Messi double inspires Argentina to victory
- 25 June 2014 19:06
- Posted by @porter_mcfc
Two sensational strikes from Lionel Messi helped Argentina triumph in a five goal thriller over Nigeria to cement their place as Group F winners.
An early goal for both sides hinted at the entertainment to come, with the two teams creating attractive attacking moves in an enthralling game that matched the enjoyment of this tournament so far.
Pablo Zabaleta completed all 90 minutes for his country, but injury forced Sergio Aguero off during the first half – a substitution which will take some of the gloss of this performance from an Argentinian and City point of view.
The Blues striker had looked lively during the opening stages and linked up well with Messi but was unable to get his name on the scoresheet before departing the field. Martin Demichelis was an unused sub.
La Albiceleste began the match knowing their place in the round of 16 was already secure, courtesy of Lionel Messi’s sizzling stoppage time strike against Iran last time out. However, it wasn’t quite job done and dusted, with the South Americans still needing to take at least a point off Nigeria to finish as group winners.
Much was expected of the Barcelona forward before this tournament, and he continues to deliver. Inside two minutes he broke the deadlock with a sweetly-struck volley that smacked the roof of the net after Angel Di Maria’s strike had bounced back off the bar.
Nigeria have never beaten a South American side at the World Cup, but they showed a disregard for statistics and scripts when they equalised after little more than 60 seconds. Ahmed Musa curled the ball round Zabaleta and into the far corner to warn the Argentines they still had plenty left in the tank.
Di Maria and Higuain both had chances to take the lead, while Aguero’s cute ball across the six yard box was gathered by the Nigerian keeper under pressure and Kun had a shot blocked after good work from Zabaleta on the right hand side.
As half time approached Messi was unlucky to see a sensational free kick saved by the finger tips of Vincent Enyeama. The Super Eagles failed to heed the warning and ceded a second opportunity to the Argentina star in a similar position shortly after, and he made no mistake that time.
Musa added his and Nigeria’s second just after the break, but again there was an immediate response – this time from Argentina’s Rojo who restored the lead from a corner.
There were plenty more chances in a thoroughly engaging encounter, with Lavezzi seeing a number of opportunities to seal the victory, while Di Maria deserved a goal for an influential and creative display.
However, the sting was largely taken out of the game after Messi's substitution midway through the second period, and both sides went safely through thanks to Bosnia's win over Iran.
Argentina’s victory guaranteed top spot and a round of 16 clash with the Group G runners up.