FIFA WC Wrap: Messi Scores, Argentina Live to Fight Another Day
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
The Argentine fans and the entire football community can now breathe a sigh of relief. Argentina are through to the Round of 16 and we will surely see more of Messi and Co in Russia.
Coming into the match, the Argentine side were under lot of pressure. If a draw against minnows Iceland and a 3-0 loss against Croatia wasn’t enough – an alleged mutiny against coach Sampoali prior to their last group fixture made matter worse for the two-time World Cup Champions
Sergio Aguero, who was Argentina’s only goal scorer before tonight’s match, was missing from the starting line-up again made all the wrong noises for the side.
But as they say cometh the big moment, cometh the man.
14 minutes on the clock - a perfectly weighted diagonal ball was sublimely brought down on the outside of his thigh by Messi who then drove past Nigeria's teenage keeper Francis Uzoho to open the scoring.
And the Messi we know was back. Suddenly it was all about Messi again.
One goal and a galore of milestones.
Messi, who couldn’t manage to take proper shots in the first two games, scored the 100th goal of the competition in Russia.
He also became the first man in World Cup history to score as a teenager, in his 20s as well as in his 30s. And St. Petersburg became the 100TH city where the talismanic Argentine managed to score a goal.
After Messi’s goal, we got to witness a different Argentine side which was more confident, there was urgency in their play. All players wanted a piece of that ball.
But all this was short lived.
Six minutes after halftime, the Super Eagles level through Victor Moses after Javier Mascherano pushed Leon Balogun inside the box and the Turkish referee awarded a penalty.
After the equaliser, a familiar Argentine side was at display again. Miss-passing, losing possession became the highlight for the side. As if Nigeria’s goal had nuetralised the sting which Argentina showed in the first half.
With five minutes on the clock, we could see shoulders dropping in the Argentine side.
But Marcos Rojo had other plans.
Gabriel Mercado crossed from the right in the 86th minute and what can arguably be one of the finest display of one-touch football - Rojo turned the ball into the goal with a first-time strike to spark wild celebrations in the Argentina camp.
Argentina were lucky to live to fight another day. Not so fortunate for the Nigerians, for whom a draw was enough to progress to the next round.
Now, Argentina will face Group A toppers France in the next round.
And one thing for sure it won’t be easy for the South Americans if they continue to play like this. If the Nigerians could trouble the Argentine defense we can imagine what the French attack will do.
It will be really surprising if Argentina survive the French test.
But again, an Argentine win would mean a possible Messi vs Ronaldo encounter in the quarters, only if Portuguese side also overcome Uruguay in the next round.
Now, who wouldn’t like to witness that. Won’t we live for such matches?