Nigeria came into Day 14 of this very entertaining World Cup with four points and very anxious hearts. They knew that if they failed to win or tie against Argentina, an Iranian win over Bosnia Herzegovina (the other Group 5 match) would mean ejection from the competition for themselves. With this in mind, the Nigerian players looked to constrain Argentinian legend Lionel Messi and hopefully come out with a result that would help them proceed to the next round of this tournament.
Despite Nigeria’s best attempts, Argentina would strike an early blow to them when Real Madrid player Di Maria would run down the sides of the Nigerian defense, pressing towards the goal. Di Maria would eventually get a shot past Nigerian keeper Enyeama. Unfortunately for Di Maria, the shot would quickly rebound off the post with a clank. Unluckily for Enyeama, the ball ricocheted to the feet of Lionel Messi. Messi smoked the ball into the net effortlessly, putting the Argentinians up by a goal in the 3rd minute.
However, the Nigerians were quick to respond. One minute later, they would catch a lazy Argentinian defense on the counterattack. Nigerian A. Musa would receive the ball at the edge of the box. Finding himself at an unfavorable angle to shoot from, he’d work his way around defender Zabaleta and gracefully release a wonderful shot that arced around goalkeeper Romero into the back of the net.
Despite this demoralizing goal, the Argentinians would respond in the 46th minute from a free kick set a few meters away from the box. Lionel Messi would once again put his team into the lead when he unleashed a beautiful curving shot that fit snugly into the right corner of the Nigerian net. After the play, Goalkeeper Enyeama would unleash his anger on the ball, kicking it off the field.
Nigeria would score once again just after halftime. Soaring with confidence, the Argentinian defense seemed to dwell on its victorious goal and slack off, forgetting that they were still in the middle of a game. This second Nigerian goal would be very similar to the first because both occurred just 3 minutes after an Argentinean goal (if one ignores the time that passed during halftime). Musa would find himself one on one with the goalie Romero. Sending Romero diving in the wrong direction, Musa would successfully smash the ball into the lower left corner of the net.
After nearly 50 minutes of feverishly defending their goal, the Nigerians looked like they would hold Argentina to a draw. However, the Argentinians had something very different planned to end this group F fixture. Unlike their last game, the Argentinians would score the winning goal in regulation time, not stoppage time. In the 50th minute, Argentina would win a corner kick. Picking his spot, Lionel Messi would launch the ball into the center of the box where Argentinean defender Rojos lay. Nestled between two Nigerian defenders, Rojos would jump for the ball and successfully head it into the net. Helpless keeper Enyeama couldn’t do anything but watch as the ball bounced into his goal, leading Argentina to a 3-2 win.
While both teams will proceed to the next stage of the tournament (Nigeria was saved by an Iran defeat at the hands of Bosnia-Herzegovina), both teams learned valuable lessons from this game that will hopefully stay with them throughout this tournament.
Score: 3 (Argentina) – 2 (Nigeria)
Messi (ARG) – 3rd, 45+1th (stoppage time)
Musa (NIG) – 4th, 48th
Rojo (ARG) – 50th
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi
He may be short in stature, but he is a giant on the football field. He scored two goals and has played an essential role in Argentina’s success.