Argentina vs Nigeria: The Super Eagles of Nigeria will take on Le Abiceleste of Argentina in the decisive Group D fixture on Tuesday Night coming from a win in the last game vs Iceland.
When Ahmed Musa rounded Hannes Holldorsson and slotted the ball pass Sverrir Ingason and Kari Arnason for Nigeria’s second against Iceland, soccer fans all over Nigeria and beyond went into rhapsody as it further raised hopes on Nigeria securing the days’ available 3 points.
This goal did not only drive Nigerian fans crazy but revived Nigeria’s chances of making it to the next round and equally breathe life into Argentina’s round of 16 qualification aspiration.
With the above occurrence, it is safe to conclude that Nigeria did Argentina a major favor which the Argentines equally acknowledge.
However, the million dollar question is, will this favor not come back to hurt the Super Eagles with Argentina needing a win in their last group fixture against Nigeria which will automatically confirm the Eagles exit from Russia?
Putting square pegs in square holes as far as Nigeria’s technical crew is concerned is the only way of avoiding an ominous outcome. From a Nigerian perspective, sticking to the formation that saw off Iceland is the number one way to go.
Making a few relevant changes in personnel that secured the vital 3 points for Nigeria might not equally be a bad idea either in the defensive midfield or the left side of the midfield (In a 3-5-2 formation).
The physical presence of John Ogu will help matters in the defensive midfield especially when paired with Wilfred Ndidi instead of the usual Mikel, Ndidi partnership.
However, if Mikel must play probably because of his inspirational role as the skipper of the side, Ogu can be drafted to the left-hand side of the midfield instead of continuing with a make-shift option that involves Brian Idowu and at some point, Tyronne Ebuehi.
It is noteworthy that the duo didn’t do badly against Iceland but exhibited deficiencies that would have cost Nigeria the game and could be exploited by the Argentines.
For Argentina, major changes in the squad that started against Croatia are highly imperative if they must go through to the round of 16.
There is no reason why Messi, Di Maria, and Dybala cannot play together irrespective of their left-footedness. Going forward, the trio seems to be the best options with Sergio Aguero in front of them.
Sampaoli needs to crowd his midfield either with a 4-4-2 formation or a 3-5-2 set up if they want to retain possession and dominated play in order to raise hope of a victory that they obviously need more than Nigeria.
Gernot Rohr would likely continue with his 3-5-2 formation in a bid to deny Argentina time and space as they successfully did against Iceland. With this, Jorge Sampaoli need not be told that deployment of adequate personnel in his side’s midfield is non-negotiable.
Haven discussed the above, it is pertinent to remember that Nigeria has never won a game against an Argentine side that has Lionel Messi. It is also noteworthy that whenever a Lionel Messi side is in a win or bust situation, the mercilessness in Messi projects itself.
While Nigeria continues to bask in the euphoria of their win against Iceland, they need to do that with caution and remain focused against an Argentine side that can cut their happiness short not just because of the possibility but because they have Messi.
It has been said that “the tale of a lion is not to be toyed with whether it is alive or suspected to be dead”. Nigeria beware because Argentina can spoil the party and also snatch the remaining ticket to the round of 16.
Guest Writer – Paul C. Ewurum
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