An embarrassing performance against Croatia, looked like sending Argentina out of the tournament. Nigeria, with an impressive performance against stubborn Iceland, have given the two times winners a glimpse of survival. Can Lionel Messi fire his side into the knockout stages?
Argentina's defensive vulnerability in the 3-0 defeat; to an impressive Croatia, showed a number of key issues for one of the pre-tournament favourites. Not only did their midfield become outclassed by a stellar Croatian side, their attack was toothless and easily contained.
The defence was almost comical at times, highlighted by the opener, has been their main concern. Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero made the most telling contribution to his team's fate with an attempted chip over Ante Rebic that backfired badly, allowing the striker to volley into an exposed net in the 53rd minute.
As the Argentine forward line continued to struggle, their opponents seemed to grow in confidence, and their inability to contain the pace and strength of the likes of Ivan Perisic and, Mario Mandzukic, will encourage Nigeria ahead of their clash. The African side's display against Iceland, showed a team that is more than capable of causing the South American side difficulties.
There has been no other side more disappointing than Argentina at this year's World Cup. Led by the talisman Messi, they were expected to easily progress through a group including Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia.
Their defending has been woeful, but more worryingly, has been the form of their star man. Messi, who had 11 shots in the opening game against Iceland, did not manage a single attempt at goal until the 64th minute against Croatia.
They will have to improve against a Nigeria side, who will be full of confidence following their impressive win over Iceland. Their defence has so far been one of the key factors as too why they have disappointed in the tournament so far, and they need to ensure that they enable their attacking stars the chance to help the side progress.
A failure to contain a pacy Nigeria side could leave them venerable, and ultimately leave one of the most gifted players in world football disappointed.
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A lackluster performance by Nigeria against Croatia in their opening fixture looked like leaving the African side close too elimination from the tournament. An improved display against Iceland, who had easily contained Argentina, has given the Super Eagles a chance of progression however.
Ahmed Musa showed superb technique to fire Nigeria ahead on the half-volley, before the Leicester player rounded Icelandic keeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson to make it 2-0.
Musa, alongside clubmate Kelechi Iheanacho, will provide serious problems for Argentina, and their pace should allow them to break out with purpose. Their ability to break quickly against an unsure defence, could provide them with a chance to beat their highly fancied opponents.
HEAD TO HEAD
- Argentina 2 - 4 Nigeria (International Friendly) - 14th November 2017
- Nigeria 2 - 3 Argentina (World Cup Finals) - 25th June 2014
- Argentina 3 - 1 Nigeria (International Friendly) - 6th September 2011
- Nigeria 4 - 1 Argentina (International Friendly) - 1st June 2011
- Argentina 1 - 0 Nigeria (World Cup Finals) - 12th June 2010
- Argentina 1 - 0 Nigeria (World Cup Finals) - 2nd June 2002
- Nigeria 0 - 0 Argentina (Confederations Cup) - 10th January 1995
- Argentina 2 - 1 Nigeria (World Cup) - 25th June 1994
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
Argentina: 7/12 - Visit Betfair!
Draw: 3/1 - Visit Betfred!
Nigeria: 11/1 - Visit Coral!
Argentina simply have to improve, and failure to contain a Nigeria side full of pace and strength early on, could leave them vulnerable to elimination. Nigeria will be cautious against a strong Argentine side, and I expect them to sit back and counter.
Argentina are filled with match winners, and although they have failed to impress so far, surely a do or die game will bring the best out of some of the world's best players. Expect Argentina to get the job done here, just!
MY RECOMMENDED BETS
- A 2-1 win for Argentina: 8/1 - Visit Betfair!
- Gonzalo Higuaín to win man of the match: 10/1- Visit Betfred!
- Angel Di Maria to score the last goal of the game: 9/1 - Visit Betfred!
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (22:00 25th June 2018) and are subject to change.