BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Of the football’s super powers, the eight countries that have won the World Cup, Argentina is the team Nigeria has met most often. Tuesday’s clash in Krasnodar in Russia will be the eighth time both will meet. Five of the previous matches were competitive and Nigeria escaping defeat only once.
In a tradition of the Sports Village Square, the publication takes an insightful look at this clash which predictably, could be a dress rehearsal to another clash next year when the World Cup kicks off.
Here are some points of interest around the clash.
- When Argentina and Nigeria first clashed on June 25, 1994 at Fox Borough Stadium in the USA, it produced a milestone goal of 1500th goal in the World Cup history. That was the equalizing goal by Argentina’s Claudio Caniggia which brought score line to 1-1 after Nigeria had shot ahead through Samson Siasia. Argentina eventually won the match 2-1 through another goal by Caniggia.Diego Maradona celebrates with Claudio Caniggia after the former’s free kick sets up Caniggia to score an equalizing goal against Nigeria at USA ’94. It turned to be a milestone goal – the 1,500th in World Cup history.
- Argentina’s world famous Diego Maradona earned the last of his 91caps in a match against Nigeria at the World Cup USA ’94.
- Argentina’s Diego Maradona’s last match was against Nigeria on June 25, 1994.
- Nigeria and Argentina have competed at all levels of men’s football – Under 17 in 1993, Under 20 in 2005, Under -23 in 1996 and 2008, Grade A level in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2010, 2011 and 2014.
- The match on Tuesday in Russia will be the third friendly encounter of both countries. Each winning one apiece. The Krasnodar encounter will therefore be a sort of tie-breaker. The other friendly matches were the 4-1 defeat of Argentina in Abuja on June 1, 2011 and Argentina’s 3-1 defeat of Nigeria in Dhaka, Bangladesh on September 6, 2011.
- Results of matches involving Argentina and Nigeria often end with the odd goal: 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002 and 2010 as well as 3-2 in 2014. The only exceptions are the goalless draw at the 1995 Inter-Continental Cup (now FIFA Confederations Cup) and the friendly matches of 2011.
- By this Tuesday, Argentina and Nigeria would have met at all confederations except the Oceania. They met in CONCACAF region in 1994, Asia Football Confederation region in 1995, 2002 and 2011, CAF territory in 2010 and 2011, CONMEBOL in 2014 and UEFA territory in 2017.
- When Argentina and Nigeria met at Porto Alegre (a Brazilian border town close to Argentina on June 25, 2014), it was the 20th anniversary of their maiden encounter of June 25, 1994.
- Both Nigeria and Argentina put an end to the European countries’ domination of the football tournament of the Olympic Games. When Nigeria beat Argentina 3-2 to win the gold medal of the Atlanta ’96 football tournament, it was the first time a team outside Europe had won in 68 years. The last European nation standing at Atlanta ’96 was Portugal which Argentina eliminated in the semi finals. Since 1996, no European country has won the tournament.
- Both teams are playing for the second time in new strips. Argentina launched their latest adidas-made new shirts in the 1-0 defeat of Russia last Saturday. Nigeria wore a new Nike made shirt in their 1-1 draw with Algeria on Friday. The green shirt won by Nigeria had a darker shade of green on the sleeves and shoulder.
- Krasnodar, the host city of Tuesday’s clash of Argentina and Nigeria was originally designated as one of the venues for Russia 2018. But when the final choice of host cities was announced on September 29, 2012, Krasnodar along with Yaroslavl was dropped.
- Nigeria’s captain, Mikel Obi, if fielded, will earn a milestone cap of 80. He will be the fifth Nigerian player to have reached that milestone. Others before him were Muda Lawal (86 caps), Nwankwo Kanu (86 caps), Joseph Yobo (100 caps) and Vincent Enyeama (101 caps). Incidentally, the .six of them led the Nigerian teams at one time or the other.
- If Nigeria wins the encounter, Gernot Rohr will join Samson Siasia as the only other coach to have beaten Argentina at Grade A level. Samson Siasia’s Super Eagles beat Argentina 4-1 in Abuja on June 1, 2011.
- Samson Siasia scored 18 goals in his 42 matches for Nigeria. One of the goals was against Argentina in 1994. But for another goal he scored against Japan at the 1995 Intercontinental Cup in Saudi Arabia, the goal against Argentina (the 1,499th in World Cup history) would have been his last international goal.
Samson Siasia celebrates his goal against Argentina at USA’94. It was World Cup’s 1,499th goal in history.
- Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa are the only Nigerians to have scored two goals in a match against Argentina. Uche achieved his own in the 4-1 defeat of Argentina in 2011 while Musa had a brace in the 2-3 loss to Argentina at the World Cup.
Ahmed Musa celebrates the first of his two goals against Argentina three years ago.
- When Ahmed Musa scored the second goal against Argentina in Porto Alegre at Brazil 2014, he became the first and the only Nigerian footballer to have scored a brace at the World Cup.