World Cup Preview: Nigeria v Argentina

Who? Nigeria - Argentina
Where? Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
When? June 26, 20:00 (CET local time)


African football has started to rise in the recent days of the World Cup. Between Senegal's two matches, Nigeria defeated Iceland and gave a chance of qualification for the Super Eagles. If you consider the other results in this group, Nigeria maybe can feel that defeating Argentina would not be a surprise.

Since their game in Friday, everyone talks about Ahmed Musa. His numbers became historical: he became Nigeria's all-time World Cup top scorer and the first Nigerian to score in two different World Cups with four goals. In his career he scored 15 international goals and now he is ranked 6th, above some Nigerian legends such as Julius Aghahowa and Jay-Jay Okocha.

Nigeria will face Argentina in a point that they couldn't ask for better. A team that was among the favorites to win and looks like a wounded animal. Nigeria will try to use in order to have an advantage over their opponents, all the way to the round of 16. Yet, Nigeria need to face its past as they lost all their matches against Argentina in the World Cup.

With high dreams and expectations, while all Africa is watching them, Nigeria is the hope to make something different. If they will win and Argentina will be eliminated, it can be a beginning of an interesting chapter in the African football history.


Chaos. There is only one word that can describe the situation of the Argentine national team. Nobody thought that Argentina will be with only one point after the first two games, knowing that they are closer more than ever to being eliminated at the end of the group stage.

The poor performance against Croatia made many to think that maybe Argentina is not as strong as many thought. The feeling is that Argentina can't really perform well in this World Cup and they know who is the responsible: the coach, Jorge Sampaoli.

The reports from the Argentine camp are talking about some kind of revolt against Sampaoli. According to the local media, the players demands that Sampaoli will resign. Some reports even said that the players recommended Jorge Burruchaga, the national team general manager, as their coach for the match against Nigeria.

In these cases, you can always hope that one will give its best show, AFA chairman, Chiqui Tapia. Since the match against Croatia, Tapia slams constantly the media. He says that they are publishing lies and accused them in lack of patriotism.

Since Thursday night, a lot of things changed. Argentina, that felt they have no chance to qualify, saw how Iceland fail to defeat Nigeria and gave them some hope. The fans can barely believe that La Albiceleste can do something in this World Cup now, but what is football unless than believe making the impossible to possible?

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World Cup Preview: Nigeria v Iceland

Who? Nigeria - Iceland
Where? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
When? June 22, 17:00 (CET local time)

Nigeria (Yossi Medina)

The Nigerians are disappointed after their previous game against Croatia. Nobody thought that Nigeria are favorites, but they failed to even be a challenge for their opponents. Now the Super Eagles are looking to strike against Iceland.

Nigeria will have to look for more energy in the attack. Unfortunately, the Nigerian strikers are not at the same level as we used to see in the past. The team relied on Odion Ighalo and later added Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho and all performed badly in this match. The coach, Gernot Rohr, will have to find a solution for that, as finishing another goalless game can be the end of the story for Nigeria.

The player who was marked as key player, John Obi Mikel, will need to bring his experience to the field. By playing against Iceland, he will make his 87th international cap and he will be the all-time third most capped player in Nigeria after Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo. Obi Mikel will be the player that shows his skills and leads the team.

The game against Iceland will be the last chance for Nigeria. If they will know how to use their experience and talent, they even can break the frozen defense of Iceland. In any other case, Nigeria may face their early exit today.

Iceland (Eden Roitfarb)

Just like in Euro 2016, more incredible stories regarding Iceland’s players and population are being reported in the news and social media: For instance, the Argentina draw became the most-watched TV event in the history of Iceland, as 99.6% of the population who have watched TV tuned to the game. Striker Alfreð Finnbogason’s reply to this fact: “The other 0,4% was on the pitch!”.  Additionally, defender Birkir Már Sævarsson is probably the only player at the World Cup that had to ask permission from his work, a salt packing factory, to play in the tournament.

Coming off an impressive fighting performance combined with some tactical brilliance vs Argentina, it is a whole different ballgame for Iceland on Friday against the Super Eagles from Nigeria. The big question is how the Icelandic can perform coming from the favorite’s position and not the underdog? Yes, you read correctly – A team playing their second ever World Cup game are expected to beat a side that is participating in their 6th tournament. That is mainly due to the mood of both teams after their opening match, but also due to the apparent European domination in head to head matches vs non-Europeans this summer.

One of the key points that would be worth a look is ball possession. Most of Iceland’s recent successes came in games where they held relatively less of the ball, like vs England in 2016 or vs Argentina. However, when holding more possession, they are in risk of losing their game plan and tactical shape – just like in the 5-2 defeat to France in the Euros. It will be interesting to see how Iceland will deal with this issue vs Nigeria when they are suddenly expected to attack and win.

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World Cup Preview: Croatia v Nigeria

Who? Croatia - Nigeria
Where? Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
When? June 16, 21:00 (CET local time)

Croatia (Eden Roitfarb)

20 years ago, Croatia shocked the football world by finishing 3rd in their World Cup debut. Suker, Boban, Vlaovic and the rest have simply dazzled their opponents, peaking with a 3-0 victory over European Champions Germany in the 1/4 finals. They were stopped eventually by hosts France, but the achievement was way beyond expectations.

Since then, the Croatians are constantly underachieving in the biggest stage of all: 3 early exits in the group stage, and even a failure to qualify in 2010. That was not due to lack of talent, quite the contrary, but a contributing factor is ongoing internal problems that involve the FA, fans and players altogether. These issues would be covered later throughout the tournament, but now it’s time to talk football.

Croatia’s opening fixture pits them against Nigeria. This would mark the two’s first ever meeting, and the Balkanian’s prepared to this occasion by beating a strong Senegalese side last week. Experienced defender Vedran Ćorluka, has said recently that the players “are tired of being billed as a talented generation which keeps flattering to deceive”. Ćorluka himself played only a small part in Lokomotiv Moscow’s sensational title run in Russia, due to an injury-ridden season. He will certainly hope his other team would succeed similarly on Russian soil, but also to play a bigger part in the process.

Saturday’s venue is the brand-new stadium in Kaliningrad, the western most city to host games this summer. Kaliningrad is an isolated exclave located between Lithuania and Poland, that became a Russian city post World War II. The city would host mostly European teams during the World Cup and that creates an easier journey for fans who wish to avoid Russian mainland. Thus, we can expect the Croatian fans to come in large numbers and generate a massive atmosphere. Sretno!

Nigeria (Yossi Medina)

Back in the 90's, Nigeria was one of the teams that you waited to see their games. They reached the knockout stage twice in 1994 and 1998 with an impressive style of football and nostalgic names like Jay-Jay Okocha, Finidi George and Sunday Oliseh.

Though, this is the past and Nigeria suffered a long era of failures. In the next three World Cups they failed to qualify for the knockouts twice and even missed the World Cup in 2006. In 2014 they reached the round of 16 once again but they did it with poor football, as they managed to win only 1 out of 3 group stage matches.

Although they have been drawn to a tough group, Nigeria still hopes to make another great performance. One of the key moments in their warm-up was in Wembley, while they played against England. They began the game badly with conceding two goals. A few subs and playing in a more defensive style made the scoring mission almost impossible for England and Nigeria could made better attacks.

While most of the top guns of Nigeria are on the front line, the Nigerian defense will have an important role in the Super Eagles mission. Most of the leading defenders in the squad are young, but they have enough experience to help. The main player will be Kenneth Omeruo, who played in Turkey in the last three seasons. Even though he is only 24 years old, five years ago he played all the matches of Nigeria in their way to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title.

It will be a different Nigeria than we used to know. The famous attackers will need their help from the back, which may make the style less attractive. Yet, for Nigeria it's a chance to make it through with a smart style, an important element in such a tournament.

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World Cup Nostalgics: Best 5 Repeats at the Group Stage

The World Cup always brings us the feelings of great memories. Many games during the group stage will remind an old-fashioned World Cup clashes with the same teams. Here are some of these best repeats.

Sweden - Germany
1958 Semifinals 3:1 / 2018 Group F

In 1958, Germany was the reigning World Champions and they were two wins away from winning the title once again. 1:0 lead by Germany didn't made any change for the hosts feeling. Sweden managed to equalize during the first half and scored twice in the last with goals of Gunnar Gren and Kurt Hamrin. Sweden made history and qualified for their only final in the history. Can Sweden upset Germany once again?

Morocco - Portugal
1986 Group Stage 3:1 / 2018 Group B

In hot summer day at Guadalajara, Morocco and Portugal met while they knew that the winner will qualify for the next stage. Portugal were the favourites, but they didn't believe that Morocco will be in one of its best matches ever. Abderrazak Khairi scored a brace in the first half and Abdelkrim Merry added one more. The Atlas Lions won and Portugal found themselves being eliminated too early.
Portugal are once again on the lead, but will it be enough to defeat Morocco?

Brazil - Costa Rica
1990 Group Stage 1:0 / 2018 Group E

Costa Rica World Cup debut was a memorable campaign with wins against Scotland and Sweden and reaching the knockout stage. Nevertherless, one of its well known performances was actually at the defeat 0:1 against Brazil. In this match Costa Rica played with an unusual black and white shirts. The local crowd in the mythical Delle Alpi in Turin thought it a gesture for the local team, Juevetus, and it was enough to make Costa Rica as one of the most beloved team in the tournament.
May Costa Rica have another performance that will be enough to get support?

Argentina - Nigera
1994 Group Stage 2:1 / 2018 Group D

Argentina and Nigeria will meet for the fifth time in World Cup group stage, but none of the previous matches was as amazing as the first meeting in 1994. An early lead with a goal scored by Samson Siasia made the Argentinian a bit shockes. Only Claudio Caniggia could save the day for the Albiceleste and he scored twich before the half time whistle. These goals gave Argentina the win, but later both of the teams qualified for the knockout stage.
In 1994 they qualified together and it happened once again in 2014. What will be in 2018?

Spain - Portugal
2010 Round of 16 1:0 / 2018 Group B

Another Portuguese lost, this time against the eventual World Cup winners in that year, Spain. The only goal scored by David Villa was enough for a win in the Iberian Peninsula derby and to qualify for the quarterfinals. The interesting name in the list is Portugal manager in this match, Carlos Queiroz. In 2018, he will make a double repeat while he will meet Spain and Portugal as the head coach of Iran.
With tons of emotion, what will be the end of the Queiroz-Portugal-Spain trio in the next World Cup?

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