FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 – Nigeria vs Argentina PREVIEW
This is the 3rd straight world cup and 5th in the last 7 that these nations are meeting up against each other. Argentina have dealt blows to Nigeria the previous 4 times beating them in 94 02 10 and 14, but Nigeria will look to get their revenge and end Argentina’s and Messi’s world cup hopes. A match that pretty much decides who goes through. Argentina have to win otherwise they’re out, as for Nigeria pretty much anything other than a loss sends them through unless it’s a draw and Iceland win by 3 goals. There are many scenarios so both sides will be coming into this game looking for a win and hope Iceland doesn’t pull off anything incredible in the other game.
Nigeria have literally risen from the dead and have a great opportunity to advance forward. They started the tournament with a very poor performance, non threatening, full of defensive mistakes and overall just looked god awful in a 2-0 loss to Croatia. However Nigeria bounced back. A change of formation and a inclusion of Omeruo, Musa and Iheanacho in the starting lineup has turned their world cup around in a 2-0 win against Iceland. These tactical changes were truly incredible given the way Musa and Omeruo especially impacted the game. Although in the first half, Nigeria still played pretty badly, they came out like a completely difference side in the second half. They dominated that half, it was their best 45 minutes of play so far in the tournament and it has led to them now being second in the group. A brace from Ahmed Musa gave them the win. They dealt with set pieces much better than in the opening game although they were still a little sloppy in that aspect, but there was an improvement and that’s what you love if you’re a fan of Nigeria. If they can pick up at least a draw then they are pretty much through, a win guarantees them going through, but the test will be very tough. Although they’re dysfunctional they still have to deal with Messi and Argentina.
Coming up against Argentina, Nigeria have to show something similar to their play in the second half against Iceland. They should simply go forward, because Nigeria are not the type of team that are built to sit back. They are shaky at the back, so the best way to counter that is by playing attacking football. With a new confidence and a new game plan, Nigeria can truly believe now. Their attack has life with the way Musa has impacted it now and looking at the way Argentina defend and the way Caballero looks in goal, it really wouldn’t be smart for Nigeria to not try and go at them. Defensively we all know that Nigeria are lack luster. They don’t have great defenders, it’s an average back line with a young goalkeeper. Dealing with Messi and Aguero is probably the toughest challenge any of these Nigerians will face, but luckily for them, Argentina are very dysfunctional right now and nobody is playing well not even Messi. If you look at the way these teams from the mental point of view, it’d be hard to bet for Argentina. This is a golden opportunity for Nigeria to get one over Argentina and go through to the next round. Expect to see the same lineup we saw against Iceland.
I think I’m speaking on behalf of everyone when I say, we’re all lost for words watching the way Argentina are playing. They’ve been one of the most disappointing sides and Messi has been one of the most disappointing players in the tournament failing to score so far. The memories of 2010 are coming back for Messi it seems. In this tournament, Argentina drew 1-1 with Iceland failing to break them down, but you’d think it was just one of those games. However, Argentina backed up their terrible play in the second game. They lost 0-3 to Croatia. Some would say it’s one of the worst Argentinian performances of all time at the world cup. They simply gave up in the end. Mentally, they looked beaten, Messi has once again hidden at the world cup although in some ways you can’t even blame him because it’s not easy to succeed when everyone else on your team are playing poor. Defensively, Argentina have been embarrassing, they allowed both Iceland and Croatia create chances whenever they wanted and the goalkeeper Caballero committed another blunder against Croatia. It really has been a world cup to forget, players had to actually deny the reports that they wanted their coach Sampaoli sacked before the 3rd game. Argentina truly have been a mess and yet somehow there’s still a chance to advance.
Coming into this game, there are so many things that Argentina have to improve. They pretty much have to sort it out from top to bottom and there isn’t much time to do so. It all starts from the coach Sampaoli because he has to pick the right team. There are players out there who are don’t deserve to start and are mentally beaten. Players such as Meza, Perez, Tagliafico and even Caballero are all replacable. Sampaoli has to start Dybala, he’s too good to be rotting on the bench, one of the best youngsters in the world has only played 22 minutes in this tournament which is truly ridiculous. Furthermore, Messi has to improve. He’s the best player on the team, the leader, the captain. He can’t ghost around. His performances have been poor, especially against Croatia but what can you do when your midfielders aren’t doing anything, Messi had to literally play in the middle of the park at times against Croatia because nobody was creating anything. Argentina’s midfield have to sort it out too. But yeah to summarise it all starts from the coach, he has to get the team right and sort them out mentally, then on the pitch Messi has to put in one of his better performances and lead by example. We saw how Messi carried Argentina when their backs were against the wall in the qualifiers and he may very well do so again, but he’ll need help.
This is a very hard game to predict. On paper yeah you’d think Argentina would cruise, but the way they’ve played has been absolutely poor. However they have one final game and they have Messi. When you have someone like Messi to lead the team in an elimination game you simply have to trust him. Nigeria’s backline is probably the weakest out of all the teams Argentina have to play against and it will open up for them more than it did against Iceland and Croatia. Now sure defensively Argentina have been pretty much as bad and Nigeria with players like Musa, Moses, Iheanacho, Iwobi, Ighalo to pick from will punish them. It’s going to be an attacking end to end game and it will be decided by which team is more clinical and although Argentina have looked disastrous, they have been given this new hope and with Messi Aguero Dybala Higuain to pick from, you have to trust them to be more clinical than Nigeria. Expect a high scoring game and a 3-2 Argentina win. Messi will be the difference, the only question is will that win be enough since Argentina could still drop if Iceland won their game by the same margin on goal difference.
1 Croatia 6 pts +5 GD
2 Nigeria 3 pts 0 GD
3 Iceland 1 pt -2 GD
4 Argentina 1 pt -3 GD
ODDS – Decimal (WilliamHill)
Nigeria Win – 6.00
Draw – 4.20
Argentina Win – 1.53
KICK OFF – 26th June 2018 – 7pm UK Time