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Argentina looking to take their second chance

World Cup Group D
BBC1, 7pm Tuesday


Argentina have got themselves into a fine mess during this World Cup campaign but could Lionel Messi be the man to rise above the mayhem to save his nation from humiliation?

It has not been a tournament to remember for Argentina, who only just scraped into the finals in the final round of Conmebol qualifying thanks to a Messi hat-trick in Ecuador before a troubled preparation which included a 6-1 friendly thrashing in Spain.

Surely things would be better in Russia said many? Well not quite.

Messi missed a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Iceland and their World Cup turned sour on Thursday as they collapsed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia. Post-match talk centred around the possibility of sacking coach Jorge Sampaoli and reports suggested some players had attempted a coup to takeover team affairs.

However, from the brink of an early exit, Argentina have been given a lifeline due to results elsewhere and a win over Nigeria in St Petersburg will be enough to take them to the last 16 as long as Iceland don't triumph against already qualified Croatia.

If Argentina and Iceland both collect maximum points the South Americans will have to do so by a greater margin as their goal difference is one inferior. A point could be enough for Nigeria but only a victory guarantees qualification. That should lead to a shootout and Messi has shown he is capable of saving Argentina.

Reports suggest Messi will be in a front three alongside Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria which is likely get joy against the Super Eagles, particularly with Ever Banega expected to come into midfield to knit the team together nicely.

Sampaoli bizarrely chose to go without a playmaker in the opening two games and it was therefore no real surprise that Messi was unable to get the ball in dangerous areas.

However, for all of Argentina's firepower they have given up numerous chances in both their games in Russia. A lack of pace has been one of many issues and Sampaoli has been unable to find a solution.

Reverting to a back four seems sensible but Nigeria have the speed up front in Ahmed Musa to take advantage of any slips.

The Super Eagles beat Argentina 4-2 in a November friendly and another ding-dong affair seems likely, particularly given the situation in the group which means Argentina may need to keep coming forward even if they are ahead.

Musa's double against Iceland got Nigeria back on track, but it was only their second clean sheet in nine games and would not have been a shutout had Gylfi Sigurdsson converted his penalty.

Nigeria, who are inexperienced at the back, conceded twice to Croatia in their opener and are just as unconvincing as Argentina.

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