FOLLOW all the action from ReportersAtLarge as Brazil take on Costa Rica at the 2018 World Cup on Friday 22 June 2018.
We were treated to another late show tonight, this time from Argentina, who snuck into the second round when Marcos Rojo broke Nigerian hearts. They’ll play France on Saturday, while Croatia will play Denmark on Sunday. Thanks for emailing and reading. I’ve been very biased. Bye.
Croatia won Group D and will play Denmark on Sunday evening. Argentina will play France, who won Group C, on Saturday afternoon. That should be a cracker, even if both sides are extremely flawed. My bet is we’re going to read a lot of Pogba and Messi pieces in the next few days.
Rojo scored the winner when Argentina beat Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup. That one wasn’t quite as significant.
Full-time: Nigeria 1-2 Argentina
Peep! Peep! Peep! Argentina have somehow reached the second round of the World Cup thanks to a winning goal from Marcos Rojo! Nigeria are devastated! The entire Argentina bench race on to the bench! Diego Maradona is … happy.
Armani, the debutant, runs out to beat Mikel to a loose ball in the Argentina area! That should be it!
Mascherano’s face is still covered in blood. Absurd. Messi is booked for timewasting. This is utter mayhem.
Messi almost breaks through, only for Idowu to challenge him. Messi hares after the wing-back and tackles him down by the corner flag. Alex Iwobi replaces Musa.
Mikel is booked for … something. This is mad. There will be four minutes of added time. Meanwhile it’s Croatia 2-1 Iceland. It’s all down to Nigeria now. Can they find an equaliser? Or are they going to slump to their fifth World Cup defeat to Argentina?
The noise when that went in was extraordinary. St Petersburg feels like Buenos Aires now. But this isn’t over yet. A Nigeria goal changes everything. So does an Iceland goal. What drama!
GOAL!!! Nigeria 1-2 Argentina (Rojo, 87 min)
Argentina have their Toni Kroos moment!
Banega launches another pass over the top to Meza, who takes it on his chest before crumpling to the floor. It was a fine challenge from Moses, though. The blood-stained Mascherano screams at the referee, who isn’t going to give a penalty.
Nigeria probe down the left. They work the ball into the area and Ighalo takes advantage of shabby defending, powering past a weak challenge and moving towards Armani. He has Mikel in the middle, but Ighalo tries to stroke it into the far corner, only for Armani to save with his feet!
Sergio Aguero replaces Tagliafico. How Argentina could do with one of Aguero’s late shows. They’re dominant at the moment. They attack down the left. Meza arrives on the overlap and pulls the ball into the middle. Higuain chokes and fires miles over the bar from 12 yards out! What a dire miss! Messi looks anguished.
Meza can’t control the ball in the Nigeria area. The chance disappears. Argentina attack again. Messi prods a pass to Tagliafico, who lashes a shot out for a throw.
It’s Croatia 1-1 Iceland in the other game in Group D! Gylfi Sigurdsson has equalised from the spot. If Argentina score and Iceland score, Iceland will go through.
After a long delay Cuneyt Cakir runs to the side of the pitch to check the monitor. He’s stuck to his decision: no penalty. It’s the right one – Rojo headed the ball on to his arm. It was rubbish defending but it wasn’t handball.
Pavon’s persistence works the ball to Mercado, whose cross is headed behind for a corner on the right. It leads to nothing. “Argentina’s substitutions are criminal,” Zafar Sobhan says. “No Aguero? No Dybala?”
Meza runs down the left. He keeps running. Keeps running. Then he kicks the ball behind for a goal-kick. Argentina are starting to look very bad. It’s down to Messi to save them, isn’t it?
Maxi Meza replaces Di Maria, who played like Louis van Gaal was on the touchline.
Musa produces a lovely piece of skill to beat Mercado on the left. He plays a pass inside to Igahlo, whose dummy sets up Ndidi for a shot that zips just over from 20 yards.
GOAL! Nigeria 1-1 Argentina (Moses pen, 51 min)
This is so cool! Moses casually strolls up to the ball, waits for Armani to move to the right and then rolls the ball to the other side! Nigeria level and, as it stands, are going to finish second!
Victor Moses will take the penalty. But there’s a long delay while Cuneyt Cakir sorts out some pushing and shoving on the edge of the area. Ighalo and Rojo were at it. It all blows over.
That penalty came from the crazy lack of communication that led to the Nigeria corner. It was a long throw from Nigeria and three Argentina players all went for the ball. What a farce. They’ve handed Nigeria the upper hand. It will be fascinating to see what this does to Argentina’s approach.
PENALTY TO NIGERIA!
49 min: Etebo’s corner from the left is headed away but Mascherano’s penalised for holding Balogun! Mascherano’s booked. There’s a quick VAR check, but the decision stands. Argentina have imploded!
Three Argentina players go for the same ball at the near post and contrive to concede a corner on the left.
Half-time: Nigeria 0-1 Argentina
Peep! Peep! The first half draws to a close with Argentina in front thanks to – you guessed it – a moment of magic from Lionel Messi, the man who apparently doesn’t care about his country. As it stands Argentina are finishing second. But Nigeria are surely going to have something to say about that in the second half!
Musa lifts a cross into the middle from the left. The ball takes a deflection and loops into the air, sparking Iheanacho’s interest. Rojo karate kicks the ball away – isn’t that dangerous play given that the ball was head height? – and then he inadvertently catches Iheanacho’s head with his leg. That could easily have been a penalty for Nigeria.
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Etebo’s shot goes out for a throw, which sums up Nigeria’s performance since Messi’s goal.
Iheanacho knocks a pass down the right. Musa races past Otamendi, but Armani sprints out of the area to boot the ball out for a throw.
On second viewing, that was a splendid save from Uzoho, who got the lightest of touches on Messi’s free-kick to tip it on to the post.
Banega, who has such terrific technique, plays a stunning pass through to Di Maria. Nigeria’s defence is so high. Di Maria races through on goal and Balogun clips his heels just outside the area! Di Maria was on his left foot and he was about to shoot, but Balogun gets away with a booking, presumably because Omeruo was in the vicinity. His sacrifice might be for nothing, though, because Messi’s standing over a free-kick 20 yards from goal.
“Banega’s pass “ball of the tournament”?” John Johnson says. “Maybe. But Messi took it on the turn with his knee, nudged it again with his left foot before it hit the ground, at full pelt without breaking stride, and then lashed it across the keeper with his weaker foot. Just a hell of a goal.”
My colleague Rob Smyth says it reminded him of Bergkamp v Argentina in 1998. It obviously wasn’t as difficult as that, but each touch from Messi was class.
Higuain charges down a Balogun clearance. All the intensity and momentum belongs to Argentina now. Nigeria lack fluidity. They could do with an extended spell of possession to calm themselves and make Argentina nervous.
Uzoho boots a clearance out of play. Nigeria look rattled. “Is it me or did Maradona look like he’s taking part in a satanic ritual during that celebration?” Benjamin Park says.
Moses runs down the right and wins a corner off Tagliafico. Iheanacho’s delivery amounts to nothing. “Well done Messi, great strike under pressure and whatnot, but that pass from Banagea was utterly sublime,” Greg Phillip says. “Just perfect. Ball of the tournament so far.”
14′ Goal! – Messi scores.
The forward received a pass from deep by Banega before finishing with his right foot past Uzoho.
Iheanacho gets dispossessed by Masvherano making a recovery tackle after he was gifted the ball in the attacking third. Poor and indecisive from Iheanacho.
Pressure building on the Nigerian penalty area as Omeruo boots a clearance after Argentina’s neat build up.
Argentina passing better and create a chance with Banega playing Tagliafico through on the left. Taglifico shoots wide under presurre from Balogun.
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.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).