Spare a thought for this man and his team. Great effort in the second half from Nigeria, only to come up short.

The tears are flowing. Angel di Maria, Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano let the emotions flow.

This is how the table stands after three games. Croatia have a 100% record. Argentina second with 4 points.

Well folks, Messi lives to fight another day. Argentina get World Cup oxygen. Rojo learnt how to volley. Russia has witnessed great drama and Saint Petersburg merely added to that.

Full-time and it’s 2-1 to Argentina!

Leo Messi and Marcos Rojo score to send La Albiceleste through. Victor Moses equalised through a penalty but it was not to be for Nigeria. Sampaoli will be overjoyed and relieved.

90+3’: Nigeria with one last attack. 2-1 Argentina.

It results in a turn-over as Argentina have surely won this and progressed. One minute remains. Messi gets a yellow for time-wasting.

90+1’: Mikel is booked. 2-1 Argentina

Four added minutes as the Nigeria captain gets a yellow.

Maradona has a message for those watching on the telly.

89’: Argentina are back in the race again. 2-1.

Who would have thought that Marcos Rojo, of all the folks, would have been the one to step up for Argentina? Unbelievable game. Argentina are overjoyed.


Rojo with a volley which may send Argentina through.


The Nigerian number 9 has Armani to beat from a tough angle but the Argentine keeper makes himself big and keeps his team in the fray.


Receives the ball in the box, but blazes it over with his left foot. Cue the bottler jokes. That should have really hit the target.

80’: Substitution for Argentina, as Kun Aguero comes on. 1-1

Tagliafico is sacrificed, as the Manchester City man looks to score his second for Argentina.

77’: Argentina are saved. No penalty. 1-1

From a quick break, Ighalo received the ball in the middle but it appeared as though Rojo had handled it. Referee rules it ‘not deliberate’ as Argentina breathe.

76’: Nigeria ask for a penalty. VAR checks. Argentina have their hearts in their mouths. 1-1.

71’: Ndidi lashes it at goal. 1-1.

A quick break and Argentina are wide open. He thwacks it but it is over Armani’s crossbar. Meza replaces Di Maria.

69’: Messi has been kept quiet in this second half. 1-1.

Nigeria’s confidence has sky-rocketed since that goal and Argentina’s main man has not been able to exert his influence. These are not good signs for Sampaoli’s men.

65’: Banega is booked. 1-1.

The assist maker for Messi’s goal goes in rashly on Ndidi. Argentina need to keep their heads here or they’re heading home.

63’: Pavon with the pace to stretch the Argentina backline. 1-1.

The substitute stretches the Nigeria backline but Ekong slices it over his own goal. The resulting corner is wasted.

61’: Cristian Pavon comes on. 1-1.

Enzo Perez, so ineffective is hooked. Can Pavon aid the Albiceleste cause, we’ll just have to wait and see.

58’: Now, Nigeria are the ones going through. 1-1.

If things end as they stand in Saint Petersburg, the Super Eagles are the ones heading to a last 16 showdown with France. Argentina will have to book tickets to Buenos Aires if they don’t manage to break the deadlock.

53’: Nigeria suddenly charge forward. 1-1.

Ighalo has the ball but is tackled in the box by Banega. Which way will this game swing?

51’: GOAALLL!! Victor Moses scores from the spot. 1-1

The Chelsea man is ice-cool from the spot as he sends Armani the wrong way. Game on, folks!

49’: PENALTY!! Javier Mascherano pulls Balogun down in the box. 1-0 Argentina but for how long?

48’: Nigeria with a throw-in. It’s a long one. 1-0 Argentina.

Mascherano clears it for the first corner of the half.

46’: Three-quarters of an hour between Argentina and progression. They lead 1-0 in Saint Petersburg.

The teams are almost out there, as the second half is about to begin. 1-0 Argentina.

HALF TIME: Messi might have scored the goal, but Maradona has taken social media by storm.

HT: Messi and Banega 1-0 Nigeria

Well, Messi does it once again and what a finish, by Jove! Five shots for team Argentina, with 3 on target. 61% possession.

Argentina have a shaman performing voodoo for them.

Half-time and Argentina lead 1-0.

It’s that man, nay the Atomic Flea Leo ‘with the Houdini legs’ Messi who puts Argentina ahead on a crucial night. Under a mountain of pressure, Messi out to make a molehill of it.

If you want to catch the goal again:

44’: Iheanacho is down in the box. 1-0

Looks like a high boot but the referee waves play on. Meanwhile, Diego Maradona is totally immersed in the game.

40’: Musa with a burst of speed. 1-0 Argentina.

Iheanacho passed it long as the Nigerian forward sped ahead but Armani can clear it. Caballero looks on from the bench in awe.

34’: CLOSE FOR MESSI! Argentina lead 1-0.

The Barcelona forward takes the free-kick, curls it toward the far post but Uzoho is equal to it, palming it away. Cracker of a game, this.

32’: Di Maria is on his bike, brought down. 1-0 Argentina..

The PSG man was through on goal, but Balogun brings him down just before the penalty box. Takes the yellow, but more importantly, prevents a second. No doubts about the free-kick taker.

30’: Argentina, leading 1-0, have finally decided to show up in Russia.

Late but not too late for Sampaoli’s men as the first 30 minutes have seen them move the ball with purpose, looking to slice holes in the Nigerian defence. Where was this Argentina against Croatia, one is tempted to ask? Of course, the eastern Europeans were different gravy in a 3-0 win.

27’: Messi with a searching ball. HIGUAIN! 1-0 Argentina..

Weighted through ball by Messi but Uzoho is brave and comes out for it before Higuain can apply the lethal, finishing touch. Nigeria are on the ropes here.

25’: As it stands at 1-0, Argentina go through.

The two-time World champions are 2nd in the live table, with 4 points as compared to Nigeria, who have 3 and Iceland, who have 2. Cometh the hour, cometh the Messi.

21’: Argentina continue to push as they lead 1-0.

The Nigeria keeper with a wild clearance. Lots of pressure on 19-year-old Uzoho tonight.

More on Ever Banega:

The Sevilla midfielder, coming off a good season, is clearly an important member of the Messi support cast and he proved that tonight. A simply lovely ball over the top for Messi and the Barcelona forward could not say no to the offer. Hopefully, Sampaoli sees the light.

18’: 1-0 Argentina. Di Maria with the free-kick...

It goes way over everybody’s head as the referee signals for an infrigement. St. Petersburg witnesses the 100th goal of the World Cup, scored by none other than Messi.

14’: GOALLLL!! 1-0 Argentina

Ever Banega with the lofted pass, Messi is through on goal, finishes it adroitly with his right foot.

10’: 0-0. Nigeria under significant pressure.

The ball comes in from the right but Argentina are unable to break through. Not exactly the Sampaoli fledglings tonight, going by Argentina’s average age.

8’: 0-0. Tagliafico has a shot.

The left-back goes forward, has La Albiceleste’s first chance of the game but he shoots wide. Argentina with the early momentum.

7’: 0-0. Messi breaks...

Beats three Nigerian players, but is brought down. Argentina with a free-kick taken short.

4’: 0-0. Otamendi with a raking pass...

But it finds no one and goes into goalkeeper’s arms. Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr is no spring chicken. He led Bordeaux to the UEFA Cup final in 1996, 22 years ago.

1’: We have kick-off. 90 minutes, 1 and a half hours between Lionel Messi’s Argentina and elimination/elation. Stay glued.

11:28 pm: Early indicators are that it will be a two-top system for Argentina with Messi and Higuain up front. It’s Hail Mary time for La Albiceleste, folks!

11:25 pm: The teams are out in St. Petersburg and it’s national anthem time.

11:20 pm: Group D as it stands:

1. Croatia - 6 pts

2. Nigeria - 3 pts (GD: 0)

3. Iceland - 1 pt (GD: 1)

4. Argentina - 1 pt (GD: -3)

Nigeria are in the best position to get the 2nd spot in the group. Avoid defeat to La Albiceleste and they are through.

11:15 pm: Yerry Mina had strong words of support for club-mate Lionel Messi after scoring in Colombia’s 3-0 win over Poland.

“Leo is a great footballer, a genius, and I respect him for the person he is. I don’t know why he’s being criticised... what he has achieved is incomparable.

“As he told me when I arrived at Barcelona, he shouldn’t pay attention to what’s being said. Just play.”

Read more here.

11:10 pm: Coach Jorge Sampaoli has spoken about Argentina’s ‘five finals’ prior to the match.

“We have to make our goal five games to reach the final. Tomorrow will be the first final. No matter who plays tomorrow will have the obligation to give until the last bead of sweat so that Argentina will go through. We don’t have any alternative and I am sure this is how it will go. Tomorrow, I am sure that they will see the best version of Argentina at this World Cup.”

Read more from Sampaoli here.


11:05 pm:

La Albiceleste have exited in the first round six times in the past, including 2002, where they were paired up with Nigeria in South Korea and Japan.

Argentina were paired with high-ranking teams such as England, Nigeria and Sweden in Group F of the competition, which was considered by several commentators as the “group of death”. Argentina began well with a 1-0 win over Nigeria thanks to goal from Gabriel Batistuta. They, however, lost their following game to England as David Beckham scored through a penalty to hand his side a decisive 1-0 lead. A 1-1 draw to Sweden in the final group game sealed their fate as Argentina made a pre-mature exit from the competition.

Read about 2002 and other first-round Argentine exits here.

11:00 pm: Lots of opinion on Messi and what his role tonight should be.

Kaka, the former Brazil international said, “Messi is going through a difficult period with Argentina and this shows the importance of the group in football. He is someone who strengthens those around him, but when it’s not working he also starts to struggle. It’s quite surprising that against Nigeria, this struggling Argentina side could still qualify, but we’ll see what happens.

Read Diego Maradona, Lothar Matthaus’ and other thoughts here.

10:50 pm: Nigeria are unchanged today but Argentina look like they have a plan. The selection of Gonzalo Higuain is particularly crucial as the Juventus target man may be the antidote to their troubles in attack. Kun Aguero is a fine sharp-shooter, but Higuain’s presence up front, despite all the jokes, is an unique option that is available for Leo Messi and the rest of the creators. Just how he will be used is also unclear. He could be used in a two-top system with Messi or as a sole focal point of attack, leaving Messi on the wings to cut in and shoot/pass.

10:40 pm: Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel on the prospect of qualification:

“To advance from this so-called ‘group of death’ would be massive for us as a team and for the younger players – for their development and for their next World Cup. They can get a good taste of how a World Cup works. They gain a lot of expierence and can build on that in the next four years.”

10:30 pm: Changes galore for Argentina as Franco Armani replaces Willy Caballero in goal. Gonzalo Higuain gets a start ahead of Kun Aguero. Nigeria start in a 3-5-2 with Ahmed Musa, double goal-scorer against Iceland up front.

10:20 pm: Well, well, well, what do we have here?

Argentina need to win to avoid elimination and reports of Jorge Sampaoli being asked to step around have floated. The Argentine coach changed his formation last time around and paid for it with a 0-3 loss against Croatia. What can Messi pull out of his hat here?

Hello and welcome to the live updates of the winner-takes-it-all contest between Argentina and Nigeria. The Albiceleste were on the brink of elimination after a humiliating 3-0 loss to Croatia, but Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Iceland on Friday offered the two-time world champions a lifeline.

Victory over Nigeria in their final Group D match in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday would send Argentina through as runners-up if group leaders Croatia avoid defeat against Iceland.

Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Lucas Biglia trained separately from the rest of the squad in the gym as they recover from minor knocks.