This group had many different ways it could have gone. It all stemmed on how Lionel Messi and Argentina would fare in their first two games. Each teams chances would come down to how they played, and what kind of result they could muster from Argentina in their respective matches.
After 2 matches played for each team, the points are as followed. Croatia with 2 decisive wins (2-0 against Nigeria and 3-0 with Argentina), in the 2nd place, however, is the Super Eagles with 3 points and both Iceland and Argentina with 1 point apiece.
It’s very simple for Nigeria, a win and they are into the round of 16 (with a likely matchup with France). A draw would leave them at 4 points and in danger of being left out if goal difference does not favor them (we remind everybody the first tiebreaker in the instance two teams are tied is goal difference between them).
Lionel Messi can’t be a leader, he isn’t bred to be a leader. Arguably the greatest footballer of his generation; yes. A leader is another type of monster and something that Argentina, the whole nation relies on Messi to be. Jorge Sampaoli is not the man to lead this team either, as he has shown that he cannot inspire passion or coherence in his tactics or coaching.
Argentina will come out swinging, they need to win and win big to qualify, so we expect a full lineup with all their creativity in tow as they look to get a coveted 3 points, and it stands they need to beat the Super Eagles 3-0 to have a chance in tiebreakers.
Nigeria did what they needed to do, they beat an inferior opponent with their speed and physicality. Something they needed to do to beat a team like Iceland. Garnet Rohr did one change that made the difference, the insertion into the starting lineup of Ahmed Musa, as evidence of his 2 goals scored to beat Iceland. That change upfront looked to propel players Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho into positions where they could use their skills in a more advantageous way and lead Nigeria to a calmer offensive approach.
We were hesitant with Nigeria after their showing against Croatia in their opening group match. Croatia proved it wasn’t Nigeria that played bad but Croatia looks like a team headed to at least the final 8 of the tournament. Sporting by far the most creative midfield, they put aside both Nigeria but also heavy group D favorite Argentina. We don’t see coach Rohr taking many chances. A draw can see them through (Iceland does not have enough flair and clinical finishing to make up the tiebreaker in goal difference needed). If Nigeria can stay focused, keep their defense intact for 90 minutes and hit on the counter-attack (Argentina is very suspect to the counter-attack in the back), we can see them at least scoring 1 goal; especially towards the end of the game when Argentina needs to score more goals. A perfect storm for the Super Eagles to strike. 1-1 draw for us is a likely scoreline, as the pressure on Argentina and the mess that surrounds their coach is too hard for the team surpasses. Nigeria comes through as 2nd place and a position in the round of 16 of the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup.