World Cup 2018: Nigeria v Argentina

Argentina are into the last 16 after some breathtaking drama in St Petersburg

John O'Sullivan Tue, Jun 26
 
LIVE: World Cup 2018: Nigeria v Argentina

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  • 18:38

    Hello and welcome to the Irish Times World Cup soccer blog. Nigeria take on an out of sorts Argentina, the latter requiring a victory to make in into the last 16.

    Will anyone cry for Argentina if they go out of the tournament? Based on the way they have played so far the answer is probably not. It’s a country that’s familiar with coups so the suggestion that manager Jorge Sampaoli has been usurped by his players in terms of tactics and formation for this match is more than a whisper.

  • 18:40

    Unless, that is, you talk to one of the players. Javier Mascherano set out to dismiss such nonsense but ending up fanning the flames a little:  "The relationship with [head coach Jorge] Sampaoli is totally normal, but if we feel uncomfortable, we will raise it, otherwise we would be hypocrites.The opposite would be to harm the team. We are not playing well and we take charge of the results."

    Nigerian manager Gernot Rohr suggested that his side had come to this World Cup to learn and that they would be at their peak in 2022. However he reckons they have a good chance of beating Argentina.

  • 18:40
  • 18:41

    Right we’ll try and kept the permutations of qualification to a minimum. Croatia are through. Nigeria will go through if they get a draw against Argentina on the proviso that Iceland don’t beat Croatia by two goals or more. Nigeria go through if they win tonight. Argentina need to win and hope that Iceland don’t beat Croatia or else it will come down initially to goal difference between the pair. Everyone got that? Superb.  

  • 18:42
    Teams that have already qualified for second round: England, Belgium, Uruguay, Russia, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark and Croatia.
  • 18:44

    Team news


    Nigeria:
     Uzoho; Omeruo, Balogun, Ekong; Moses, Etebo, Ndidi, Mikel, Idowu; Musa, Iheanacho.


    Argentina:  Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Perez, Mascherano, Banega, Di Maria; Messi, Higuaín.


    Referee:  Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).

  • 18:44
  • 18:45

    When in doubt go with a 4-4-2 formation. Argentina have abandoned the 3-5-2 shape along with five of the starting team from the last day. Franco Armani, Marcos Rojo, Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain come in. Lionel Messi partners Higuain up front. For Nigeria it’s as you were from their 2-0 win over Iceland.

  • 18:46
    If you prefer your teams as a graphic.....well no problem.  
  • 18:46
  • 18:46
  • 18:48

    History and statistics suggest that Argentina will win tonight.


    Exhibit A: Argentina have never completed a first round group stage at a World Cup without at least one victory.


    Exhibit B: The only time they returned home without a win came in a pure knock-out format in 1934; a squad comprising only amateurs spent over a month at sea only to lose 3-2 to Sweden in the first round and bow out.

  • 18:50

    Exhibit C: Nigeria have lost all four of their previous World Cup games against Argentina, with all of those defeats by single-goal margins (1-0 in 2002 and 2010, 2-1 in 1994, 3-2 in 2014).


    And finally: Nigeria have never beaten a Souther American team at a World Cup.  

  • 18:51
    Croatia have made nine changes for their game against Iceland in the other group game.  
  • 18:51
  • 18:51
    Image his delight when he opened it.  
  • 18:51
  • 18:54

    Argentina last lost back-to-back World Cup games in 1994 (against Bulgaria and Romania). They have never lost consecutive games in the opening group stage.

  • 18:57
    Anthems are nearly over. Time to get things started.  
  • 18:57
  • 19:00
    Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel fractured his hand in their last match and is wearing a protective cast.
  • 19:02
    Those wily Argentines may have switched to a 4-3-3. Looks like Messi on the right, Di Maria on the left and  Higuaín through the middle.  
  • 19:04

    4 mins: There aren't too many passes sticking at the moment, both teams careless in possession.  

     

    Nigeria 0 Argentina 0  

  • 19:07

    6 mins: Mascherano with two Sunday league passes, long on ambition, short on accuracy.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 0

  • 19:09

    7 mins:  Tagliafico gets a nudge just as he was about to shoot and it finds it's way to row J.  Musa clears the crossbar down the other end of the pitch.    


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 0

  • 19:10

    9 mins: Good run from Messi into the Nigerian penalty area but not matched by the cross.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 0

  • 19:14

    12 mins: The game is beginning to open up. Nigeria remaining compact at the back. Mascherano still giving possession away like a sales promotion.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 0

  • 19:14
    GOAL: Argentina.  
  • 19:16

    14 mins: The 100th goal in the tournament and the 100th different stadium that Messi has scored in. Banega with a glorious pass, Messi takes it down on his thigh and rifles it across Uzoho and into the far corner. Maradona in the stands looks to the heavens. It certainly was a divine strike.


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:16
    Shout out to Brian Kerr for that Messi stat.  
  • 19:17
  • 19:19

    18 mins: Nigeria with the first corner of the match. Cleared easily.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:20
  • 19:21
    Argentina have found a rhythm to their passing. They're shifting the ball around at pace and using the width of the pitch.  
  • 19:25

    23 mins: Nigeria have been deflated by the goal. The retreated a littla nd are still reluctant to commit players forward. Spooked perhaps by the setback.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:25
  • 19:26
    Maradona mid-celebration
  • 19:26
  • 19:29

    26 mins: Brilliant ball from Messi,  Higuaín looks to clip it over the keeper but fluffs his lines and makes a paltry contact. Uzoho does well and is brave but it should have been a second goal.


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:31
  • 19:31
    30 mins: Messi in fine fettle, quick feet, assured touch and good movement.    
  • 19:33

    32 mins: Di Maria races onto a through ball and gets clipped by  Balogun on the edge of the box. Yellow card for the Nigerian. Another gorgeous ball from Banega.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:33
    POST: Messi free-kick.  
  • 19:34

    33 mins: Nigerian keeper Uzoho gets his fingertips to the free-kick and deflects it onto the post. Fine save.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:36
  • 19:39

    39 mins: Brilliant touches and link up play from Messi but di Maria's shot from the edge of the box is blocked.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:42

    41 mins:  Etebo has a shot that goes for a throw-in. Stoke City fans might not want to look at that footage as the Nigerian heads there for next season.  


    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:43
    In the other group match it's Croatia 0 Iceland 0 after 42 minutes.  
  • 19:46

    43 mins: Rojo with a high boot and also catches  Iheanacho with a knee in the follow through in the Argentine box. No foul and after some treatment the Nigerian is back on his feet. Two minutes of additional time.  



    Nigeria 0 Argentina 1

  • 19:47
    The last play of the half is a Nigerian free-kick, which is easily defended.  
  • 19:48
    Half-time: Nigeria 0 Argentina 1. Iceland 0 Croatia 0
  • 19:50
    Banega brilliant, Messi superb, Argentina's team performance marginally better but Nigeria have been disappointing.    
  • 19:55
  • 19:58
    Nigeria's front two Musa and Iheanacho have been isolated from the rest of the team for much of the opening 45-minutes. Nigeria need more energy and to have the courage to push players on. They're still well in this match because Argentina have shown enough frailty in the tournament and even in this match to suggest that they are still vulnerable and the longer the game remains at 1-0 that won't change.  
  • 19:59
  • 20:05
    Argentine manager  Jorge Sampaoli came out two minutes before his team and while in the tunnel before coming out for the secomd half the Argentine players formed a huddle in which Messi and Mascherano spoke. PLayer power appears to have taken over, suggesting that the pre-game rumours were true.  Sampaoli has lost the dressingroom and the players are in charge.  
  • 20:05
  • 20:07
    Ighalo is on for  Iheanacho.
  • 20:07
    PENALTY: Nigeria
  • 20:11

    49 mins: Mascherano booked in the incident for wrapping his arms around  Balogun. It was a soft enough award based on what's been let go in the tournament. Turkish referee  Cuneyt Cakir pointed to the spot. Victor Moses rolls in the penalty.    


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1

  • 20:12
    53 mins:  Straight after rattling the crossbar, Milan Badelj drives in the opener for Croatia against Iceland. As things stand Croatia and Nigeria will be heading for the Last 16.  
  • 20:18

    57 mins: Nigeria have played with more energy since half-time, commiting players forward and therefore getting better penetration in the final third of the field. Argentina now have the look of a team that's low on confidence and are struggling to process their latest self inflicted wound.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1  

  • 20:21

    61 mins: Pavon on for Perez and immediately make s apositive impact with a fine run that forces a corner.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1

  • 20:21
  • 20:21
  • 20:23
    Yellow card: Banega, a follow through in the tackle.  
  • 20:26

    67 mins:  Higuaín has been a passenger, his touch and link play has been poor. I'm amazed he's still on the pitch.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1

  • 20:26
  • 20:29

    69 mins: Nigeria are dropping deeper and deeper and leaving Argentina to play in front of them. As an aside Di Maria also have a shocker at this point.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1

  • 20:32

     70 mins:  Musa with a nice run and Ndidi cracks a 25-yard effort just over the crossbar. Di Maria substituted and Meza is on.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1  

  • 20:32
  • 20:33
    GOAL: Iceland 1-1 Croatia (Sigurdsson pen)
  • 20:37
    PENALTY SHOUT: Rojo heads ball onto his arm. Goes to VAR. Referee  Cuneyt Cakir has a look and he correctly rules no penalty.  
  • 20:38
    "Meza's has had three contributions Bad, Brutal and Worse." Brian Kerr at his best.    
  • 20:40

    79 mins: Aguero is on for Argentina and within seconds  Higuaín misses a great chance. Miles over the bar from a perfect pull back; eight yards out from goal. Is that Argentina's last hurrah?  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1  

  • 20:43
  • 20:43

    82 mins: Ighalo through on goal on the angle but Armani saves. Argentina are wide open at the back as they chase that second goal and the win they need.  


    Nigeria 1 Argentina 1

  • 20:45
    GOAL: Argentina
  • 20:46

    86 mins: Mercado with a brilliant cross and Rojo with a stunning right foot volley. A thing of beauty and from a technical perspective, wonderful. There was just time too to see Diego Maradona give someone the finger. It's all happening.  



    Nigeria 1 Argentina 2

  • 20:47
  • 20:48
    Croatia 2 Iceland 1 after 89 minutes.  
  • 20:49
    Ivan Perisic with the goal for Croatia.  
  • 20:49
    Four minutes of stoppage time.  
  • 20:51
    So as things stand: Argentina as runners-up in the group will take on France in the Round of 16 while Croatia will face Denmark.  
  • 20:51
  • 20:51
  • 20:52
    Wonderful atmospeher in the stadium, Argentinian fans exceptional. Messi gets a yellow card for time wasting.  
  • 20:52
  • 20:53
    Full-time: Nigeria 1 Argentina 2
  • 20:55
    Goals from Messi and an 87th minute right footed volley from Rojo send Argentina through to face France in the last 16 while group winners Croatia will face Denmark. Victor Moses responded with a penalty for Nigeria.  
  • 20:56
    Chaotic on the pitch, chaotic off the pitch but Argentina survive. Thank you for your company. We'll have a match report up here shortly. I'll be back again tomorrow afternoon.  
  • 20:57
  • 20:58
    Teams that have already qualified for second round:  England, Belgium, Uruguay, Russia, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Croatia and Argentina.