Lionel Messi of Argentina (R) and Bryan Idowu of Nigeria in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group D preliminary round soccer match between Nigeria and Argentina in St.Petersburg, Russia, 26 June 2018.
Tuesday Jun 26, 2018. 22:01
Nigeria have exited the 2018 World Cup in the group stage after they succumbed 2-1 to Argentina at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night.
‘La Albiceleste’ scored the winning goal late in the match to secure second spot on the Group D standings behind Croatia, who overcame Iceland in a simultaneous clash.
Argentina were the first to threaten in attack, with an eighth minute move seeing Ever Banega picking out a good pass for Nicolas Tagliafico, but the left-back blazed his shot wide of the near post.
On 14 minutes Banega played another great pass and this time Lionel Messi sprinted free of Nigeria’s defence before sending a right-footed shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho to put the South Americans in the lead.
Messi almost went from scorer to provider in the 27th minute as he played a perfectly-weighted ball to put Gonzalo Higuain in on goal, but Uzuho came quickly off his line and bravely smothered the ball at the striker’s feet.
The Argentina number 10 almost racked up a second goal for himself in the 34th minute, sending a shot direct from a kick onto the woodwork.
Nigeria had been outplayed in the first half, but they started the second strongly and earned a penalty in the 49th minute, with Javier Mascherano hauling down Leon Balogun at a corner kick. Victor Moses coolly dispatched the spot kick to make it 1-1 after 51 minutes.
Twenty minutes later, with Argentina dominating possession, the Super Eagles almost claimed a second goal. A counter attack ended with midfielder Wilfred Ndidi sending a powerful long-range shot just over the crossbar.
Argentina created a great chance to reclaim the lead in the 81st minute, with Max Meza’s low cut-back from the left picking out Higuain, but the veteran striker fired his shot high over the target. Two minutes later a mistake at the other end let substitute Odion Ighalo in on goal, but he was denied from a tight angle by goalkeeper Franco Armani.
The match looked destined for a draw, but Argentina struck a late winner through Marcos Rojo. The defender met a cross from right-back Gabriel Mercado and swept home a low volley to make it 2-1 in the 86th minute and secure progression for ‘La Albiceleste’.
Nigeria (0) 1 (Moses pen 51’)
Argentina (1) 2 (Messi 14’, Rojo 86’)
Nigeria: Uzoho, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo (Iwobi 90’), Moses, Etebo, Mikel, Ndidi, Idowu, Iheanacho (Ighalo 46’), Musa (Nwankwo 90+2’)
Argentina: Armani, Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico (Aguero 80’), Perez (Pavon 61’), Mascherano, Banega, Di Maria (Meza 72’), Messi, Higuain