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World Cup Latest: Nigeria Flies African Flag in Second Round

World Cup Latest: Nigeria Flies African Flag in Second Round

Nigeria reached the knock out stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1998, despite losing 3-2 to Argentina in an exciting game in Porto Alegre on Wednesday.

The Super Eagles, who have equaled their best ever feat, came unstuck against their familiar foes.

Lionel Messi twice put the South Americans in the lead early, but Ahmed Musa pegged them back both times only for the African champions to finally succumb to Marcos Rojo’s goal from a corner kick.

For Stephen Keshi and his team, it was their best game of the tournament thus far and they showed that they are capable of playing with the big boys.

After an opening draw with Iran that looked drab and poor, they went on to secure a slim victory against Bosnia and thus ensured that their final game with Argentina would be not more than a classification game.

Having come under a lot of criticism, Keshi’s boys showed they had a cutting edge in Porto Alegre as they quickly shocked the Argentines following Messi’s opener.

Angel di Maria broke through the Nigerian defence early and his shot at goal ricocheted off Vincent Enyeama and against the upright only to fall into the path of the number 10 who didn’t miss from close.

Instead of being bowed by the early goal, Nigeria responded immediately as Micheal Babatunde pounced on a free ball in midfield and set Musa on a run.

The winger turned his marker in the box and fired in past Sergio Romero to send the Africans equal a minute later.

Argentina were not sure how to respond as the goal caught them unawares. But they massed out and dominated the game without finding the net.

With Messi getting the ball more towards the end of the first half, they were able to stamp their control on the game as the Nigerian back four of Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo, Joseph Yobo and Juwon Oshaniwa came under pressure.

After Enyeama’s impressive save from the first of two Messi free kicks, it looked like he was going to be solid for the rest of the game.

However, the wily Messi sent his second free kick straight into the net to leave the Nigeria defence and goalkeeper stranded for the last major action of the first half.

Whatever Keshi told his players during the break, it worked as they came out firing to score their second goal.

Once again, it was Musa who got the pass from Emmanuel Emenike on the edge of the Argentina box, made his way past a defender to fire past Romero for the second time.

The game began to look like it was going to be decided by the two Ms, Messi and Musa until Rojo scored from a corner kick to give the Argentines the lead once more.

With Messi substituted, Musa tried to score his hat trick but saw his shot blocked by Pablo Zabaleta.

The African champions could not break down their opponents despite trying so hard. They played compact and disciplined football, threatening on the counter attack but turned back by the Argentine midfield.

At the end, they lost but they had sneaked through to the second round following news that Iran had lost to Bosnia in Salvador.

Vindicated at last, Keshi would hope that his boys get enough rest before their next game against France, a team that has looked fearsome in the competition so far.

Still, they will not forget that they have equaled their highest ever achievement of a second round place as they continue to fly Africa’s flag high.

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