Omeruo and Mikel lose to Messi and Argentina, advance to knockout round anyway

Quinn Rooney

This game won't dissuade Argentina's critics from trotting out the "too reliant on Lionel Messi" line, but when the world's best player plays for your team and is providing all the goods (unlike the clearly subpar and perhaps injured Cristiano Ronaldo), can you really begrudge them for not looking a gift Messi in the mouth?

And they needed all the Messi magic in this one, because at the other end, much like Bosnia's defense on Saturday, Argentina had no answer to Nigeria's pace and power in attack.  It was Emenike who dominated on Saturday, today it was Ahmed Musa, twice swiftly canceling out Messi goals.  We've been big fans of Musa around here (Steve especially), and today's performance surely made others sit up and take notice as well.

Unfortunately Nigeria's defense wasn't its usual solid self either.  Mikel (starting for the third straight game in the Chelsea-Mikel role) and Onazi did not deal well with Argentina's midfield at all, and when Messi dropped off the defenders, there seemed to be much indecision as to who would pick him up.  WhoScored has Messi credited with just one through ball, but I believe that number should've been more like 4 or 5 if not more.  Kenneth Omeruo had the possibly impossible task of picking up the well-timed runs of Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi, a task with which he struggled in general.  I do recall one great recovery though, this time with Messi making the run and young Omeruo getting a last-ditch foot in to concede just a corner.  And while the first goal can be firmly blamed on the once again mostly useless Efe Ambrose, it was from Omeruo's foul that Messi scored Argentina's second and it was partly from Omeruo's mix-up on the corner that Rojo scored Argentina's third.

Nigeria's game improved markedly once Messi was substituted but they could not find a third equalizer.  And while Argentina did pose a threat on the counter (often with Omeruo the only person back), Emenike and Onazi came close with long shots while Musa had a chance for a hat trick denied by some rather excellent defending from Pablo Zabaleta.  Even Mikel probably should've scored a goal when he received a fortuitous bounce from an Argentina head but his shot from five yards landed meekly in the goalkeeper's gloves.

With Bosnia winning comfortably against Iran, Nigeria end up finishing second behind Argentina in the group and thus ensure that Africa will have at least one representative in the knockout rounds where, unfortunately, they will most likely be facing France.

(And if you were wondering were Victor Moses went, well, he's either injured or he's sulking or... who knows.  One thing's for sure, he wasn't even on the bench.)

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