It was a match that had everything – goals, saves, drama, suspense, sublime skills, breathtaking saves and sharp twists of fate, with both teams really having a go at each other and so at the end, it was only fitting that the two teams which played their part in it deservedly qualified from their World Cup into the second round. For the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the irony must be that this was the match in which they put up their best performance at the world cup so far and yet the only one in which they lost and also lost their record as the only team not to have conceded a goal.
The match was billed as another chance for Messi to shine on the world stage and the ‘little one’ didn’t fail his numerous fans, as he struck two goals, the second a sublime free-kick which Nigerian goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama could only admire as it went in. However, the Super Eagles were not going to lie down flat to be bullied and through Ahmed Musa and Vincent Enyeama showed that they too can give any team a run for its money. Musa struck two goals, both coming shortly after Messi’s goals, to seemingly tell the Barcelona star that ‘anything you can do, I can also do!’ No wonder that a few minutes after Musa’s second equalizing goal, ‘musa vs messi’ became a trending topic on social media, while ‘Enyeama Saves’ has trended since Nigeria’s first match.
Nigeria needed a draw against Argentina to be absolutely sure of progression from the group stages for the first time since 1998 but also knew that anything but a win for Iran against Bosnia in the other group match was going to be enough. Since the Argentine paraded world super-stars with the likes of Mascherano, Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria and one of the greatest players ever to have kicked a football – Lionel Messi, beating the Argentines was always going to be an uphill task and so it was only normal that Nigerians retained a huge interest in the Iran match. However, the onus was on the Super Eagles to put in a respectable performance against the mighty South Americans and they did more than that – and in style too.
The Super Eagles had been derided by all for playing what was at the time ‘the most boring match of the competition’ against Iran but fans didn’t have to worry about that here, as it only took three minutes for the net to bulge when Messi smashed home after Di Maria’s effort came of the bar.
In Enyeama, Messi was lining up against one of the few goalkeepers who has come out of a match with him on top, after having made four world-class saves to keep Messi at bay, at the 2010 World Cup but he had finally broken the jinx.
The celebrations for Messi’s goal had barely died down when Nigeria levelled. Ahmed Musa cut in from the left and whipped a super finish inside the right-hand post, which deservedly, had both Nigeria and Argentina fans on their feet.
It was the first time in World Cup history that two opposing teams had both scored inside the first five minutes – excitement galore and more was to come!
Messi’s personal battles with Enyeama continued and after drawing an exceptional free-kick save from the goalkeeper, struck another beautiful one over the wall and beyond the Nigerian a minute into first half stoppage time.
Musa again came to the rescue, as three minutes after the restart, the lightning-quick winger played a one-two with Emmanuel Emenike before slotting the ball past Sergio Romero to become the first African to score twice in a World Cup match as more records came tumbling.
Another three minutes later and Argentina had scored again, when defender Rojo used his knee to convert a corner.
Argentina kept pressing especially through Di Maria after Messi had been taken off, but Enyeama was not about to be charitable to anyone, as he kept thwarting all that was thrown his way as the match ended in the same thrilling manner in which it began.
The Eagles ultimately lost the match but put up such a display that Nigerian fans have been won over and seem to have forgotten all about the unfortunate events of their opening match against Iran and are all now fully behind them. As France awaits the Super Eagles in the second round, will the might of ‘Naija’ behind the team take them further? Neutrals would not give the Super Eagles a chance but as this world cup has shown time and over again, anything can happen. Therefore, hope springs eternal!
Damilola Orehin is a freelance creative writer with interesting opinions and analysis of sports, entertainment and social issues. He has written on several established print and online platforms and he showcases his deep-rooted passion for a wide variety of sports at tecmosports.blogspot.com.
Follow him on twitter @Kundammy