Why Argentina will lose against Nigeria

Team Nigeria will most likely proceed to Round 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup following reports of mutiny in Argentina camp following their disappointing 1-1 draw with Iceland and 3-0 loss to Croatia.

Argentina players revolted against Jorge Sampaoli on Thursday night, calling for his immediate withdrawal as Les Albiceleste manager.

Jorge Sampaoli 2018.jpg

Image: Jorge Sampaoli

The players held meetings on Thursday, Friday, and late on Saturday night in their efforts to decide Sampaoli’s standing in the team. The 58-year-old tactician will stay on for the match but without decision-making powers on Argentina’s first eleven against Nigeria. The team selection powers now rest on Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and other senior members of the team.

Although Argentina are still in contention for a place among the last 16, their humiliating 3-0 loss against the Croatians has obviously unsettled their team spirit, a situation which worsened with Nigeria’s 2-0 win against Iceland. The African team is favorite to advance with a draw while their South American counterparts on Tuesday will need a win which may not come forth considering the Super Eagles’ inspirational victory.

Football analysts say Sampaoli failed in his squad management, having depended solely on Messi for results but ignoring the importance of quality individual skills and purposeful team play at the 2018 World Cup.

Bleacher Report quoted the coach as saying ‘the team did support Messi well enough in their first two World Cup games’ and for this reason ‘their 3-0 loss to Croatia should not be a yardstick for judging the famous No. 10 and his Portuguese rival Cristiano Ronaldo.’

Today’s reports from Argentina said players at the base camp unanimously asked Sampaoli to step down as coach ahead of their final Group D match against Nigeria. Current manager for the team is AFA General Manager, Jorge Burruchaga, TyC Sports reported.

The allegedly sacked coach reportedly disappeared into his room immediately the players arrived their base camp before a training session scheduled at 6 pm local time on Friday. The UK Daily Mail confirmed there was chaos in Argentina’s World Cup camp on Saturday.

One of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup squad, Ricardo Giusti, claims his discussion with Burruchaga proved that team members, particularly Messi and Mascherano, will decide who plays in the match against Nigeria. Sampaoli currently has no executive powers as Argenina manager, however, he will have a chance to stay on the bench or watch from the stands.

Speaking on the speculations surrounding Sampaoli’s managerial role, Giusti said: ‘The players will decide the team, that’s a fact…If Sampaoli wants to sit in the bench, he can do it. If not, no problem.’

A win for Argentina will guarantee Nigeria’s elimination at the group stage so far Iceland does not win Croatia with a higher goal difference, a dicey situation which leaves Group open to surprises.

Notwithstanding widespread rumors about Argentina’s dysfunctional World Cup squad, TNT Sports LA noted on Thursday night that Sampaoli will remain coach of the South American side against Nigeria considering the unavailability of official sack documents or statements from the AFA. Andreas Marocco collaborated claims that the coach will continue “for now,” adding that the Argentinean football governing body will not remove him forcefully since he wants to stay in charge for at least one more game.

According to Fansided, one of Argentina’s largest newspapers Clarin confirmed in its Sunday morning headline that ‘Sampaoli remains coach of the White and Blue Stripes but his players don’t recognize that.’

Argentina will find it difficult to sack Jorge Sampaoli even after Russia 2018 World Cup because the Santa Fe-born football tactician is in the second year of his 5-year contract. If this agreement falls apart before Copa America 2019, the coach will benefit from a buyout clause valued at $20 million so it seems very unlikely that the federation would love to gamble with such at stake. However, public pressure could force him to reach a compromise with the AFA and step down peacefully.

It is highly expected, according to Castillo, that Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Marcos Rojo, Sergio Aguero and Lucas Biglia will all leave Argentina national team after Russia 2018.