Never count out La Albiceleste! The momentum of this game went back and forth with everything riding on the result. For much of the second half the Nigerians seemed all but through, however one mistake cost them. An unmarked Marcos Rojo buried a perfect volley into the bottom right corner of the net in the 86th minute to eliminate the Super Eagles. Croatia claim the top spot with nine points on three wins, while Argentina escape Group D with a total of four points.
That is it! Argentina have stolen the three points with a late goal off of the right foot of Marcos Rojo!
The Argentinian fans at St. Petersburg Stadium are buzzing! The sheer noise is making it nearly impossible to hear any whistles from our referee's whistle.
Argentina are not simply sitting back and trying to defend in the final minutes. Instead they are pushing men forward, looking to counter at every chance possible, and hit the Nigerians in the mouth right after conceding a goal.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Simeon Nwankwo (on). Ahmed Musa (off). (Nigeria)
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria)
Alex Iwobi (on). Kenneth Omeruo (off). (Nigeria)
Gabriel Mercado flew down the right wing and whipped in a cross to the penalty spot. The pass is picture perfect and picks out an unmarked Marcos Rojo. Rojo coolly, calmly, and clinically volleyed the ball with the inside of his right foot to deposit it into the lower right corner of the net!
GOAL!! Argentina have scored!!!
Marcos Rojo. Assist by Gabriel Mercado (Argentina)
Oghenekaro Etebo lines up a free kick and goes for the upper right corner of the Argentine net! The effort seemingly bulges the net, but it instead rippled the side netting. Etebo's effort was nearly perfect, however it missed the target by mere inches.
Odion Ighalo charges into the box, loses his man, and fires a shot on goal from close range! Franco Armani comes off his line to close down the angle and makes a vital save by making himself as big as possible. Argentina's hopes and dreams were nearly crushed on that play.
Gonzalo Higuain has just missed a complete sitter at the near post following a cross from the left wing! The ball sat up perfectly for the striker who was unmarked by the Nigerian defense. He then blasted a left footed strike that missed the net horribly by several feet.
Jorge Sampaoli uses his last substitution of the day to bring on Sergio Aguero for Nicolas Tagliafico. And thus the Paulo Dybala debacle continues, especially if this turns out to be Argentina's last game of the 2018 World Cup.
Sergio Aguero (on). Nicolas Tagliafico (off). (Argentina)
There was just a VAR review for a possible hand ball by Marcos Rojo on his clearance. The defender's header glanced off his head and hit his hand inside the area. Our referee went to his station, viewed the replay, but kept his decision as no hand ball, and gives Armani a goal kick.
A counter attack springs a two on one opportunity for Nigeria!! Ahmed Musa sees the chance and swings in a cross from the left flank into the area. The ball is cleared by Rojo into the path of Odion Ighalo who scuffs his volleyed attempt wide.
Onyinye Ndidi finds a loose ball in the attacking third and pounces on his opportunity. Ndidi rifles a shot at the center of the goal, however he elevates it just a bit too much sending it over Franco Armani's crossbar by several inches.
Maximiliano Meza (on). Angel Di Maria (off). (Argentina)
La Albiceleste are beginning to send all of their attackers forward looking to find a winner. Argentina must score if they have any hope of advancing out of the group stages, as it stands Nigeria would escape in second on 4 points.
Ever Banega (Argentina)
The recent substitute Cristian Pavon utilizes his fresh legs to speed down the right flank and whips in a cross to the center of the area looking to find Gonzalo Higuain! William Ekong, though, tracks back just in time to intervene and claim possession of the ball before Argentina reclaimed the lead.
Cristian Pavon (on). Enzo Perez (off). (Argentina)
Ahmed Musa blazes down the left wing and burns Javier Mascherano that results in the speedster sprinting into the area! Musa levels a cross into the center of the area seeking to find his trailing teammates, however Marcos Rojo is in position to cut off the pass and clear it away.
In that matter of a few moments the standings in Group C shift based on two goals. Argentina are now destined to miss out on the knockout rounds after the Nigeria goal, while a Croatian goal has all but sealed Iceland's fate at the bottom of the group.
Victor Moses buries his penalty to the right of Franco Armani, runs out of the box, and executes an impressive tumbling flip! This game is tied 1-1 just like that!
Penalty Kick - Goal - Victor Moses (Nigeria)
Penalty to Nigeria after a corner kick! Javier Mascherano nearly loses his man and instead decides to drag down Leon Balogun just inside the six yard box. The Argentines plead for a VAR review, but it appears that this will stand.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
The final 45 minutes are underway in St. Petersburg! The teams have switched ends and now it will be Nigeria that attack right to left. Gernot Rohr makes one change at the break bringing on Odion Ighalo for Kelechi Iheanacho.
Odion Ighalo (on). Kelechi Iheanacho (off). (Nigeria)
It finally feels like Argentina are in the driver's seat of a match in this year's tournament. They bossed play for much of the first half and really only had to defend against a small number of attacks during the closing minutes of the period. Lionel Messi's goal was a thing of pure beauty, but in the end it might not be enough as Iceland could still sneak through ahead of La Albiceleste with a win over Croatia.
Franco Armani earns his first save for Argentina in the 2018 World Cup following a Nigerian flicked header placed on target by Leon Balogun. The keeper looks to turn play upfield, but Cuneyt Cakir blares his whistle to bring the opening 45 minutes to an end. Argentina lead Nigeria 1-0 at the break!
A deflected cross into the area results in a midair collision between Kelechi Iheanacho and Marcos Rojo. The Super Eagle flails around in the area looking to draw the foul, but the referee allows play to continue on. It appears that while Rojo's leg was in an elevated position, it was actually Iheanacho that initiated the contact.
Oghenekaro Etebo attempts his second shot of the match, his first was blocked immediately but the result of this one is far worse. The right footed attempt is terribly mishit by the Nigerian as it is skewed so wide that it goes out for a throw in.
A lovely series of passes arches the ball from the right side of the area all the way to the left and onto the feet of an open Angel Di Maria. Di Maria lines up his shot and blasts a left footed attempt, but Victor Moses closes down the gap to block the effort and swing play out of the box.
Angel Di Maria is sprung by a brilliant pass in behind the defense! The speedy winger charges to the edge of the area as Leon Balogun's legs tangle with his taking him down. The yellow card is immediately shown to the dismay of La Albiceleste who feel it should have been a red card.
Leon Balogun (Nigeria)
Ever Banega has been absolutely massive in the midfield so far this afternoon. The Sevilla man assisted on the Messi goal, created several other chances, and has defended excellently against the Nigerian counter attack.
Lionel Messi plays an inch perfect pass into the path of a streaking Gonzalo Higuain inside the area! Higuain gets an initial touch on the ball, but Francis Uzoho comes out off his line and expertly stops any further attack by the Argentines.
Leon Balogun works a beautiful give and go with Victor Moses that sends the defender into space down the right wing! Balogun tracks the ball down and tries to shepherd it out for a corner kick, but Nicolas Otamendi shoves him to the ground. The Super Eagles cry for a foul, but the referees disagree allowing play to go on uninterrupted.
Angel Di Maria flings a free kick in from the left sideline looking to find his teammates at the far post. The pass has far too much weight on it, but in the end it doesn't matter as the referee spots a foul by the Argentine attackers and whistles the play dead.
Ever Banega hammered a picture perfect long ball over the top to find the streaking Lionel Messi! Messi controlled the ball with a deft first touch off his thigh, then lifted his head up, bent it around the charging Francis Uzoho with his right, and buried it into the far side of the net!
GOOOAAAL! LIONEL MESSI!! Argentina lead 1-0!
Lionel Messi. Assist by Ever Banega (Argentina)
Javier Mascherano foolishly gives the ball away inside his own half to Kelechi Iheanacho which springs an odd man break the other way! Iheanacho reaches the edge of the box and winds up a shot, but Javier Mascherano rights his wrong by making an excellently timed slide tackle to dispossess the Nigerian.
Ahmed Musa claims a clearance out of the box by the Argentinian back line and tries to go for goal from distance! He lashes at the ball causing him to fall during the attempt, but his aim is quite impressive for such an off balance shot as it soars above the crossbar by only a few inches.
Nigeria earn an early chance on the counter attack as they nearly catch their opposition's defense sleeping! Oghenekaro Etebo pounces on the ball at the top of the box and attempts a low driven shot, but it is immediately blocked away by Nicolas Otamendi.
Gernot Rohr's side is clearly pulling back all the way to their area looking to earn a point on a draw or possibly hit the Argentine's out on the break. Argentina, on the other hand, seem content with possessing the ball for long periods of time seeking to find a way to create a chance.
We are underway in St. Petersburg! La Albiceleste attack from right to left during the first half in their classic sky blue and white striped uniforms, while the Nigerians wear a sharp and simple forest green kit. The man in the middle today is Turkey's Cuneyt Cakir who is assisted by his countrymen Bahattin Duran and Tarik Ongun, as well as Bjorn Kuipers from the Netherlands.
These two countries have met a total of eight times before today with Argentina claiming five of those games. It should be noted that the last time these teams faced off, though, that Nigeria stunned La Albiceleste in Krasnodar by the score of 4-2 with goals scored by Kelechi Iheanacho, Bryan Idowu, and two from Alex Iwobi.
Argentina Bench: Nahuel Guzman, Cristian Ansaldi, Lucas Biglia, Federico Fazio, Marcos Acuna, Maximiliano Meza, Eduardo Salvio, Sergio Aguero, Giovani Lo Celso, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavon, Willy Caballero
Nigeria Bench: Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Elderson Echiejile, Odion Ighalo, Abdullahi Shehu, Simeon Nwankwo, Joel Obi, Daniel Akpeyi, Ogenyi Onazi, Alex Iwobi, John Ogu, Chidozie Awaziem, Chidozie Awaziem
Argentina (4-4-2): Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico; Enzo Perez, Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain
Nigeria (3-5-2): Francis Uzoho; Leon Balogun, William Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo; Victor Moses, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Obi Mikel, Onyinye Ndidi, Brian Idowu; Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho
To say that La Albiceleste have struggled would be a massive understatement. Their time in Russia has been surrounded by rumors of unrest between the players, their coach Jorge Sampaoli, and the Argentine Football Association. Argentina sit at the bottom of the table with just a single point through their first two matches and now must win and receive help in order to reach the knockout rounds. The pressure will no doubt fall upon the shoulders of Lionel Messi who had to carry the team through their final CONMEBOL games which helped them narrowly qualify for this tournament. Can La Pulga Atomica put the team on his back again and drag them through to the next stage of the 2018 World Cup?
The gorgeous St. Petersburg Stadium in the historic Russian city built across over forty islands plays host to a crucial Group D tie in just an hour's time. Argentina must win this match if they have any hope of advancing to the next round, while Nigeria can draw and still move on depending on the result of the other game between Iceland and Croatia. Please stay tuned for our match preview and the breakdown of today's starting lineups.