Match: Nigeria vs Argentina
Date and Time: Wednesday 26 June 13:00 Local Time, 17:00 Nigerian Time , 12:00 EDT
Location: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Argentina have already qualified for the World Cup knockout stage and are just a point away from confirming its progression as group winners and, in turn, avoiding France in the round of 16. Alejandro Sabella’s side faces a Nigerian team just one point away from joining Argentina in the next round – so could the two sides play out a draw that would suit both nations?
Argentina have not really got started yet in this World Cup. Sabella’s switch to a 5-3-2 to begin the tournament against Bosnia and Herzegovina did not really suit his side, which resulted in Gonzalo Higuain’s absence from the starting XI.
The Argentina-Bosnia match appeared like both managers were wary of his opponent’s attacking preference, with Safet Susic also switching to a more defensive minded formation – dropping Vedad Ibisevic in favour of defensive midfielder Muhamed Besic.
The change to the 4-3-1-2 has Lionel Messi, whose two goals have been the differences between victories and draws for Argentina at this point, in a free role behind the strike force of Higuain and Sergio Aguero. The Barcelona forward is not just leading his nation in goals, as he’s also shooting (5.0 shots per 90) and creating (3.5 shot assists per 90) more than his teammates.
To stop Argentina’s trio of attackers, Nigeria will be relying on Vincent Enyaema – Lille’s Mr Clean Sheet – who tied with Roma’s Morgan De Sanctis with the most clean sheets across Europe’s big five leagues during the 2013/14 season.
Super Vincent Enyeama conceded just 0.68 goals per 90 minutes in Ligue 1, with his save percentage of 78.5% ranking 2nd in the division behind Nice’s Colombian international goalkeeper David Ospina (80.2%). Furthermore, following Mexico’s 3-1 win against Croatia, Enyaema is now the only goalkeeper that has not conceded a goal (but he does have a linesman to thank for this) – making eight saves over his first two matches
The Super Eagles conceded just four times in eight qualification matches, joining Cameroon with the best defensive record on the road to Brazil, as the Nigerian attack struggled to score, averaging 1.38 goals per match (fifth lowest in Africa qualifying).
When considering Nigeria’s scoring rate in qualifying it is not exactly surprising that it has struggled for goals in Brazil, failing to break down a tough Iranian defensive unit in its opening game. However, Nigeria were better on the counter attack against Bosnia – and will likely take a similar approach in the Argentina match.
Manager Stephen Keshi is expected to field the same XI as what started against Bosnia, meaning that Peter Odemwingie will retain his spot. The Stoke City forward came into the side against Bosnia and continued to impress following his cameo against Iran, linking up well with Emmanuel Eminike, combining for 16 passes and four shot assists between the pair – including Odemwingie’s winner. Nigeria still need to create better opportunities – or look to pass before shooting – given that chances could be few and far between when facing the South American nation:
Nonetheless, Nigeria are in pole position to qualify alongside Argentina. Before considering its elimination, Iran have to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina. If that happens, a draw would see Nigeria qualify for the round of 16. There is, however, the potential for a World Cup first in this situation; if Argentina and Iran win 1-0 then it will lead to the drawing of lots for progression – as Nigeria and Iran will be tied on points, goal difference and goals scored as the two nations, of course, drew when the two nations played each other.
If Iran go ahead in the other game in the group, this match could become a tense affair for the African nation. Argentina are the favourites for a win this evening-otherwise Stephen Keshi’s side will be g
hoping for a favour from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nigeria Injuries & Suspensions: Godfrey Obaobona (Out)
Argentina Injuries & Suspensions: None