Lionel Messi has one final chance at escape.
With Argentina in last place on the final day of Group D play, Messi needs a heroic performance to lead his team over Nigeria. A win in all likelihood will save Argentina and send them through to the next round, but Nigeria are up to the challenge and have advancement plans of their own.
Nigeria vs. Argentina Odds
This could be a weird one. Argentina is the moneyline favorite, priced at just -175. Nigeria is the underdog at +505, and the draw is priced around +350. Argentina are a spread favorite, laying a goal at -110.
The goal total is set at 2.75, with the over slightly favored at -120.
Despite being the underdog, the OddsShark computer is projecting a 2.0-1.2 win for Nigeria.
Nigeria vs. Argentina Prediction
Before we break this down, let’s get into the advancement scenarios for these teams. Iceland and Croatia are playing at the exact same time, making things more complicated for Messi and Argentina.
With six points, Croatia are guaranteed passage to the next round. Nigeria trail them with three points, and Iceland and Argentina lag behind with one point apiece.
Croatia is projected to dispatch Iceland, putting them atop the group with nine points. The result that matters is Nigeria-Argentina, where just a draw will likely send Nigeria through to the next round.
The pressure is on for Argentina- they haven’t been knocked out at this stage of the tournament since 1934, before the group format was introduced.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli- who has been dealing with dissension in his camp, is expected to make changes to his squad. One of those could be in goal, where Willy Caballero’s gaffe against Croatia turned the contest.
As for Nigeria, they could repeat the successful changes that led to their 2-0 victory over Iceland. Nigeria started the tournament playing four-man back line, and switched to a 3-5-2 in against Iceland.
Nigeria know the stakes on Tuesday, and are aware of the hype surrounding Argentina’s potential departure.
“We are not here to watch him play. We’re here to get a result,” said manager Gernot Rohr. “We are professionals and we have to defend the colours of Nigeria. In football, there is no mercy, no pity. Everybody wants to win.”
“I never thought about it, but that’ll be our main goal — to make it Messi’s last World Cup game,” added defender Brian Idowu. “As much as we love watching Messi play, there’s only one option and it has to be that he plays his last game here in St Petersburg.”
I’d like to imagine some Messi heroics on Tuesday, but I’m thinking Nigeria play them the same way Croatia did: cutting off access to Messi whenever possible. Forcing Argentina to play without Messi makes them an average team with a mistake-prone defense, one that the Super Eagles can exploit to their gain.
I expect Argentina to get at least one and make a go of it, but their flaws are too glaring for Nigeria not to exploit. I’m taking Nigeria to win, but also taking Both Teams to Score.
Prediction: Nigeria, BTTS