Nigeria needed a draw to ensure qualification from group F, while Argentina would want to maintain their World Cup winning record against Nigeria and ensure they avoid France by topping the group. With the array of attacking talents paraded by Argentina, this crucial game against the African Champions promises to be an exciting encounter.
The game kicked into life as early as the third minute when Angel Di Maria’s shot was pushed to the post by Vincent Enyeama and Lionel Messi scored with a sublime half-volley from the rebound. Nigeria would however not lie down and retaliated on the 4th minute with Ahmed Musa cutting in from the left flank, beating Pablo Zabaleta and curling in his shot inside the far post. Argentina were shocked by the response and pushed on to reclaim their lead. Di Maria shot straight at Enyeama on the 8th minute and Higuain was pressured by Enyeama to stretch his shot wide, when released by Messi in the Nigerian box.
Argentina were looking dominant in midfield while Nigeria tried to stretch them on the counter. Nigeria started to settle into their slow passing game but Di Maria was still looking dangerous in his brilliant offensive play. Enyeama saved again from an Aguero cross off another impressive run from Messi.
A free kick by Messi on the 20th minute was headed back into the waiting arms of Enyeama by Mikel and Nigeria launched a rare attack through Emmanuel Emenike. Peter Odemwingie, who was doing an impressive defensive job on Di Maria saw his long distance shot on the 26th minute go over. Messi’s run into the box on the 28th minute, was tracked well by Odemwingie, forcing him to miscue his pass.
Enyeama saved another Di Maria shot from distance on the 30th minute as their personal contest continued. Nigeria were however looking strong in defence with Joseph Yobo and Kenneth Omeruo ensuring Aguero and Higuain pushed out to the wings in search of the ball.
Argentina substituted Aguero with Lavezzi on the 37th minute due to injury and Nigeria’s free kick was headed away. Mikel was caught in possession and his cynical foul on Lavezzi led to a Messi free kick which Enyeama saved brilliantly on the 43rd minute. Messi drew another foul on the 45th minute and this time around, his brilliant free kick left Enyeama stranded for his second goal of the match and his fourth of the tournament. First half ended 2:1 in favour of Argentina.
The second half started with Nigeria looking to get an equaliser and keep their qualification hopes alive. A great hold up play by Emenike released Musa and he stole into the box and finished emphatically on the 47nd minute for his second goal of the match. Nigeria however could not hold on for long as under sustained pressure from the Argentines, Marcos Rojo bundled in a corner kick with his knee and restored their lead three minutes after.
Enyeama pulled off another save on the 54th minute to deny Higuain. A ferocious shot from Onazi left Michael Babatunde with a broken wrist and Michael Uchebo was brought on in his place. The magnificent Messi was also withdrawn on the 62nd minute with Alvarez coming on in his place.
Mascherano’s tackle on Emenike on the 69th minute went unpunished. The game was getting scrappy with fouls flying in. Odemwingie’s corner kick was cleared and Onazi did well to win the ball from Di Maria but Musa’s shot went over. Enyeama saved again from buzzing Lavazzi, who was running into pockets of spaces opening up.
Nigeria had a splendid chance to equalise when Emenike released the fleet footed Musa on the counter but his shot was intercepted by Zabaleta. Uche Nwofor came on for Odemwingie as Nigeria looked to utilise his physical presence against the Argentine defence.
Di Maria’s shot on the counter was again saved by the impressive Enyeama. A fine attacking move saw Ambrose work his way into the box, but his pass was cleared. Higuain was replaced by Biglia as Argentina sought to close out the game.
The game ended; Nigeria 2: Argentina 3. A thrilling five goals encounter lit up by the goals of Messi and Musa. Nigeria’s loss however did not matter as the 3:1 win by Bosnia over Iran meant that the Super Eagles would be the first African side to qualify for Brazil 2014 World Cup last 16. Nigeria’s keeper; Vincent Enyeama despite conceeding three goals once more proved inspirational in goal, making several amazing saves.