|Messi curls in a free kick to give Argentina a 1-0 lead against Nigeria|
The Super Eagles gave a good account of themselves against the two-time champions who had Lionel Messi to thank for the narrow win. Alejandro Sabella’s outfit had qualified heading into the match while the Africans needed at least a point to guarantee their progress.
However, it was the Albiceleste who were quick off the blocks led by their captain Messi whose epic freekick easily went past Vincent Enyeama in Nigeria’s goal with only three minutes on the clock. But as they say in football, you are always vulnerable just after you score and so it was happened that a minute after la Pulga’s opener, Ahmed Musa drew Nigeria level with a sublime finish from the left.
This was the fourth meeting between the two sides at the World Cup, Argentina having won all the past three and they took the lead again just before half time when Messi thumped in after Angel Di Maria saw his effort hit the crossbar and the ball fortuitously fell on the captain’s path.
Yet, just two minutes into the second interval, Stephen Keshi’s men restored parity again, Musa expertly converting Emmanuel Emmenike’s pass to make it 2-2. With that goal, the Super Eagles became the first African nation to score two goals against Argentina.
Nigeria’s hopes of a famous draw lasted only three minutes after some suspect defending allowed Marcos Rojo to score what would turn out to be the winning goal with the highly encapsulating match ending 3-2 in favor of the 1986 champions.
Argentina topped the group on maximum points with Nigeria finishing second after Bosnia Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1. Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsajevic were on the score sheet and so was Reza Ghoochannejad who scored the consolation goal for the Asian nation.
Meanwhile France topped their group for the first time since 1998 to set up a clash with Nigeria in the knockout stages. Les Blues were held to a barren draw by Ecuador who were reduced to ten men after Antonio Valencia red card in the second half, the Man United man’s rash challenge on Lucas Digne earning him his second red card in two matches for the La Tri.
Switzerland seized the opportunity knocking the South Americans out with a 3-0 win over Honduras. Xherdan Shaqiri finally lived up to his billing scoring the 50th hat-trick in the history of the World Cup as Switzerland grabbed the runners up slot in Group E. The Bayern attacker scored in the 6th, 31st and 71st minute to send Ottmar Hitzfield’s side into the last 16 where they will meet Argentina.
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