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Nigeria 1-2 Argentina: Late Marcos Rojo winner propels Albiceleste through to knockout stage

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Marcos Rojo scored an 86th minute winner to hand Argentina the victory they needed over Nigeria in order to qualify for the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday.

Following two underwhelming performances in their first two matches, the Albiceleste had to win against Nigeria in order to progress.

They did so by the skin of their teeth, with Croatia defeating Iceland in Group D’s other match in order to make certain Argentina’s place in the knockout rounds.

The Argentinian bench mobs Marcos Rojo after his vital goal

The game began with some early frustration for Argentina. In the first ten minutes Jorge Sampaoli’s side appeared to be producing similar form to their previous two performances as they were kept at bay by the small fouls and defensive solidity of their opposition.

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However, this changed with one moment of creative genius from Ever Banega in the 14th minute.

The Sevilla midfielder crafted a beautiful pass from deep which fell deftly for Lionel Messi and left him in on goal. Three perfect touches later and the ball was in the back of the net, Messi’s genius allowing him to control the ball exquisitely, hold off his marker with ease and fire into the far corner with his weaker foot.

Messi celebrates his opener with pure passion

Argentina came close to doubling their lead twice in the first half. Gonzalo Higuain had a shot closed down by Francis Uzoho and the 19-year-old goalkeeper once again came to his country’s rescue later on as he tipped a Messi free kick against the post.

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These misses proved costly early in the second half as a penalty was given against the South Americans. Javier Mascherano was caught holding onto Leon Balogun as a corner was played in, allowing Victor Moses to roll home a 51st minute equaliser from 12 yards.

Moses slots home the equaliser

Nigeria then reverted back to their initial frustration tactics from the opening ten minutes and nullified their opposition at every turn.

Oghenekaro Etebo was immense throughout the match, but ultimately his country’s defence fell asleep at the vital moment.

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With just four minutes left of normal time, Gabriel Mercado got free down the right hand side and whipped a cross in to the penalty spot.

Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo was inexplicably the man in the middle to meet it and made himself the hero, as he calmly side-footed a volley into the corner of Uzoho’s net.

LINE-UPS

Nigeria: Uzoho; Omeruo, Balogun, Ekong; Moses, Etebo, Ndidi, Mikel, Idowu; Musa, Iheanacho.

Argentina: Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Perez, Mascherano, Banega, Di Maria; Messi, Higuaín.

TABLE

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