Argentina got into the Round of 16 after a scintillating win against Nigeria in the final match of the infamous ‘Group of Death’. Argentina, which was straddled at the bottom of the group before the match, can heave a sigh of relief after scrapping through. Croatia was the other team from the group which went to the Round of 16.
Playing possibly his last World Cup, Lionel Messi produced a perfect show to prove why he is rated one of the best footballers in the world. Commanding his team, which faced early elimination from the World Cup, Messi kept the heat on and took his team ahead scoring in the 14th Minute.
A perfect long ball over the top by Ever Banega was sublimely brought down by Messi, who then drove past Nigeria’s teenage keeper Francis Uzoho to open the scoring. The capacity crowd most of whom were rooting for Argentina erupted in joy.
Responding to the first blow Nigeria raised the tempo but wasted several chances to equalise.
Soon in the second half, Javier Mascherano fouled Leon Balogun in the danger area and the Nigerians got the window after they were awarded a penalty through VAR. Victor Moses put one coolly past the Argentinian keeper equalising in the 51st minute.
The following minutes saw Argentinians struggling and at times outpaced. While Nigeria needed just a draw to guarantee its place for the Round of 16, the two-time World Champions needed nothing less than a victory.
Just as it seemed the curtains were nearly down, defender Marcos Rojo spaced out a goal and gave Argentina a 2-1 win and a ticket to the Round of 16.
The two-time World Champions will face 1998 title-holders France who are looking good in this World Cup after topping their Group.
In the other match of Group D, Iceland’s first World Cup stint came to a fighting end after they were defeated 2-1 by Croatia. A late strike from Ivan Perisic gave way to Croatia’s victory after the latter equalised in 76th minute through a penalty stroke from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
After a goalless first half and Iceland missing flurry of chances to go one up. Croatia took lead in 56th minute through a lethal strike from midfielder Milan Badelj.
The World Cup debutants though equalised in the 76th minute to set up an enthralling finish, which culminated with the 90th Minute strike by Ivan Persic.
While Croatia will meet Denmark in the last 16, Iceland, the smallest ever nation to compete at a World Cup, will go back with one point from their tournament they earned after drawing with Argentina in their first game.