Nigeria can guarantee their passage into the World Cup knockout stages with a draw on Wednesday evening, however they will have to do this against tournament favourites, Argentina.
The Super Eagles won their first match at the World Cup since the 1998 tournament in France with their 1-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and will undoubtedly use this as inspiration to take the game to a seemingly average Argentinian side in Porto Alegre.
Argentina find themselves at the top of Group F but only after a narrow win over Bosnia and a very late moment of magic from Lionel Messi in the game against Iran. They don’t seem to have played to the expectations everyone had for them given the players they called up to the team and thus it will be no easy task for them against a Nigerian side who can defend well.
Victor Moses and Godfrey Oboabona are both struggling with injuries at the moment and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to play any part in this final group match.
Argentina have no current injury worries and so Alejandro Sabella should have a fully fit squad to choose his starting 11 from.
- Nigeria won their first World Cup match since 1998 with their win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- They can also advance to the knockout stages for the first time since the tournament was held in France.
- Nigeria have yet to concede a goal at this World Cup.
- Argentina have played Nigeria six times previously, winning four of them.
- Argentina have already qualified for the knockout stages but can still finish second in Group F should they lose to Nigeria.
Nigeria – Peter Odemwingie
Odemwingie won the game for Nigeria in their last match against Bosnia and Herzegovina after latching on to an Emmanuel Emenike pass. The striker has also played well at the tournament so far aside from the goal. According to Squawka.com he has completed 91% of his passes and created two chances for his team mates. He has also been involved in three significant defensive actions for his country in the two previous games and has won just under half of his duels. However, he has only managed to get 33% of his shots at goal on target and this has to be something he will be working on in training. If Odemwingie can combine with Emenike as well as he did against Bosnia, then Argentina will have to be much better at the back then they were against Iran if they are to get a good result.
Argentina – Lionel Messi
It is fair to say that Messi hasn’t played at his best level at the World Cup so far and yet he has managed to score two important goals for Argentina, in particular his stoppage time curler against Iran. According to Squawka.com and alarmingly for the Argentinian fans, Messi has only managed to get 29% of his attempted shots on target so far. However, this does seem to reflect the Argentinians’ ineffectiveness in front of goal at the tournament. He has managed to create seven chances for his team mates however and has completed 85% of his passes, as well as winning 58% of his duels. Nigeria will find it hard to play against Messi but if he plays at the level we have come to know, they will have a very hard time of it.
Nigeria did well against Bosnia and were very good at defending their lead when Odemwingie put them ahead. If they can get a quick counter-attacking goal against Argentina in the same way they did to Bosnia, then Messi and co might find it difficult to break them down. However, I still expect Argentina to show their superiority at this stage and win the game 2-1.