The stage was set for a Nigeria vs Argentina match, and the group was placed in such a way that the winner would take the round of 16 spot. Neither of the two teams have been good enough in the tournament so far, so it was a very even contest.
But in the end, it was Argentina's firepower which overcame the gritty Nigerian side. The 2014 finalists weren't exactly dominant or pretty on the eye, but in an 'everything or nothing' match, they had a bit extra in their tank than Nigeria.
Lionel Messi finally arrived in Russia, and luckily for Argentina, in the most important match. He started off looking fresher, stronger and sharper, and found his 'golden touch' in the 14th minute.
Ever Banegal, starting for the first time this tournament, played a sublime ball over the Nigerian defense. And the Argentine skipper took two touches, and made no mistake and giving his side a much needed lead.
From then, till the end of the half, it was all Argentina, as Nigeria strikers struggled to get in the game. In fact, Nigeria were very very lucky to not go 2-0 down in the 34th minute. Argentina got a free kick from a good position, and Messi took it. But it needed a sublime save by Uzoho, whose fingertips pushed the ball to the post.
For the first 45 minutes, it seemed the Argentina of old were back, and they would stroll through this game. But everything changed after the break. It all became slow, and the Argentina of the first two matches returned.
Nigeria got a penalty after Javier Mascherano was penalised for pulling Balogun down. Up stepped Victor Moses, and scored the equalizer. All the hard work of Argentina was outdone in a moment.
From that moment, till the end, it seemed Nigeria would be holding the 2014 finalists out. But Marcos Rojo had different idea. He started at the centre back, was shifted to full back after Tagliafico was replaced, and then was in centre forward when he scored.
Mercado put in a brilliant cross from the right, and it was met by the right foot of the defender. The goal sparked sheer happiness and delight in the Argentina camp.
They deserve their moment of happiness, given the result qualified them to the round of 16. But reality will hit them soon, given they are to play France in the next round.
For all the sharpness they showed against Nigeria, their displays and performance is nowhere near France. So, many may not agree, a lot of work needs to be done if Argentina are to continue this delight.