It will feel like 2005 again when John Obi Mikel and Lionel Messi lead Nigeria and Argentina respectively to the pitch on Tuesday June 26 for to battle for a spot in the knock out stages of the World Cup. In 2005, these two were considered the best 18 year olds in the world and they duked it out at the U-20 World Cup final. Lionel Messi and his Argentina team prevailed that day but with much greater stakes, here are 4 reasons why Obi Mikel and his team are due a win.
Argentina is scared to play at this World Cup
It is a surprising thing to say for a team with the history of Argentina but that is the truth. Sampaoli and his wards have been scared to play in Russia so far. This team is nervous and unwilling to play to its potential. With several World Cup novices like Salvio,Tagliafico,Pavon,Meza and a nightmarish goalkeeping situation, the Albiceleste have been unable to impose themselves on their opponents. It is not going to change against Nigeria.
Nigeria's Rohr finally found his tactical mix
The Super Eagles were a tactical mess in their opening loss to Croatia but credit to Rohr and his technical team as they looked to have found an answer in their win over Iceland. Mikel returning to his deep midfield role allowed faster and more energetic players like Etebo and Ndidi to impose themselves and chase down opponents. Two goal hero Musa's return was a resounding success. Overall the Super Eagles have found a system that allows the entire team to be more fluid. Argentina will not be able to live with this in their current state.
Messi is in a foul mood
Argentina's legendary captain is capable of anything on a football pitch but has loked far from it in Russia. He has cut a frustrated figure as his ability to impact games has been limited by opponents. Reports from Argentina's training camp indicates a breakdown in communication between Messi and Sampaoli. That is never a good omen.
Nigeria has a poor record against Argentina but in their most recent game a year ago, Nigeria came down from a goal to beat their South American opponents. Its easy to say it was a friendly but anybody who watched that game saw a very competitive game.Nigeria will carry that psychological edge into this game. Its half the battle when your opponent knows you already have the capacity to beat them.