Argentina v Nigeria: Messi’s Last Stand

Argentina v Nigeria
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi attends a training session at the team's base camp in Bronnitsy, near Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2018 ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match against Nigeria to be held in Saint Petersbourg on June 26. - Messi who is born on June 24, 1987, turns 31 today. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time since 2002, Argentina are facing the prospect of bowing out of the World Cup in the group stage. There only hope is to get a win on Tuesday against Nigeria, and hope Iceland fail to beat Croatia. That’s right folks, in what may be his last World Cup, Lionel Messi could go out in the group stage. Here is your Argentina v Nigeria preview.

Messi’s Last Stand? Argentina v Nigeria Preview

How We Got Here

They would have no one but themselves to blame. Everyone involved with Argentina has been awful during this World Cup. It starts with the coach, Sampaoli, who has been terrible. The defence has been likewise terrible. The midfield has also been terrible. They’ve been so bad it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are in this position.

Even Messi has been pretty terrible through two games. The missed penalty against Iceland is the only standout moment he has had all tournament. The last time Argentina needed him to step up, he scored a hat trick to get them here. Now once again they will turn to Lionel Messi, hoping for another miracle.

But Nigeria have not been terrible and they are, in fact, a good side. Nigeria’s second-half display against Iceland was the type of performance we expected from Argentina. They have a ton of pace and know how to use it, with guys like Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa running at opponent’s defenders.

What to Expect From Argentina v Nigeria

Expect this game to go much like Argentina’s first two games. They will have the ball as much as they want, with their defenders and midfielders will get as much time as they need. But Nigeria will be in a tight block at the back, closing down any space near the box and forcing the Argentines to look out wide.

And if the first two games are any indication, Argentina do not have the midfielders to break down such a block. Iceland & Croatia played Argentina perfectly by surrounding Messi and allowing everyone else to pass as the wished. When guys like Javier Mascherano or Enzo Perez are given time to pass, they’ll give it away plenty of times.

Those miss played passes will give Nigeria plenty of opportunities to counter-attack. If they catch Argentina on one of those counters, that might be all she wrote. Argentina are a team waiting to fold, under the pressure of a nation and the demands of a legacy. This team is crumbling under the weight of Lionel Messi.

But that pressure to win comes with a bright side; only one team gets to have Lionel Messi. And the team that has Messi always has a chance, no matter the supporting cast. My gut says this Argentine team is too broken, but my mind would never rule out a player as great as him.

Therefore I would expect that Argentina will get a result on Tuesday against Nigeria. Whether that is enough to get them through to the knockout stages, that depends on Croatia. They are expected to field a weakened side against Iceland, something that would greatly play into the Icelander’s favour. An Iceland win almost surely knocks Argentina out.

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