Lionel Messi Comes Good for Bad Argentina
Lionel Messi scored once as Argentina beat Nigeria 2 – 1 to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Lionel Messi has been possibly the most scrutinized player of the competition so far. His home nation of Argentina is ready to blame him for any failings of the team. As well as that, there is a global audience fully expecting him to light up the World Cup.
Cutting a frustrated and stressed figure in Argentina’s previous two games, Lionel Messi seemed more assured before kickoff on Tuesday.
Rumors abound of a player revolution in the Argentina camp. Several senior players have apparently requested of the Argentine FA to fire coach Jorge Sampaoli.
If it is player power leading Argentina, Messi has even more responsibility, and he stepped up in the first half. He began the game brightly, taking the game to Nigeria, and opened the scoring in the 14th minute.
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Ever Banega played a beautiful lofted pass over the top, and Messi was in behind the Nigerian defence. He controlled the ball with his thigh, then his foot and finished with his right foot into the far corner.
It was the moment that Messi and Argentina had been waiting for. However, it didn’t spark a confidence-boosting, dominant performance from Argentina.
Nigeria were still in the game, and the Argentine defense looked as vulnerable as it has throughout the tournament.
Javier Mascherano gave away a penalty in the 49th minute. After an extended wait, Victor Moses converted to make it 1 – 1.
Nigeria had arguably the better chances to win the game, but Argentina got the winner from an unlikely source. Mercado crossed the ball into the box from the right, and center back Marcos Rojo was waiting in the middle.
Rojo fired a controlled volley into the bottom corner and it was clear how much this meant to the Argentines.
However, they still had four minutes left to play, as well as five minutes of stoppage time. Argentina saw the game out, and the fact that Croatia beat Iceland 2 – 1 meant qualification was secured.
Argentina will face France in the Round of 16 on Saturday. Both sides are loaded with quality, but neither has shown it so far in the tournament.
The winner of this game will be the side who becomes a team rather than a collection of talented individuals. In spite of this, it will still come down to how Messi performs in an Argentina team that is lacking ideas right now.