The Argentinian horror show against Croatia means that the pressure has been taken up a notch on Lionel Messi and his side ahead of their crunch game with Nigeria in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening.
After witnessing such awful goalkeeping and defending from Jorge Sampaoli’s side in the defeat to the Croatians, you’ve got to assume that even-money for both teams scoring must be some sort of typo. Argentina may well have the attack to win a World Cup, but they barely have a midfield and defence to even qualify for the tournament. Nigeria will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a defence like this, especially after thrashing the same opponents 4-2 in a friendly back in November.
With that in mind, I really fancy the West Africans to deliver the final blow that will see Argentina crash out of the World Cup. The Super Eagles put in a much-improved display in their 2-0 defeat of Iceland on Friday, and the clean sheet will have done them the world of good. Nigeria are a huge 5/1 with Ladbrokes to secure three points that would guarantee them qualification for the Second Round.
This is last chance saloon for Lionel Messi, who has shown so far that he is struggling to deal with the burdening expectations of his country. He was in a similar scenario back in October when his side needed to beat Ecuador to scrape through and qualify for the World Cup, and the Barcelona man duly delivered with a superb hat trick. Surely he will deliver the goods this time around. He doesn’t tend to go three games without scoring, and is 3/1 with William Hill to score two or more goals in this one.
Sampaoli’s high-pressing style has backfired badly on this Argentinian side, and its exposure of a slow, lumbering defensive unit means that this has the makings of a game that resembles more of a basketball game than a football match. Nigeria need a win to make sure of qualification, so expect plenty of goals in this one. Over 4.5 goals looks like a promising bet at 9/2 with Coral, but if you want to stick your neck out in the search of big rewards, take a chance on the 10/1 shout of Nigeria to win with both teams scoring.