The final set of FIFA World Cup 2014 group games is upon us—where on earth did the time go?
Here we analyse Nigeria vs. Argentina, a game in which the former are pushing for the top spot in Group F with a win, whereas the latter only need a draw to seal it themselves.
Nigeria are all but through to the knockout stage of this World Cup, with the only permutation allowing failure is a loss vs. Argentina combined with a surprising Iran victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Stephen Keshi could name an unchanged side but would welcome Godfrey Oboabona back if possible, with Joseph Yobo a ticking timebomb for a mistake on the international stage.
The flow of the game will suit the Super Eagles' strengths far better than the first two games did, enabling them to sit back, use three defensive-minded midfielders and spring counters through Emmanuel Emenike and Ahmed Musa.
Peter Odemwingie could miss out here.
"The guys who run out with Leo [Messi] today have been very fortunate," Angel Di Maria told FIFA.com ahead of Argentina's clash with Nigeria. "I think he’s in fantastic form and let’s hope it stays that way."
Had it not been for Messi, Argentina would not be in the position they are—first in Group F with six points—right now, and qualification would be looking significantly less straightforward.
A draw against Nigeria seals the top spot and a clash with either Switzerland or Ecuador in the round of 16—an attractive tie, it must be said.
Expect La Albiceleste to push ahead with their free-flowing 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 formation, giving Messi ultimate freedom. They'll look to kill it off early and substitute a few key players in the second half.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Emenike Behind Marcos Rojo
Argentina will dominate possession and push on up the field, committing both full-backs forward as they usually do.
Pablo Zabaleta is capable of holding his own vs. Victor Moses, Michael Babatunde or Odemwingie, but can Rojo handle a combination of Musa and Emenike?
Emir Spahic and Senad Lulic were destroyed when holding a higher line, and Keshi's men can find similar joy on the counter-attack here.
2. Clogging the Middle
If Nigeria are smart, they'll clog the middle of the park, using John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi and perhaps Ramon Azeez to try and match (or outnumber) Argentina in the central zones.
La Albiceleste had lots of trouble feeding the ball into their preferred areas against Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian, and they will do so again if the Super Eagles set up correctly.
They don't need their midfield trio to score; they only need to hold the fort and level the playing field.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.