The Super Eagles of Nigeria will lock horns with their Argentinean counterparts Thursday (7pm GMT+1) at the St. Petersburg Stadium in Russia, and football lovers all over the world are anticipating a surprise-filled match.
Team Nigeria lost their first encounter with Croatia (2-0) but showed great discipline against Iceland, a highly commendable effort which earned the Eagles a 2-0 win and a chance to qualify for the knockout stage.
With four World Cup goals to his credit so far, Leicester City player Ahmed Musa, who scored a brace against Iceland has, by that record achievement, become Nigeria’s highest goal scorer at the global soccer event. His first two World Cup goals were recorded against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup in Rio, Brazil.
Messi, on his part, has carried the weight of Argentina’s world cup dreams on his shoulders but his efforts have been insignificant without quality inputs from his teammates.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 21, 2018
Messi’s awful penalty miss during the 1-1 draw with Iceland and an alleged sack of coach Jorge Sampaoli led to media speculations that the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner will personally select La Albiceleste’s squad against Nigeria. Football analysts believe this might provide a weaker chain that bolster the South Americans to victory in today’s match.
While Argentina still battle low morale from a regrettable 3-0 drubbing by the Croatians, the atmosphere in Nigeria camp is “highly inspiring.” In his pre-match interview, Musa recalled scoring a brace against a Messi-led side in 2014 although the match ended 3-2 in favor of the Argentines.
“Maybe it is time to take revenge…” the fast-footed winger said. “I also know from experience that scoring against Argentina is not difficult for me. I take it step by step, but if I get an opportunity I have to take it…”
The Super Eagles are eager to rewrite their history with the Blue and White Stripes. Both teams have met eight times; four of those encounters were at the World Cup and Argentina won all.
A win for Nigeria against Argentina, previously Group D favorites, will guarantee the Super Eagles a spot among the 2018 World Cup Round of 16 finalists.
Since 1998, the Nigerian national team has thirsted for successive World Cup wins. Victory against Messi and his teammates will guarantee the Super Eagles a place in the knockout stage for the fourth time in history.
Nigeria’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup, Ahmed Musa, favors the odds to score against Argentina after his awesome performance against Iceland.
‘With Messi on the pitch I always do well,’ Musa said, admitting that comparisons between him and Messi in the media have been lifting. The 25-year-old says he believes Nigerians will be proud again today but his teammate William Troost-Ekong advised Eagles against underrating their opponents.
Image shows Super Eagles player Ahmed Musa
‘If Messi wakes up it will be a problem but we will work for it not to happen,’ he said of the Barcelona ace who turned 31 on Sunday.
‘We have played against solid teams in the past…In today’s game, we will play our game with focus and see how chances are maximized.’
Football legend Diego Maradona agrees that Argentina has a big task against Nigeria after their royal mess with Croatia. The World Cup winner also criticized his compatriots – Messi and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero – for performing below expectations.
Sampaoli fired back at journalists who sparked rumors of his sack as coach of La Albiceleste, saying “they [journalists] are the fourth power” and stressing that the media failed in its duty at “rightly sensitizing people.”
His words: ‘All reporters do these days is to transcend, install and distort…It is a surprise because they usually talked about teams and analyse performances, but these have changed. They have twisted distorted.
‘I will reserve my comments until the World Cup ends,’ he added.
‘They have seen the coaching staff direct the practice during squad training…They [reporters] are aware that most of what has been said about Argentina are lies…We ask for their support and understanding.’
Sampaoli says the widely rumored mutiny and his sack by FA president Claudio Tapia are little more than media hype. Team Argentina will hope to win against but pray Croatia doesn’t lose to Iceland with a higher goal margin.
— Mikel John Obi (@mikel_john_obi) June 26, 2018
“We must work very hard. I know the importance of the game,” Musa added. “If we draw we are through and Argentina are out. But we will play to win…What I like about my team is humility, solidarity and fighting spirit.”
Imagine if Nigeria destroy Messi’s legacy tonight
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) June 26, 2018
Now is the time for all @NGSuperEagles to step up and support Nigeria. Its a huge game but @nigeria has destiny in their hands. It a difficult task to play for a draw especially against Argentina. They can break your heart added time. Nigeria need the game stretched and honest.
— Tommy Smyth (@TommySmythESPN) June 26, 2018