For large parts of the game, Argentina looked bereft of ideas. A few stellar throughballs aside — and to their credit, they were absolutely stellar, from both Messi and Banega — the Albiceleste looked as ineffective as they have all tournament and all qualification long. Nigeria’s defense looked hardly impenetrable (despite Kenneth Omeruo starting once again), but Argentina couldn’t quite take full advantage of it for large stretches of the game.
Their opener was one of the few occasions that they did — an excellent run by Messi, just as it’s taught, great control and even better finish (his first goal at the tournament) and that’s before we get to Banega’s through-ball. The midfielder who’s been strangely overlooked by Sampaoli made a telling impact on the game. A similar throughball for Higuain almost got them a second, but young Francis Uzoho in the Nigerian goal was quick off his line.
There you are, Leo!— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 26, 2018
Messi gets the opener for Argentina with a beautiful touch and finish. pic.twitter.com/YTltRqHJHI
Argentina may not have threatened consistently, but they did control the game. And still, Nigeria should’ve had a penalty in the closing stages of the first-half as Marcos Rojo, who will factor in at the end, got away with a kick to the head without even a foul called, let alone a card or a penalty kick. Was VAR sleeping on the job like sad old Maradona in the stands?
A modicum of justice was served early in the second after Mascherano gave away a clear penalty kick.
Victor Moses channeled his inner Eden Hazard on the coolest take, and his inner Obafemi-Babayaro-self with an even cooler backflip celebration.
Nigeria equalize! The Super Eagles are awarded a penalty and Moses buries it to make it 1-1. pic.twitter.com/izFPU6q5yG— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 26, 2018
Argentina poured forward, desperate to find a winner. Nigeria wasted multiple counters (Ighalo especially guilty of a two disappointing finishes). Argentina got away with a handball in the box ... and then because football is cruel and unjust, found a winner through Rojo, who kicked a man in the head earlier lest we forget.
MARCOS ROJO!!!— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 26, 2018
ARGENTINA GOES AHEAD! pic.twitter.com/D0hwtmehgF
Argentina are through. Nigeria are out.
This is why we can’t have nice things.