By Chux Odoh
An 86th-minute goal by Argentina defender Marcos Rojo was enough to kill off Nigeria’s dream of progressing to the 2nd round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after the last round of matches in group D.
The Nigerian team with 3 points needed only a draw to progress to the next round while the Argentines needed to win the match by all costs after their world cup campaign started in a very poor note. They had scored only one goal in their draw with Iceland and suffered an embarrassing defeat against group leaders Croatia.
The game started with the Argentines controlling possession in the early stages of the game and were soon rewarded with the first goal after Lionel Messi was gifted a perfect long pass from inside the Argentina half. Messi controlled the drop ball masterfully as he created space away from the charging Nigerian defender Kenneth Omeruo before firing a shot with his right leg to beat Goal Keeper Francis Uzoho.
The Argentina team would have gone two goals up in the 34th minute as Messi saw his shot hit the upright at the left side of the goal. Also, Nigeria made a call for a penalty kick after Mascherano cleared out the ball with a high foot that struck Kelechi Iheanacho on the head but referee Cuneyt Cakir from Turkey was having none of it.
The second half began with Odion Ighalo coming on for Iheanacho as the Super Eagles looked for answers to get their first goal of the game. The answers came in the 51st minute as Willam Troost-Ekong was pulled down Mascherano in his attempt to deal with the corner. Victor Moses made no mistake as he took a calm penalty to equalise for the Eagles.
A moment of controversy was steered up in the 76th minute as Rojo was accused by the Nigerian players of handling the ball with his hand as he tried to defend a cross into the 18-yard. Referee Cuneyt Cakir had to take a second look at the incident on the VAR screen before declaring there was no penalty.
The second goal for the Argentine’s came in the 86th minute after Gabriel Mercado puts in a great cross which was connected by Marcos Rojo who volleyed the ball into the back of the net for a great finish!
Argentina now progresses with 4 points along with group leaders Croatia who also defeated Iceland in the second group D match played simultaneously to get all maximum 9 points.
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