Argentina 2-1 Nigeria: 5 Talking Points as Argentina qualify for Round of 16, World Cup 2018
Argentina beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final World Cup Group D game in what was a tense encounter at the St Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday night. The result sees them qualify for the knockout stages in second place in the group behind Croatia.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the first half before Victor Moses converted a penalty in the second half to equalise. At this stage, Nigeria were going through while Argentina were going home but Marcos Rojo popped up in the box to score the winner in the 86th minute to eliminate the African side.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
#1 Contrasting formations make for an intriguing tactical battle
As soon as the lineups were announced, there must have been a collective sigh of relief when Argentina fans saw the teamsheet. Jorge Sampaoli had decided to scrap the three-man defence and had opted to go back to a back-four.
Nicolas Otamendi and Marcos Rojo started at centre-back in a 4-3-3 with Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Enzo Perez in midfield. Gonzalo Higuain started up front with Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria on either side.
As a result, Argentina started on the front foot. The hard-working Di Maria was effective in putting pressure out on the left and he tracked back to press the midfield in a bid to win the ball back and initiate attacks.
Nigeria - playing a 3-5-2 - had to sit back to absorb the pressure and hit them on the counter-attack. Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa played up top but John Obi Mikel played in a deeper role compared to the no.10 role he had adopted in the first two games.