Nigeria 2-3 Argentina - World Cup 2014 Match Report
A brace from Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 3-2 victory over Nigeria to see them finish top of Group F with a maximum nine points.
The Barcelona striker took less than three minutes to slam home the opener after Ángel di María saw his close range effort pushed onto the post by Vincent Enyeama.
Nigeria had not conceded a goal in their opening two matches, with Messi ending their 182 minutes record with his early strike.
The African champions were behind for less than 90 seconds, however, as Ahmed Musa struck back immediately with a curing effort from the left.
Argentina dominated the majority of first half possession but did not retake the lead again until an excellently struck Lionel Messi free kick in first half stoppage time.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Musa drew Nigeria level for a second time with a fine finish into the near post after Emmanuel Emenike played the CSKA forward in.
Poor defending from a corner only a few minutes later saw the ball bounce in off Marcos Rojo to restore the South Americans’ lead.
Argentina were able to back off towards the closing stages of the match but endured a few neervy moments at the back, with Nigeria right-back Efe Ambrose seeing a deflected effort beat goalkeeper Sergio Romero but only hit the side netting.
Alejandro Sabella’s side certainly improved on their previous two performances but still seem somewhat short of what will be required if they are to lift the World Cup in Brazil in three weeks’ time.
Defensively they certainly don’t look all that right now. Three goals conceded in their opening group games could have been more but for Romero making a splendid save at 0-0 versus Iran last week.
Question marks certainly have to be raised over Federico Fernández, whilst left-back Marcos Rojo looks a liability too. These frailties would surely be exposed against one of the top nations.
The 4-3-3 formation that they have adapted doesn’t offer a great deal of protection in front of the back four. Javier Mascherano has been a one-man team protecting his side so far whilst Fernando Gago certainly needs to step up his game. Real Madrid’s di María is certainly not considered defensive-minded.
Argentina are on course to face the runners-up of Group E which is decided later this evening. Both Ecuador or Switzerland are the likely opposition. Belgium are the potential quarter-finalists for the pre-tournament second favourites.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 3-1 victory over Iran in the other game in Group F ensures Nigeria progress as runners-up of this group. France look the most-likely opponents for the 2013 African Cup of Nations winners with the Europeans only needing to avoid defeat against Ecuador later this evening to progress.