Nigeria vs Argentina will take at Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre on Wednesday, June 25 (9:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM local time). The South Americans will look for the first place in the Group F, while the Eagles want to ensure their place in the round of 16.
Argentina is at the top of Group F with six points, two more than Nigeria and five more than Iran, so they are already qualified for the round of 16. Nevertheless, they want at least a tie against Nigeria in order to finish at the first position and face the second-placed in Group E, which should be Ecuador or Switzerland, in the round of 16.
If they lose against the Eagles they’ll finish at the second place and in that case it’s almost guaranteed that they would face France in the next stage since Les Blues have a goal average far better than their group opponents and it’s highly improbable that they don’t finish at the first position.
On the other hand, Nigeria needs a tie against Argentina in order to finish at the second place and qualify for the round of 16, while a victory over the South Americans will ensure them the first position.
If they lose against Argentina and Iran defeats Bosnia-Herzegovina, the goal average (or goals scored in case of a tie) will decide whether Iran or Nigeria passes the group stage, with a curious fact: since Nigeria tied against Iran in the first match, if Argentina defeats Nigeria with difference of one goal and Iran wins over Bosnia-Herzegovina with the same result, both teams would have the same amount of scored and received goals, and the definition of the second place would be a drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee. (see the Appendix for two historical examples of this).
Argentina won the two matches, but the team performance was worse than expected since with powerful attack men like Messi, Higuaín, Agüero and Di Maria they only could win both matches by one goal difference.
For Wednesday match, manager Alejandro Sabella may rest the players that played in the previous matches, but the boss hasn’t confirmed the lineup yet.
Sporting Lisboa full-back Marcos Rojo is the only one who has seen a yellow card in the first two matches, and perhaps Sabella doesn’t want to risk him because other yellow card would ban him for the round of 16 game.
On the other hand, Nigeria tied the first match against Iran with no goals, in one of the most boring matches of the World Cup, and they defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 last Saturday (goal scored by Cardiff City striker Peter Odemwingie).
Defender Godfrey Oboabona resumed training after a foot injury that he got in the match against Iran, and manager Stephen Keshi can rely on him for the Wednesday game.
Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama is the only one in all the World Cup who hasn’t received goals yet, after Croatia midfielder Ivan Perišić scored against Mexico on Monday and ended Guillermo Ochoa streak without receiving goals.
Argentina faced Nigeria three times in all history, all in the World Cup group stage, and they won the three games: 2-1 in 1994 and 1-0 in both 2002 and 2010.
Nigeria vs Argentina Prediction
In my opinion, Nigeria will look for the victory even when a tie ensure them a place in the knockout stage, since they surely don’t want to face France in the next round.
If they do so, I believe that Argentina can win the match by two or three goals because they have many players that would play better against an opponent that looks for the victory rather than against a defensive rival.
In addition, if Argentinian manager Alejandro Sabella decides to play with some alternative players, they will give everything in order to demonstrate the boss that they can help the team in the round of 16 too.
Nigeria 0 – 2 Argentina
Nigeria vs Argentina Television
The Nigeria vs Argentina match will be televised in the USA on ESPN3 (stream) and Univision Deportes at 9:00 AM Pacific.
Appendix: Two times in which a tie was broken by drawing of lots.
In 1990 World Cup, Netherlands and Ireland finished the group stage with the same amount of points, scored goals and received goals, but in that occasion both teams qualified for the round of 16. Ireland won in the drawing of lots and they faced Romania, while Netherlands had to play against the future champions West Germany. Both teams lost and couldn’t qualify for quarter-finals.
That definitions system also left Spain without qualifying for 1954 World Cup, when they finished with the same points than Turkey at the group stage (the goal average was better for Spain but that didn’t matter in that moment). Both teams played a tie-break match in Rome that, after overtime, finished 2-2, and a 14-year-old boy was asked to pick the name of the qualifying team with his eyes blindfolded.