Duro Ikhazuagbe in St Petersburg
Just like it happened four years ago in Brazil, Marcos Rojo scored a late 86th minute dramatic goal against the Super Eagles for Argentina to progress into the Last 16 stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup here at the St Petersburg Stadium in Russia.
After Victor Moses had cancelled out Lionel Messi’s first half opener, Nigeria was on the verge of grabbing the second ticket of Group D with just four minutes left of play with a possible one-all draw against the two-time champions but that was not to be as Rojo who stars for Manchester United in the English Premiership denied Nigeria the chance to progress.
But the story would have be a good one for Nigeria if only Turkish centre referee, Cuneyt Cakir, had few minutes earlier awarded a deserved second penalty resulting from a hand ball by same Rojo inside the Argentine box to the three-time African champions.
VAR replay showed the United defender clearly handled the ball but Cakir denied Nigeria that lifeline that would have stretched Eagles stay in Russia.
A raucous and partisan crowd roared on the South Americans, with Messi in his element. He displayed his usual superb skill to set up the Albiceleste’s clash with France in the Round of 16.
What would have been Messi’s second goal was denied him when Francis Uzoho tipped his free-kick onto the post.
The loss was Nigeria’s fifth World Cup defeat from five meetings with Argentina, all by a solitary goal.
HOW EAGLES RATED VERSUS ARGENTINA
(23) Francis Uzoho
He was a bit nervous in the beginning but regained confidence as the match progressed. He had to contend with fate for Lionel Messi’s goal after Omeruo failed to stop the Argentine forward. He did not make any meaningful save all thorough the match-5/10
(6) Leon Balogun
He had a perfect combination with William Troost Ekong (Oyinbo wall). In the early stage of the match, consequently, allowed Angel di Maria and Banega too much room from the left side of the field. But was in his true element as the match dragged on. He gave Nigeria hope in the second half following the foul on him by Mascherano that resulted in the penalty which was converted by Victor Moses in the second half- 6.5/10
The other part of the ‘Oyinbo Wall’, had a wonderful game and kept veteran Higuain silent all through the match. Unfortunately, he was found wanting in the closing stage after Marco Rojo sizzler for the winning goal with less than four minutes from full time – 7/10
(22) Kenneth Omeruo
The last in the three-man defence line up, was caught napping by Messi for the opening goal. His best moment was holding the right side and forcing Messi to switched to the left side of the attack in the second half. For tactical reason to attack after going down, he was substituted for an attacker in Alex Iwobi-6/10
(2) Bryan Idowu
He was supposed to give Omeruo the needed support and link up with attack but was a bit slow in his work-load. -5.5/10
(4) Wilfred Ndidi
He was excellent in discharging the duty of holding back Enzo Perez to cut short passes to Messi on the right side-6/10
(10) John Mikel Obi
The Trojan and leader of the team, playing deep in front of the defence line, was able to neutralise the diagonal passes in the middle and was in constant link with the forward line- 7/10
(8) Oghenekaro Etebo
He had a wonderful game but unable to stop Banega from the perfect pass to Messi that resulted in the opening goal of the match. His work rate was very high, as he also joined in the defence towards the final stage of the match- 7/10
(11) Victor Moses
He failed to raise his game as one of the main players to lift the team. Closer to the ground than with the ball, always falling on any challenge. He scored from the penalty spot- 5/10
(7) Ahmed Musa
He was the star man of the tournament for Nigeria at the tournament here but could not breakdown the Argentine defence. Like in the match against Iceland, he was Otamendi and Mercado’s tormentor on the left side. He made several incursion to give Nigeria the lead from counter play but was unlucky as he didn’t succeed. He played himself out and was substituted deep into injury time by Simy-8/10
(14) Kelechi Iheanacho
He had a dull day almost like it happened against Iceland; failed to make much impact and even had a chance in the first half after a mixed up by Argentine defence but wasted the opportunity. Pundits were not surprised that was substituted on resumption for second half-3/10
(9) Odion Ighalo
He failed to bury the late chance he had one-on-one with the goal keeper to put Eagles up before Rojo’s winner. 3/10
(18) Alex Iwobi and Simy Nwankwo were late minutes substitutes, and did not make much impact in the four minutes added time play-3/10