Nigeria’s Super Eagles can join Group F leaders Argentina in the next round of the FIFA World Cup when the sides meet in Porto Alegre today.
With two wins from two in Brazil, Alejandro Sabella and co have already ensured their place in the knockout stage, although Nigeria have work to do to stay in the competition.
Lionel Messi helped ensure Argentina at least second place with his late winner against Iran, while Peter Odemwingie was Eagles hero against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It leaves Stephen Keshi’s men three points clear of Iran in second place and in need of only a point to progress.
Because of the the goalless draw when the sides met in their World Cup opener, a 1-0 defeat for Nigeria, coupled with an Iran win by the same scoreline, would make for a World Cup first – lots being drawn to send one nation through and another out.
Progression for Argentina may be the bare minimum when it comes to expectations from their fans, but for Nigeria it would represent an impressive achievement and a sense of redemption for Keshi.
He and his side came in for criticism in certain quarters after their dour draw with Iran in the group opener, but the win over Bosnia has helped ease pressure on the former defender.
The 52-year-old says a lack of patience back home has been disappointing, adding that he always felt his charges would come good.
“There was never a time I said that this team was not good. It’s just that Nigerians don’t have patience,” he said.
“They write you off just like that, which is terrible.
“They forget that these kids they have blood in their system, they’re human beings. Everybody can make mistakes.
“If not for Messi (in the) last minute it would have been 0-0 just like us. Does that mean that Argentina is bad?”
Messi’s goal was likely as much a relief for Argentina as the player himself, with the Barcelona man having firmly put his disappointing goalscoring record at World Cup tournaments to bed.
He has two in as many games at this year’s competition with the only sour note for Argentina the lingering sense of unfulfilled talent.
The likes of Messi, who was critical of Sabella’s tactics in the win over Bosnia, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria are yet to form the sum of their parts, but the four-time world player of the year insists they are heading in the right direction.
“We know we are not playing as well as we are expected,” he said.
“But as we go along in the tournament, we will be improving and we will reach our full potential.”
Argentina have no fresh injury worries, while Victor Moses and Godfrey Oboabona are doubts for Nigeria.
NIGERIA v ARGENTINA
1 WINS 4
1 DRAWS 1
4 LOSS 1
6 MATCHES PLAYED 6
6 GOALS SCORED 8
This will be the fourth meeting involving Nigeria and Argentina at a FIFA World Cup; Argentina won the previous three to have taken place.
Nigeria have registered just one win in six previous attempts against Argentina in all competitions (D1 L4).
Nigeria have never won against a South American team at World Cup (L4).
Argentina have mustered just eight goals across the six matches played against Nigeria; an average of 1.3 per game.
Argentina have won 11 and lost just one of their last 14 World Cup group games (D2), scoring 27 and conceding just five in total in this run.
Lionel Messi has scored eight goals in his last seven appearances for Argentina.
Argentina are looking to win all three group games at a World Cup, as they managed in 2010 under Diego Maradona.
Nigeria won their first World Cup game in 10 outings against Bosnia and Herzegovina (D3 L6).
The Super Eagles have now gone 221 minutes without conceding a World Cup goal.
Since losing their first game against African opposition at the World Cup (Cameroon in 1990), Argentina have won their last four from sides from that continent.