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World Cup 2014
 

Nigeria 2 Argentina 3: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 26, 2014 2:50 AM
 
Argentina's midfielder Fernando Gago (back right) and defender Federico Fernandez challenge Nigeria's forward Michael Uchebo (left) during the Group F football match between Nigeria and Argentina at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre on June 25, 2014, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. -- PHOTO: AFP

This was set up to be less about which side would top Group F, than whether the rest of the Argentina side apart from Lionel Messi would finally show up. And there was more on the line, with Porto Alegre just across the border from Argentina and this stadium the closest to a home game that coach Alejandro Sabella's men could get. 

They made it a worthwhile trip for the tens of thousands who travelled, beating Nigeria 3-2 with two goals from Messi to finish group winners.

Nigeria also go through to the round of 16, thanks to a brace from Ahmed Musa.

Highlights

- Another match that started off with quick successive goals, beginning with a cool and collected finish by Messi in the 3rd minute. Started with a run down the left by Angel Di Maria, whose shot hits the post before bouncing off goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama's head. Messi runs in untracked to fire the ball into the top of the net.

- Nigeria respond just 80 seconds later through Ahmed Musa, who cuts past left back Pablo Zabaleta before sending a powerful curler past Argentina keeper Sergio Armero to level the match.

- Argentina find themselves back in front just before the stroke of half-time through a Messi freekick. The little magician had a freekick bound for the top right corner palmed away by Enyeama just minutes earlier, but beats the keeper on his second try at the same spot.

- Nigeria know how to respond quickly. Gets themselves back into the game two minutes after the break through Musa, who comes out of nowhere and fires through a gaping hole down the middle.

- Marcos Rojo benefits from some messy defending during a corner kick, catching team-mate Ezequiel Garay's header with his knee to put his team 3-2 ahead.

Key battles

Ahmed Musa/Emmanuel Omenike v Federico Fernandez/Ezequiel Garay

Argentina's centre backs were more than a few times beaten by the pace and partnership of Nigeria's dynamic duo. Musa's second goal, in particular, was a fine example. He showed how potent his speed can be, and could have scored a hat-trick if not for a timely challenge from Zabaleta.

Man of the match

Vincent Enyeama

Was captured on camera joking with the referee just before the start of the second half that Messi's free kick earlier was just too good for him to catch. Still, Argentina could have found the net numerous more times if not for the Lille keeper's saves.

The Nigerian defence did fairly well to hold off the Argentinian attack as much as they did, but relied heavily on Enyeama's safe pair of hands to palm, parry and push away danger when needed.

Easily one of the busiest players on the pitch, deflecting attempts from not just Messi, but also Di Maria, Higuain and later Lavezzi.

What this result means

Argentina, expectedly, finishes top of Group F and will meet the runners-up of Group E. More likely to be Switzerland, Ecuador or Honduras. 

Nigeria also go through as runners-up, and will face Group E winners, most likely to be France depending on the results of the 4am kick off.

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