Going into their final group match, the Super Eagles of Nigeria need only a draw to advance into the next round. Coming off of a gritty and controversial 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria face group leaders Argentina, who have already secured a spot in the Round of 16.
With Iran the only other team still alive in Group F, they will need to defeat Bosnia while hoping that Argentina defeat Stephen Keshi’s men, all while securing an advantage through goal difference (or even goals scored as an additional tie breaker). But with their fate in their own hands, Nigeria must do three things in order to secure a result against Argentina, becoming the first African team to progress to the next round in the 2014 World Cup.
Stay Compact in Defense
Against Iran, Argentina faced a side that exhibited a resolute defense that allowed few opportunities. Only a late Lionel Messi goal separated the sides, and for much of the match, Iran appeared to be the more likely to score the winning goal. Based on individual talent, Nigeria has superior players in defense, and with start goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in fine form, they are more than capable of stifling Argentina’s star-studded front line.
Knowing that they only require a draw to advance, a defensive approach will be a predictable tactic from Keshi. Against Bosnia, the defensive partnership of Joseph Yobo and Kenneth Omeruo did well to defend against Edin Džeko – apart from the early goal that was incorrectly judged to be offside. After that moment though, Nigeria rarely looked like conceding, up until a late chance that was well saved by Enyeama. Against a superior Argentine team, however, such moments of sporadic vulnerability will not go unpunished.
Attempt to Score on the Counter Attack
Having been made to look toothless in attack, Argentina will likely try to make a statement against Nigeria. This emphasis on attack may result in holes in their defense that Nigeria can exploit on the counter attack. With the pace and power of Emmanuel Emenike and Peter Odemwingie, who combined for Nigeria’s goal against Bosnia, the Super Eagles’ attack may find themselves with a handful of opportunities to nick a goal. Against Iran, Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero was called into action much more than was to be expected, but Argentina’s defense may run out of luck against a more clinical forward like Emenike.
Select the Correct Team from Kickoff
Against Iran in their opening match, Keshi selected Victor Moses and Ramon Azeez in midfield. Both had poor matches and were substituted. By their second match, they were replaced in the starting eleven by Peter Odemwingie and Michel Babatunde. As a result, the team looked much more balanced and more creative in attack. Odemwingie, at the very least, must start against Argentina. Playing in front of John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi, they were able to neutralize Bosnia’s midfield trio of Pjanić, Misimović, and Bešić. Argentina’s midfield looked short of ideas against Iran, so maintaining a healthy balance in midfield will be key for Keshi and co.