Before their match against Nigeria, Argentina was struggling to qualify for the playoffs. All eyes were on Lionel Messi as he led the 2-time World Champions against Nigeria in the final game of the group stages.
In the previous two games of the 2018 World Cup, nothing went Lionel Messi’s way. He couldn’t find the back of the net and also missed a crucial penalty. But all that changed immediately as the little magician opened the scoring for Argentina against Nigeria in the 14th minute. A sublime finish from the Barcelona striker meant that his side was back in contention. A World Cup campaign that was looking like a disaster suddenly changed for the men in blue and white, they were on top and started to dictate terms on the pitch. But against the run of play early in the 2nd half, Nigeria was awarded a penalty and the Super Eagles were back in the game.
?? 2014 ✅
?? 2018 ✅
Marcos Rojo loves a winner against Nigeria at the #WorldCup
— FIFA World Cup ? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 26, 2018
What followed the penalty were 35 uneasy minutes for Argentinian fans including the legendary Diego Maradona who was in the stands supporting his side. Argentina tried everything possible but the match looked all set to end in a draw. But in the 86th min, Marcos Rojo turned Argentina’s world cup campaign on its head. A superb goal from the center of the box meant that Argentina was back and ready to qualify for the next round. After their opening game draw and a shocking 3-0 loss to Croatia, the pressure on the South Americans was immense but what made the team click? The answer – Lionel Messi. The captain wasn’t just leading his side on the pitch but also gave a very important half-time team talk in the tunnel that inspired his side to push harder. Interestingly, the Coach Jorge Sampaoli sat in the dugout when Messi was busy inspiring his teammates. The Argentinians are known for their last-minute comebacks and have succesfully qualified for the Round of 16.
? Lionel Messi:
Messi scored hatrick to send them to Russia✅
Messi pays for some of the staff’s salaries in the Argentina FA✅
Messi scores and inspires hope for his team✅
Messi coaches the team when the players lose trust in Sampaoli✅
Messi is more than just a player. ?? pic.twitter.com/QohYKrXsJZ
— Footy Jokes (@Footy_JokesOG) June 27, 2018
Argentina stood 2nd in Group D as Croatia took the top spot after 3 wins from as many games. The 1998 World Cup semi-finalists definitely look like a force to reckon with at this World Cup.
In Group A, Uruguay led by Luis Suarez & hosts Russia advance to the Round of 16.
In Group B, 2010 Champions Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal advance to the knockouts.
In Group C, France and Denmark qualified to leave behind Peru who beat Australia to win their first World Cup match in 40 years.
Yash Chawla is former Sports Anchor of NDTV. With over 9 years of experience as a Sports Journalist, Yash now sails with Crowdynews.com