Russia 2018 World Cup preview: Nigeria vs Argentina

Nigeria and Argentina will be battling it out for a last-16 spot at the World Cup, and Jorge Sampaoli’s side could make some unwanted history if the Super Eagles record a win.

Referee: Cakir C. (Tur)
Venue: Saint-Petersburg Stadium (Saint Petersburg)

26.06.2018           19:00

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It’s still all to play for on the final day of Group D as Nigeria take to the field against an Argentina side that is on the verge of a shock elimination. The two-time world champions currently sit bottom of the group on goal difference – simply put, it is win or bust!
The Nigerians have grown into the tournament, following up an opening day defeat to Croatia with a comfortable 2-0 win over Iceland on matchday two. The ‘Super Eagles’ need just a draw to qualify, providing Iceland do not win by two or more goals.
Interestingly, Nigeria have drawn Argentina in their group in four of the six World Cup (WC) finals that they have qualified for, losing every one of those games. This stat will be of comfort to Argentina, a nation that has not finished bottom of a WC group since 1958.
Argentina have not failed to qualify from a WC group since the 2002 offering. However, they have survived the group stage on ten of their last 11 appearances at the finals.

Key battles: In his nation’s win over Iceland, 19-year-old Nigerian keeper Francis Uzoho became the second youngest player ever to keep a clean sheet at WC finals.Image result for russia 2018 world cup francis uzoho

He will have his work cut out against Lionel Messi, who got two against Nigeria in the 2014 WC, but the ‘Atomic Flea’ has been off form so far this WC.
Stat attack: Nigeria have lost every single one of their five encounters to date against South American sides at a WC finals.

Team news

Willy Caballero is set to be dropped by Sampaoli after his mistakes against Croatia, with River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani – who is uncapped by Argentina – expected to take his place.

Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega could be recalled to the starting XI, while Gonzalo Higuain and Paolo Dybala are also available.

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel is set to play with his left hand in a cast after sustaining a fracture against Iceland, although will need to get the all-clear from match officials to wear the protective material.

Opta stats

Four of the eight games between Nigeria and Argentina have come at World Cup finals – Argentina winning all four contests.

Nigeria have faced Argentina in the group stages in each of their last three World Cups (2002, 2010, 2014).

Nigeria’s most recent encounter with Argentina came in November 2017, with the Super Eagles winning 4-2 in Krasnodar, thanks in part to a brace from Alex Iwobi.

All six of Nigeria’s wins at the World Cup have come against European opposition, with the Super Eagles drawing two and losing five against nations from other continents.

Nigeria are looking to win successive World Cup games for the first time since 1998 – three points will also guarantee a place in the knockout stages for the fourth time.

Nigerian attacker Ahmed Musa is now his country’s all-time top scorer in World Cup games with four goals after scoring twice against Iceland.

Messi has had 12 shots in this World Cup so far but has yet to score – that’s eight more attempts than any other Argentina player.

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Both teams have scored in five of the last six meetings between the sides.
Across the last six meetings (in all competitions) each side has registered three wins apiece.
These sides last met in November 2017, with Nigeria running out shock 4-2 winners.
Over 3.5 goals have been shared between the sides in each of the last four H2H encounters.
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