A goal four minutes from time from Argentina’s left back, Marcus Rojo, took Argentina into the second round as they defeated Nigeria 2-1.
Lionel Messi gave Argentina the lead on 14 minutes. Victor Moses equalised six minutes into the second half but Rojo scored the most important goal with four minutes left on the clock. With Croatia beating Iceland, Argentina snagged second place and will meet France in the round of 16, while Croatia will face Denmark.
William Troost-Ekong kicked the ball out straight from kickoff to show the pressure that was on the Super Eagles. The Argentina setup put Lionel Messi on the right of a front three of Gonzalo Higuain, Messi, and Angel Di Maria.
In the first five minutes, the Argentines had more than 70% of the ball possession; but the first shot did not arrive until the sixth minute when Tagliafico controlled an Ever Banega ball in the box but after holding off the challenges of Victor Moses and Leon Balogun, shot wide.
Ahmed Musa tried a shot from outside the box as Nigeria tried to get on the front foot. On 12 minutes, Kelechi Iheanacho had a gift on the edge of the box but he dallied and was tackled by Javier Mascherano.
Messi then scored the goal the whole of Argentina were hoping for on 14 minutes. Banega lofted a pass into Messi’s path and without breaking stride, he controlled with his thigh, moved the ball forward with his left before shooting past Francis Uzoho.
Balogun tripped Di Maria in a foot race in the 32nd minute and was shown a yellow card. From the ensuing free kick, Uzoho made a fingertip save off his left post.
Towards the end of the half, the Eagles became more of an offensive threat as Argentina’s debutant goalkeeper, Francis Armani, had to deal with some balls, though they were at best tame efforts. Nicolas Otamendi kicked Iheanacho in the face on 45 minutes and then Balogun headed a free kick taken by Oghenekaro Etebo straight at Armani.
At the end of two minutes of added time, Argentina had bossed ball possession and had more shots on target.
At the start of the second half, Gernot Rohr sent on Odion Ighalo for Iheanacho, who seemed to have lost some bearing.
On 50 minutes, Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, pointed to the penalty after adjudging that Mascherano had dragged Balogun to ground in the box.
Victor Moses was cool and slotted it into the right side of Armani.
Ighalo missed the chance to put Nigeria ahead in the second round when he failed to connect properly with the ball inside the box. On 80 minutes, he had another chance with a chance against the goalkeeper, but Armani made the save.
Argentina got the goal they needed with four minutes on the clock as Marcos Rojo left free in the box blazed a right foot shot past Uzoho for the goal that got them into the second round and killed Nigeria’s dreams.
Four minutes were added on and the Argentines slowed the tempo as they killed the time. At another World Cup, Argentina have again stopped Nigeria’s progress. (Premium Times)