Lionel Messi put on another show against Nigeria, scoring two goals in his side’s entertaining 3-2 win against the Super Eagles in the teams’ final Group F match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday, as both squads advanced to the Round of 16.
Ezequiel Garay scored the winner for Argentina in the 50th minute, breaking a 2-2 draw and giving La Albiceleste a perfect record heading into the knockout round.
Ahmed Musa had two goals for Nigeria in a losing cause, as Nigeria twice cancelled out Argentina leads.
Iran’s loss to Bosnia-Herzegovina meant the Super Eagles are also on to the Round of 16, despite losing to La Albiceleste.
Garay’s goal off a corner may have won the match, but with Argentina already advancing, it meant more to La Albiceleste to see Messi score two more goals, the latter on a beautiful curling free kick.
Man of the match
Lionel Messi. With two more goals to his name, La Pulga might just be in the form of his life right now. It might be enough by itself to win Argentina the World Cup, such is the might of Messi’s talent.
It was a good day for…
A good old-fashioned scoring race. Messi has four. Neymar has four. This is getting fun.
It was a bad day for…
Tuning in slightly late. If you missed the first five minutes of both halves, you wouldn't have seen four of the five goals scored in the match.
Those early goals gave us a bit of history – it was the first time that both sides scored in the first five minutes of a World Cup match, ever.
They said it
"We were better in this game, regardless of the goals we conceded. We were more threatening today, found the spaces to exploit and had more chances to score. But we still want more," said Lionel Messi.
"It’s an honour and we’re very happy to reach the next round. I think we lost the game because we showed them too much respect in the first half. After the break we managed to play our game, attacked more, had more possession and were better overall," said Stephen Keshi, Nigeria manager.
What this means
If Lionel Messi keeps playing like this, there will be no doubt: Argentina will make it to the World Cup final. Such is the strength of his talent. But it wouldn’t hurt to shore up the defence a touch.
The side’s next match is against the runner-up in Group E, likely Switzerland or Ecuador on Canada Day (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, Tuesday, Noon ET).
A solid performance in Group E has earned the Super Eagles a place in the Round of 16. It’s the first time Nigeria has made it that far in the World Cup since 1998.
The problem is that they’re likely playing a rampant French side on Monday (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, Noon ET). If the Super Eagles want get to the quarter-finals for the first time ever, they’ll have to come up with the performance of their lives.