Nigeria vs. Argentina had some serious implications for the African squad at the 2014 World Cup in Group F. The enigmatic Lionel Messi showed the world he was not content with a draw, and he made the Nigerians work for 90-plus minutes to ensure they would reach the Round of 16.
If Iran won today and Nigeria lost, it would have been the Iranians joining the Argentines as the two squads to make it out of their group. Fortunately for Nigeria, Iran were routed 3-1 by Bosnia and Herzegovina. But Nigeria and Ahmed Musa did their best to keep pace with their South American counterparts and the best player in the world.
The start of both halves were exciting, as there were multiple goals only five minutes into each. Musa was quick to answer both of Messi’s goals with a pair of his own. Argentina got the game winner in only the 50th minute of the second half, ultimately winning 3-2.
While Messi now has four goals in the tournament and appears to be in fine form on the world stage, the Argentine defense appears to have a number of vulnerabilities. They allowed three goals in their group matches, but none of those came against a team with a truly world class attack. The best threat they faced on the opposition would probably be Edin Džeko, the Bosnia and Herzegovina striker who plays his club ball with Manchester City.
Moving forward, Argentina’s back line may find themselves inept at stopping some of the premier striking teams in Brazil this year. Squads like France, Germany and Netherlands boast some of the best offensive talents in the sport, and so far goals have been more than plentiful to come by for those three teams. Switzerland are looking like the favorite to play Argentina in the knockout stage, as they face Honduras today. While the other contender, Ecuador, must play the rejuvenated French who have their sights set on nine points in Group E.
If Argentina are to make a legitimate push for a World Cup crown, it’s comforting for their fans to know that national hero Messi is performing at the top of his game. However the defense must improve, because Messi should not be expected to score two or three goals every game from here on out as the competition steadily becomes more fierce.