World Cup Group F preview: Nigeria v Argentina

Nigeria will play Argentina at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Thursday, June 26 from 2am AEST.

Head to head

Played 7: Argentina 4 wins, Nigeria 1 win, 1 draw.

The game

Argentina will look to secure top spot in Group F, while Nigeria will aim for at least a draw to secure a place in the knockout stage for the first time since 1998.

Argentina will be the favourites to win this match, however their group stage victories over Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina were not convincing enough to suggest this team can mount a serious challenge for the World Cup.

With qualification for the knockout round confirmed, Argentina only require a draw to top the group and set up a meeting in the knockout round with the Group E runners-up.

Nigeria will have to work hard to secure a draw or victory. A loss would leave the door open for Iran to qualify ahead of the Super Eagles if they defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina and record a better goal-difference.

The big issue

For Argentina, the big issue against Nigeria will be whether or not they can put in an improved performance to set them up comfortably for the knockout stages. Group stage form has been questionable so far, with Iran almost securing a draw last Saturday.

Despite having 70% possession against the Iranians, Argentina struggled to break through their persistent defence and, while three points were secured late in the game thanks to Lionel Messi, the Argentina squad will surely realise that a much better showing is necessary if they are to trouble France, Ecuador or Switzerland in the knockout round.

Nigeria come into this match following a 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and now find themselves on the brink of qualifying for the knockout stage. The main issue for the Super Eagles in this game will be their tactical approach.

A defensive mind-set for Nigeria could hold out an Argentinian attack that has been unconvincing so far in Brazil. However, against the likes of Messi and Sergio Aguero, there is always the risk of a quick breakthrough. A solid defensive line capable of sending the ball out to the midfield quickly on the break could find holes in the Argentine defence.

The game breaker

Messi – the captain has been the saviour of the Argentine side so far in this World Cup, having scored goals in both previous group matches to secure victory. He'll have to be ever-present once again to dictate play and secure top spot for his national team.

For Nigeria, coach Stephen Keshi will be well aware that his defence faces their biggest challenge yet in this World Cup when they go up against the likes of Messi and Aguero. Organising a disciplined defence comes first for Keshi and will be the key to any possible upset.

Prediction: Argentina 2 – 0 Nigeria

Nigeria will face an Argentina side determined to lift their third World Cup and will find limited attacking opportunities themselves.