Nigeria vs Argentina Preview: Sampaoli hoping to avoid embarrassment with victory over Super Eagles

Nigeria vs Argentina Preview: Sampaoli hoping to avoid embarrassment with victory over Super Eagles

With Croatia already having qualified for the knockout rounds, only one of these nations will be able to join them in the round of sixteen.

ryan-white
Ryan White

Having catastrophically embarrassed themselves last time out in a 3-0 defeat to group-toppers Croatia, the South American nation of Argentina will be eager to to avoid being humiliated with a win over the highly-spirited Nigeria who themselves are aiming to qualify for the knockout stages.

The Super Eagles put in a hard-working second-half shift on matchday two against Iceland, whom sit third in Group D on one point, with Leicester City man Ahmed Musa bagging an impressive brace to help his country get their first three points of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Argentina displayed what many will consider a 'dire' performance versus Croatia in a fixture which saw Chelsea shot-stopper Willy Caballero gift the European nation their opener before Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona has been hugely criticised in the World Cup for failing to live up to expectations with the forward yet to register a goal at this tournament, as well as Serie A duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala being uninspiring as well.

Will Argentina bow out of the competition at the first hurdle?

Many of the World Cup groups have already seen which teams will progress to the round of sixteen, but Group D, which consists of Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, is one that remains largely open as three nations battle it out for that second-place spot.

Jorge Sampaoli's men sit at the bottom of the pile on one point, the same as Iceland, and a win will almost guarantee them a finish in the top two, as long as Croatia can overcome their Scandinavian opposition on Tuesday evening.

Nigeria can ensure they're in the knockout stages with victory over Argentina, however, even a point may be satisfactory if Iceland win because of the Super Eagles' superior goal difference.

Both teams will be eager to attack the goal so spectators could be in for a real end-to-end match between these two countries.

 

Nigeria due an unchanged line-up

Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has restored belief into the Nigerian team and kept the dream alive for 186 million fans after that emphatic second-half showing against Iceland.

The German-born manager made a number of changes for their encounter over the European nation from their defeat to Croatia, club team-mates Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho were both leading the line, and despite a lacklustre opening 45 minutes, the former made a real impact with his two goals to secure the win.

Rohr may be tempted to remain with the starting eleven but the only position that is seemingly likely to change is that of left wing-back; 26 year-old Brian Idowu was replaced at half-time in the last outing by Benfica defender Tyronne Ebuehi.

Major shake-up for Sampaoli?

A World Cup campaign that has not gone to plan as of yet for Argentina, boss Jorge Sampaoli is yet to form a winning formula, having been appointed coach of the national team twelve months ago, with a wealth of attacking options which includes Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and was even brave enough to keep out Inter Milan starlet Mauro Icardi.

The former Sevilla manager may be tempted to drop goalkeeper Willy Caballero, after his howler against Croatia, in place of River Plate's Franco Amarni

Paris Saint-Germain attacker Angel di Maria was dropped for that game alongside Higuain and Dybala, so in a drastic attempt to qualify out of the group then Sampaoli may recall them to the starting line-up, but will be relying on Messi to come up with the goods.

''We were here to learn''

The Super Eagles have made it to the last two World Cups and made it to the round of sixteen four years ago before losing to France, so the country certainly knows what it takes to get out of a group but the manager is confident Nigeria can make it even further in the Qatar 2022 tournament;

"I thought before this World Cup we were here to learn. I think this team will be ready in 2022 and this World Cup is coming early, but we have a good chance to win against Argentina."

There are a number of young, bright talents within the Nigerian camp in Russia. 19 year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho is marking his territory this summer and so is midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, 22, of Leicester City.

 

 

 

"The relationship with Sampaoli is totally normal''

Numerous reports have suggested the Argentina national team has fallen out with coach Jorge Sampaoli, who is often criticised for struggling to maintain 'big name' players on his side and if that is the case then it come to no surprise as to why the attackers have failed to turn up at the tournament so far.

Former Liverpool man Javier Mascherano, now plying his trade in China, has had his say on the matter; "The relationship with  Sampaoli is totally normal, but if we feel uncomfortable, we will raise it, otherwise we would be hypocrites.''

"The opposite would be to harm the team, we must seek the collective benefit, we are 23, also those of the squad. We are not playing well and we take charge of the results."

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