Russia 2018 Watch: Messi’s Argentina move through

PUBLISHED: 21:48 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:16 27 June 2018

Argentina's Lionel Messi during the FIFA World Cup Group D match against Nigeria at Saint Petersburg Stadium (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)

Argentina's Lionel Messi during the FIFA World Cup Group D match against Nigeria at Saint Petersburg Stadium (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Read our World Cup blog over the coming weeks. Lee Power reviews one of the late games on day 13 of the tournament

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Nigeria (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Nigeria (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)

Clearly, it’s not over until the fat bloke sings.

Argentina were four minutes away from an ignominious exit from this World Cup, when Marcos Rojo volleyed a dramatic winner against Nigeria.

Diego Maradona could not contain his excitement.

After the farcical 0-0 draw between co-qualifiers France and Denmark a few hours earlier, this was a must-win game for Lionel Messi and Co following their 3-0 humbling at the hands of Croatia.

Nigeria's Victor Moses (left) celebrates scoring against Argentina (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)Nigeria's Victor Moses (left) celebrates scoring against Argentina (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)

Guy Mowbray set the tone by likening St Petersburg to Venice and Paris, romantic European cities. Inside the stadium it was like Buenos Aires as the passionate Argentine fans belted out their national anthem.

Jermaine Jenas called the atmosphere ‘electric’ and it felt just like that watching from my sofa.

Despite seeing England knocked out by the ‘Hand of God’ in 1986 and a penalty shoot-out in 1998, I was actually hoping Argentina would get the result they needed to progress to the last 16, for the chance to see more of Messi.

Nigeria were wearing their smart green kit, rather than their party green, but Kelechi Iheanacho lost his footing when trying to punish a stray pass from Javier Mascherano.

Diego Maradona holds a banner of himself in the stands before the FIFA World Cup Group D match at Saint Petersburg Stadium (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)Diego Maradona holds a banner of himself in the stands before the FIFA World Cup Group D match at Saint Petersburg Stadium (pic Owen Humphreys/PA)

Then, with almost a quarter of an hour gone, came Messi’s best moment of this tournament.

Evan Banega played an inch-perfect pass upfield, Messi controlled it on his left thigh and helped the ball on with his left instep, then smashed a right-footed shot past Francis Uzoho and into the far corner of the net.

He had attempted 22 shots without scoring until that moment and his last World Cup goal had been four years earlier, against Nigeria.

Rio Ferdinand was impressed in the BBC studio, saying: “He puts it in the top bin. It is ridiculous.”

The 2018 World Cup is being played in RussiaThe 2018 World Cup is being played in Russia

Maradona was close to tears already. Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli was again looking like Andre Agassi.

It was the 100th goal of this World Cup and a fitting finish.

Mascherano, despite having a record 146 caps to his name, was ‘having a tough time, struggling to find a pass’ according to the commentary, having managed a perfect 70/70 in the first half of the Iceland game.

Messi threaded the ball to Gonzalo Higuain, who let it run off his toe, then saw his left shin connect with Uzoho, the 19-year-old keeper who had been part of Nigeria’s World Under-17 Cup winning team at the age of just 14.

“It’s a team game, but these guys make the difference,” said Mowbray.

“He’s in the mood,” added Jenas, who was less sure about the Argentine defence, adding: “This back four don’t fill you with confidence. You feel like there’s going to be a mistake.”

Banega sent Angel Di Maria streaking clear, to be clipped by a covering defender, and Messi was inches away from doubling his side’s lead, but his free-kick hit the far post.

“It’s absolutely brilliant from Uzoho, he just got a fingertip to it,” noted Jenas after a replay.

Maradona was shown on screen, appearing to have fallen asleep, with Mowbray then telling viewers how Nigerian media had recalled the 1994 World Cup meeting between the countries, which Argentina won 2-1, before Maradona failed a drugs test that signalled the end of his career.

The Africans were claiming they would do the same to Messi, whose side took their slender lead into the break.

And Nigeria sent on former Watford man Odionn Ighalo for Leicester’s Iheanacho during the interval, then drew level within six minutes of the restart when Mascherano was penalised for holding at a corner.

“Harsh,” said Jenas. Chelsea’s Victor Moses, cool as you like, rolled the spot-kick into the net to level.

Nigeria – as it stood – were in second place behind Croatia at this point, with Argentina now blowing, with their average age over 30.

Sampaoli sent Cristian “Kirsten Dunst” Pavon on in search of a second goal, but his side looked like unravelling, with Nigeria now quicker on to Messi.

Wilfred Ndidi blasted over, Ighalo shot wide, VAR was consulted for a possible handball against Marcos Rojo for a mistimed header. No penalty was given.

Sergio Aguero was sent on for the last 10 minutes, but the situation was summed up perfectly by one Adam, on BBC Sport’s website.

He posted: “Argentina look like a pub team whose big centre-back called Daz has roped in his ex pro brother-in-law to one-man team it for them at number 10, in exchange for 2 pints and some pork scratchings”.

Right on cue. Higuain slammed a shot over. Chris Waddle said it bobbled on radio.

Ighalo then forced Argentine debutant Franco Armani into a save and Oghenekaro Etebo, of Stoke, fired into side netting.

Nigeria looked the more likely to net a winner when – bang!

It was the 86th minute and the ball came in from the right and Rojo, having stayed upfield from an earlier attack, sent a sweet low volley flashing into the bottom corner for his third international goal

“Now this place is absolutely rocking,” said Jenas. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Rojo running onto it, but he was free as a bird.”

Rojo had form apparently, netting the winning goal in 3-2 victory four years ago, when Argentina had already ensured their progress anyway.

But as Mowbray noted: “This lightning bolt carries more power”.

Messi was booked for time wasting during four minutes of injury time, mortal after all.

Nigeria played the ball into the box one last time, but it ran beyond John Obi Mikel to the keeper.

“Armani is as Armani should be, very sharp,” said Mowbray as Argentina claimed their fifth successive win over Nigeria, all by single-goal margins.

“World Cups have been won by slow starters before,” added Mowbray.

Argentina play France on Saturday for a place in the quarter-finals, while group winners Croatia meet Denmark.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford Sports News


Football manager beat actor Emily Atack to win this year’s series

Everyone Active Raiders came from two goals down to sting the Bees and complete a superb four-point weekend in National League Division One.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Raiders toppled National League Division One leaders Swindon with a superb display at the Link Centre on Saturday to make it three wins in a row.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Josh Staunton was dismissed for Shaymen in 35th minute, but Essex club still unable to win

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Romford were made to pay the penalty after falling to defeat against bottom club Witham at Spa Road.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Anderson strike inspires Hammers but they are left to cling on at the end

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Hornchurch had to settle for a share of the spoils with Kingstonian are three late goals at Bridge Avenue.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Vanarama National League: Dagenham & Redbridge 1 (Munns 60) Halifax Town 1 (Clarke 80)


From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read sport

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now