The Super Eagles of Nigeria gave millions of their fans a foretaste of what to expect during the FIFA 2018 World Cup as they defeated a star-studded Argentina by four goals to two on a cold night in far away on Russia.
Billed as a FIFA graded friendly match, we knew the history between Nigeria and Argentina won’t make it all that convivial. The Super Eagles and Albiceleste have met about five times and there had been only one victory to boast of – The June 2011 4 – 1 victory in an international friendly.
In 1994 at the World Cup in the United States, Diego Maradona and Claudio Cannigia ‘connived’ to cancel out Samson Siasia’s 8th minute goal. Nigeria qualified from the group with Argentina and Bulgaria who were hammered by the Super Eagles three goalsto nothing.
Gabriel Batistuta scored the lone goal in Japan-Korea 2002 in the group game to edge out the Super Eagles despite Ike Shorunmu’s exploits. Another single goal in the group stage by Gabriel Heinze was the difference in South Africa 2010.
The only major reprieve in a series of woes against the Albiceleste came at the Under 23 cadre when Nigeria’s ‘Dream Team 1’ beat Argentina to the gold at Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and of course, the comprehensive win in the friendly of June 2011.
Lionel Messi and Ahmed Musa scored a brace each as Nigeria and Argentina met for the fourth time at the group stage in the World Cup. However, Marcos Rojo denied the Super Eagles their first decent result at that level with a 50th minute winner.
Today’s friendly therefore came with a lot of history that required a bit of positive bend for the long-suffering Eagles and they ensured it did with some style.
Today’s game, in preparation for the Russia 2018 World Cup, was played in Krasnodar, Russia with Argentina parading star players like Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Paulo Dybala, Nicholas Otamendi and Angel Di Maria.
Ever Banega scored the first goal via a well taken free-kick in the 27th minute that left goal keeper Akpeyi stuck to his knees. Manchester City record scorer, Sergio Aguero added the second four minutes later with good work from the right to leave the Eagles totally rattled.
As if on cue, Kelechi Ihenacho scored a superb free-kick in the 44th minute of the first half to reduce the tally to 2-1. Almost comprehensively dominated in the first 40 minutes, the Super Eagles left the pitch with a spring in their legs at the break.
Nigeria came back squarely into the game just 7 minutes after the restart to level matters with Alex Iwobi’s second goal in three games for the Super Eagles.
Nigeria’s ‘new boy’, Brian Idowu made it 3-2 in the 54th minute to set the stage for a grand finish as Iwobi scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-2.
It was an amazing and soul lifting victory for the Super Eagles. Not too early to say, ‘here we come Russia’!