben Gabriel, Ejike Uzoenyi
Strikers: Peter Odemwingie, Ahmed Musa, Shola Ameobi, Emmanuel Emenike, Babatunde Michael, Victor Moses, Uche Nwofor
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Mariano Andujar, Agustin Orion
Defenders: Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernandez, Pablo Zabaleta, Marcos Rojo, Jose-Maria Basanta, Hugo Campagnaro, Martin Demichelis
Midfielders: Fernando Gago, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Maxi Rodriguez, Ricardo Alvarez, Augusto Fernandez, Enzo Perez
Strikers: Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Rodrigo Palacio
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