Nigeria look to claim last 16 berth

Nigeria look to claim last 16 berth
epa06831252 John Obi Mikel (L) of Nigeria and Aron Gunnarsson of Iceland in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group D preliminary round soccer match between Nigeria and Iceland in Volgograd, Russia, 22 June 2018.

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Jun 25, 2018. 13:00

Nigeria will look to claim a place in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup when they take on Argentina in their final Group D clash on Tuesday, set for the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. Kick-off is at 20h00 CAT.

Nigeria opened their campaign with a poor showing against Croatia, succumbing 0-2 in Kaliningrad thanks to an unfortunate own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a penalty from Luka Modric.

But they bounced back to form in great style on Friday with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd, with Ahmed Musa scoring his second World Cup brace (his first was against Argentina four years ago), to put them in a position where advancement from the group is in their own hands.

The Super Eagles will definitively advance if they win, while a draw will be enough if leaders Croatia (who are already through to the next round) either avoid defeat, or only lose by a one-goal margin, in the other Group D game against Iceland – this clash will be played simultaneously in Rostov-on-Don.

Argentina come into the game in deep trouble, having picked up just one point from their opening two matches. Their disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland could have been written off as a team finding their feet early in the tournament, but the 3-0 loss to Croatia on Thursday would have been considered a national embarrassment in the football-crazy country.

The South Americans must win to have any chance of advancing, and even that may not be enough, depending on whether or not Iceland can get three points at the Rostov Arena.

In head-to-head terms, Nigeria and Argentina have met in eight matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. The ‘Albiceleste’ have claimed five wins compared to two for the ‘Super Eagles’, while just one game has been drawn.

This will be the fifth time the teams have met in the World Cup, dating back to Nigeria’s debut in 1994. The bad news for the African team is that Argentina have emerged victorious all four times the sides have crossed swords in the ‘Mundial’, including a 3-2 triumph at the 2014 finals in Brazil, where Lionel Messi netted two goals.

However, Nigeria can take some hope from the most recent meeting of the teams: a friendly in Krasnodar, Russia, in November last year which saw the ‘Super Eagles’ come from 0-2 down to win 4-2, thanks to goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi (two) and Brian Idowu.

Nigeria v Argentina – head-to-head

Matches played 8

Nigeria wins 2

Argentina wins 5

Draws 1

Nigeria goals 12

Argentina goals 13

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