The Super Eagles of Nigeria have crashed out of a major tournament, but this time, there is no ‘going back to the drawing board’ rhetoric which has been used umpteen times, the players are not being vilified-well except one of them- and Nigerians are actually pointing fingers to the referee.
Brave Super Eagles crash out of World Cup 2018
The Super Eagles are heading home after falling 2-0 to Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
This is because the Super Eagles of Nigeria did almost everything right. They played with their hearts, were disciplined and held their own against some of the best players in the world.
But sometimes the best isn’t enough. Tiny details not being attended to messes up the performance and that is exactly where the Super Eagles are right now.
A 2-0 loss to Croatia in the first game was disappointing and they felt the heat from Nigeria.
They made amends, bounced back to beat Iceland and for their crunch last Group D game against Argentina, Nigeria were not only up against a hurt Argentina but the whole of world football cheering on one of the greats Lionel Messi for maybe his last chance to save his World Cup hopes.
It was Messi that opened the scoring for Argentina, calmly controlling a pass inside the Nigerian area before blasting past Francis Uzoho in the 14th minute.
Despite falling behind, Nigeria held on, they played, marked, tackled and despite not threatening enough in attack, they kept the Argentines at bay.
Angel di Maria did manage to cause some problems for the Super Eagles with his pace, outrunning Leon Balogun into the Nigerian area before the defender fouled him and was lucky to get away with a yellow card.
Before the end of first half, Messi had the chance to threaten again but his freekick hit the post after a slight touch from Uzoho.
The Super Eagles kicked off the second half with intent and were soon rewarded with a penalty after Balogun was fouled in the Argentine box during a corner.
Victor Moses stepped up to coolly finish past the Argentine goalkeeper to level for Nigeria and send them to second in Group D.
From that point, the Super Eagles solidly defended wave after wave of Argentina attack, hitting them on a counter through Musa.
It will be Ighalo who will get much of the blame, missing some decent chances for the Super Eagles.
He fluffed a ball wide after a deflected pass from Musa got to him and then failed to finish past the Argentine goalkeeper after he had done well to cut inside to his strong right foot.
It will be these misses that Nigerians will playback as they reflect on this game and the decision of the referee not to award a penalty after consulting VAR on an Argentina defender that handled the ball in the box.
Ighalo aside, there is no one to blame really. Not Moses who failed to mark Marcos Rojo who was free in the box to net Argentina’s 86th-minute winner.