Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the World Cup
meeting between Nigeria
at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg. It is all to play for in Group D this evening as three teams are left to battle it out for a place in the last 16 alongside already-qualified Croatia, who are themselves aiming to keep hold of top spot.
There are plenty of permutations ahead of these final set of fixtures in a finely-poised group, but the bottom line for Argentina is that they need to beat Nigeria and hope that Iceland fail to beat Croatia in Rostov. The Super Eagles, meanwhile, will join Croatia in the knockout stages if they win this match, while a draw may also be enough if Iceland do not beat Croatia. Got it? Good!
ARGENTINA TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Mascherano, Banega; Perez, Messi, Di Maria; Higuain
SUBS: Aguero, Lo Celso Dybala, Pavon, Caballero, Guzman, Ansaldi, Biglia, Fazio, Acuna, Meza, Salvio
Starting with a look at the side named by Jorge Sampaoli
, the under-pressure boss has made a couple of big calls at either end of the field. Many predicted that goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero would be dropped after making a real clanger for Croatia's opening goal last week, and that proves to be the case as Franco Armani is brought in for his senior international bow at the age of 31.
The other big omission from the starting lineup is Sergio Aguero who, despite netting Argentina's only goal at the finals this year, is dropped to the bench. Gonzalo Higuain is instead restored to the side and will slot in alongside Lionel Messi
in attack, while Angel Di Maria is also recalled after being left out for the 3-0 loss to Croatia. Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano and Enzo Perez complete the midfield four.
The fifth change made by Sampaoli is at centre-back, where Marcos Rojo
is used alongside Nicolas Otamendi - big rivals at club level, but they need to click into gear tonight if La Albiceleste are to have any serious aspirations of progressing. At full-back, meanwhile, Ajax's Nicolas Tagliafico and Gabriel Mercado of Sevilla retain their places in the side. Aguero is joined on the bench by Paulo Dybala.
NIGERIA TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Uzoho; Idowu, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo; Etebo, Ndidi; Moses, Mikel, Musa; Iheanacho
SUBS: Ezenwa, Akpeyi, Echiejile, Ighalo, Shehu, Nwankwo, Obi, Onazi, Iwobi, Ogu, Awaziem, Ebuehi
Unlike opposite number Sampaoli, Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr
does not see any reason to change his side - no surprise on the back of their 2-0 win over Iceland last time out. Ahmed Musa netted twice in that victory to take his World Cup goals tally to four overall, including a brace against tonight's opponents four years ago, making him his nation's all-time leading scorer at the finals.
Musa is once again joined by Kelechi Iheanacho up top, so Odion Ighalo is made to watch on from the bench. Rohr reverted to a back three for the Iceland win, having failed to turn up with a back four against Croatia, and that is the formation - and indeed personnel - he goes with tonight. Victor Moses
got an assist from his now-familiar right wing-back role last time out, while on the opposite flank is Brian Idowu.
Tyrone Ebuehi did well when replacing Idowu at half time against Iceland, with the game delicately poised at that point, but the latter retains his place in the side for this crunch clash. This is a Nigeria side with plenty of attacking quality, including up top where Iheanacho is looking to add to the eight goals netted for Leicester City in his maiden campaign at the club.
Jorge Sampaoli has been criticised back in Argentina for constantly tinkering with his side and using various formations. After going with a 4-2-3-1 against Iceland and 3-4-3 against Croatia, it appears to be back to the former of the two tonight. The difference being that Gonzalo Higuain, and not Sergio Aguero, will lead the line just ahead of Lionel Messi.
Nigeria, ranked 48th in the FIFA rankings, are aiming to reach the last 16 of the World Cup for a fourth time overall and a second time in succession. The Super Eagles' fate is very much in their own hands - win tonight and they will join Croatia in the knockout stages, possibly even as group winners, depending on how the European side get on against Iceland at the Rostov Arena.
That is thanks to collecting three points from their opening two matches, which may not sound like a great deal but has proved enough to keep them above the dotted line. Their solitary win came against Iceland four days ago, with Ahmed Musa scoring two second-half goals in a much-improved display from his side. Nigeria would have been sent packing had they lost, but they showed serious character in Volgograd.
The three points not only lifted the African nation from the foot of Group D into second place, it also assured that they are the team - away from Croatia, at least - with momentum on their side. Three more points tonight is a very tough ask, even if Argentina are completely out of sorts at the moment, but if they achieve that target they will be in the last 16. A draw may also be enough, so one eye will be kept on events in Rostov.
Nigeria simply did not turn up against Croatia, falling to a 2-0 loss in the opening round of fixtures, and they also went 45 minutes without a shot against Iceland on Friday - the only team to do so in the 2018 World Cup. Thankfully for the Super Eagles, Musa stepped up and they are now dreaming of escaping the group phase for a second tournament in a row. Defeat, however, and it is the next plane back to Abuja.
DID YOU KNOW? All six of Nigeria's victories at the World Cup have come against European opposition, keeping a clean sheet in five of those matches. Rather worryingly, though, the Super Eagles have lost all five finals games against sides from South America, four of which have come at the hands of Argentina - more on that a little later.
Nigeria's morale-boosting win over Nigeria was the first time that they have won a match by more than one goal at the World Cup since a 2-0 triumph against Greece in their first tournament 24 years ago. The African nation are particularly strong on the counter-attack, as shown in their 4-2 victory over Argentina in a pre-tournament friendly seven months ago. A similar result tonight and they will be in dreamland.
There is plenty weighing on the shoulders of 19-year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho
tonight, with Carl Ikeme spending the past year battling cancer away from the field and Vincent Enyeama finding himself inactive at Lille. Uzoho certainly played his part against Iceland, becoming the second youngest goalkeeper in World Cup history to keep a clean sheet, and you can bet that he will have to be alert throughout tonight's match.
Not since 1998 have Nigeria won back-to-back matches at the World Cup, doing so two decades ago with victories against Spain and Bulgaria in their first two matches, but a good omen for them is that they reached the last 16 four years ago despite losing to Argentina in their last group match. A reminder that even a draw may be enough to send them through tonight, should Iceland fail to overcome Croatia in Rostov.
A second-half brace from Ahmed Musa earned Nigeria a 2-0 win over Iceland in their last match. Had the Super Eagles lost that game they, along with Argentina, would have been out of the World Cup. As it is, heading into this final set of fixtures, Gernot Ruhr's men now have some momentum and also have their fate in their own hands.
Two-time world champions and 2014 runners-up Argentina are in a state of disarray ahead of tonight's match. There has been talk of mutiny in the camp - played down by long-serving midfielder Javier Mascherano on the eve of the game - with players reportedly making it clear to boss Jorge Sampaoli
that they are not happy with some of his decisions. If reports are to be believed, Sampaoli will be sacked regardless of how far Argentina make it in Russia.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of talented individuals in this Argentina side, but they so rarely click into gear. Three finals in four years, each ending in defeat, may paint a different picture, though the truth is that La Albiceleste are not the force that they were once considered. Sampaoli's decision to chop and change his side once again tonight is proof that not even he knows how to find the magic formula.
The 1-1 draw against Iceland acted as a warning sign for Argentina; a warning that was not heeded as they fell to a 3-0 loss at the hands of Croatia five days ago. That was as close to a disastrous result as it comes for La Albiceleste, leaving them on the brink of a tournament exit after just two rounds of matches. Caballero's error gifted Ante Rebic the opener in Nizhny Novgorod, before Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic joined the scoring.
As it is, though, Sampaoli's charges can still make it through to the last 16 of the World Cup if they get off the mark with their first win tonight. The stats do not make good reading, however, having suffered their heaviest first-round defeat in the finals since a 6-1 loss to Czechoslovakia in 1958. It was also the first time that they have failed to win their first two matches since 1974.
Argentina are now winless in four matches at the World Cup, although they did overcome Netherlands on penalties during that run. That is their longest-such run, putting even more pressure - if that's possible - on the shoulders of Lionel Messi. The Barcelona superstar, competing at his fourth World Cup finals, is very much the main man in this side but he has looked well off his best form in Russia.
Messi fired in 11 shots against Iceland without scoring, including a missed penalty, and it took him until the 64th minute before doing so against Croatia. It is now 12 shots without a goal in Russia, while accounting for the 2014 tournament he has registered 22 shots since last netting. However, it is unfair to say that Messi does not turn up for Argentina, having scored 14 in 18 over the past two years, including a crucial hat-trick to get them here in the first place.
Sampaoli used 43 players and six different systems in the build-up to this tournament, and that has continued into the finals themselves with a new goalkeeper and a new formation. There has been a serious lack of continuity in the La Albiceleste ranks for too long now, and their preparations were not helped by a cancelled friendly against Israel just before the tournament got under way.
Argentina's only pre-tournament friendly saw them brush aside Haiti 4-0 - far from ideal opposition to prepare themselves for what was ahead. Further back they also lost 4-2 to Nigeria in a friendly and 6-1 to Spain, leaving them with two wins from six. Nigeria, by comparison, had lost three in a row and gone five without victory before edging past Iceland 2-0 last week.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Nigeria have been placed in the same group as Argentina for each of their last four World Cup participations, most recently in 2014 when losing 3-2 in Porto Alegre. La Albiceleste won all four of those previous finals encounters, but never by more than a single goal. They will take any sort of win tonight.
With kickoff in St Petersburg now just a couple of minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Gernot Rohr: "I thought before this World Cup we were here to learn. I think this team will be ready in 2022 and this World Cup is coming early, but we have a good chance to win against Argentina. With youthful abandon, enthusiasm and desire [we will win]. Most of our players want to get to where the Argentinians already are: the very top."
Jorge Sampaoli: "The week was difficult after the defeat. Tuesday, the World Cup starts for Argentina. The week went from low to high, and with respect to what was said, I cannot clarify things that did not exist. They make you feel like a criminal because you lost a game."
KICKOFF! Denmark became the latest side to book their place in the last 16 earlier today; which of Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland will join them? All will be revealed over the next couple of hours, with the Super Eagles getting us under way here.
A few minutes in and neither side have really settled into proceedings just yet at the Krestovsky Stadium. Lionel Messi appears to be out on the right, with Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain looking to link up more centrally.
Nicolas Otamendi attempts a deep through-ball that went right the way through for Francis Uzoho to collect. A few sloppy passes from the Argentinians early on here - they are struggling to settle into any sort of rhythm.
Argentina are given a chance to counter after their opponents omitted a few bodies forward. John Obi Mikel illegally blocks the run of Lionel Messi and escapes with just a telling off from the Turkish referee.
Nicolas Tagliafico bursts into the Nigeria box but, under a bit of pressure and already off balance, the Ajax man miscued his shot wide of the target. Up the other end, Musa is given a ball to chase down and does well to win a throw high up.
Ahmed Musa has had a couple of bright moments over the past few minutes. The Leicester City striker's first shot of the evening was a disappointing one, though, as he lost his footing as he pulled the trigger and could not test Armani.
Argentina have done more of the probing in the attacking third so far, but Nigeria are arguably looking the more dangerous. A sloppy pass from Mascherano is pounced on by Iheanacho, but the former Barcelona man redeemed himself with a last-ditch tackle.
GOAL! NIGERIA 0-1 ARGENTINA (LIONEL MESSI)
The Krestovsky Stadium has just erupted! Lionel Messi is carrying the weight of a nation, and he has finally ended his barren scoring run at the World Cup finals with an impressive finish past Francis Uzoho. The forward latched on to a through-ball from Ever Banega and kept his composure in front of goal.
Lionel Messi's name is being chanted around the ground. That was the 100th goal of the 2018 World Cup and, as things stand with the Iceland-Croatia game goalless, it is enough to send La Albiceleste into the last 16 of the tournament.
The pass over the top from Banega for that goal was very good, and the take from Lionel Messi even better. It was a goal that had Diego Maradona celebrating high in the stands, as his beloved nation attempt to salvage their World Cup campaign.
The pass from Banega may well be the assist of the tournament so far - may be wrong but can't think of a better one off the top of my head. Nigeria have not offered a great deal in response, but they have plenty of time to hit back in St Petersburg.
Not quite happening for the Super Eagles in the final third at the moment. Javier Mascherano is trying his best to let the opposition back into the match, seemingly unable to pick out a teammate with any of his passes from central midfield.
That was Messi's first goal at the World Cup since netting in a 3-2 win against Nigeria in the group stage four years ago. Twenty-three shots later he is back up and running with a confidence-boosting goal, not just for him but also his teammates.
Just the one chance so far in St Petersburg, which Lionel Messi made no mistake with. Argentina have seen more of the ball but there has not been a great deal between the sides since that opening goal 14 minutes in.
SAVE! Goalscorer Messi turns creator by sliding a perfectly-weighted ball through for Gonzalo Higuain. The Juventus striker, in for Sergio Aguero tonight, cannot quite lift it over Francis Uzoho, who is clattered in the process.
It remains goalless in the game between Iceland and Croatia, so as things stand Argentina are heading for the last 16. Jorge Sampaoli would love to see his side net a second, and they could well have got it through that Higuain chance.
YELLOW CARD! The game's first yellow card is shown to Leon Balogun after bringing down Angel Di Maria on the break. The Argentina players are urging the referee to review the tackle because Di Maria was on the edge of the box, but Nigeria did have a player over.
OFF THE POST! Lionel Messi steps over the ball from the free kick 22 yards out and sends it against the upright. Replays show that Francis Uzoho got a fingertip to the ball on its way through, so that goes down as a terrific save.
Argentina have certainly looked the more threatening side over the past 10 minutes. Higuain missed a good chance and Messi hit the post with that free kick a couple of minutes ago, awarded after Di Maria was brought down on the counter.
Half time is fast approaching in St Petersburg and, while they only have the one goal to their name, Argentina are looking in control of this game at the moment. Will Gernot Ruhr be tempted to alter formation or personnel at the break?
Good goalkeeping from Armani, who raced out of goal to clear the ball before Musa could make contact. It looked like being a corner for Nigeria, but the referee has told them to take a throw-in instead. Etebo blasted the ball wide when it fell to him.
A stoppage in play now as Mascherano has picked up a facial injury. Sampaoli will be the happier of the two managers at the interval, which is now just a couple of minutes away, but this game - and indeed Group D overall - is far from finished.
Carnage on the edge of the Argentina box. The ball deflected off the referee and a whole array of players dived in, before it was cleared away. Before that, Rojo caught Iheanacho's head when clearing the ball in the penalty area.
HALF TIME: NIGERIA 0-1 ARGENTINA
Mikel flicked on a header from a deep Oghenekaro Etebo cross from the final act of the first half, with Franco Armani making a routine stop. The first half belongs to Argentina, who edged in front through a fine Lionel Messi goal and then came closest to finding the second goal of the evening.
In the wake of widespread criticism back in Argentina following the 3-0 loss to Croatia, Jorge Sampaoli made five changes to Argentina's starting lineup, most notably dropping Sergio Aguero and Wilfredo Caballero at either end. For the third match running the South Americans had a different formation, with Messi being paired alongside Gonzalo Higuain up top, and it was the Barcelona man who made the breakthrough for his side.
Ever Banega played the ball in over the top and Messi needed just two touches - one with his quad and the other with the outside of his boot - before firing it across Francis Uzoho and into the back of the net. Messi, who was celebrating his first finals goal since netting in a 3-2 win against Nigeria in the group stage four years ago, then played Gonzalo Higuain through for what should have been a second goal.
Higuain was closed down by Uzoho and could not match Messi in finding a way past the young keeper, who was also needed later in the first half to push another Messi attempt - this time from a free kick - on to the upright. Nigeria's only on-target attempt in the first half came from its final act, as John Obi Mikel flicked Oghenekaro Etebo's cross into the arms of debutant keeper Franco Armani.
NIGERIA SUBS: Ezenwa, Akpeyi, Echiejile, Ighalo, Shehu, Nwankwo, Obi, Onazi, Iwobi, Ogu, Awaziem, Ebuehi
ARGENTINA SUBS: Aguero, Lo Celso Dybala, Pavon, Caballero, Guzman, Ansaldi, Biglia, Fazio, Acuna, Meza, Salvio
RESTART! Argentina get us back up and running at the Krestovsky Stadium, looking to build on their one-goal lead from the first half. Nigeria have made a change at the interval - Odion Ighalo is on for Kelechi Iheanacho.
Mascherano, who has had a really bad game, gets his head to a cross but only succeeds in heading it against one of his teammates and the ball goes out for a corner. The South Americans need to find their feet again.
PENALTY TO ARGENTINA! Referee Cuneyt Cakir has pointed to the spot for a Nigeria penalty! I mentioned Javier Mascherano has had a stinker... from the corner he gave away the midfielder grabbed hold of Leon Balogun and the spot kick is awarded.
GOAL! NIGERIA 1-1 ARGENTINA (VICTOR MOSES)
What a huge, huge moment this is. Victor Moses steps up to take the penalty and rolls it the opposite way that Franco Armani dived. That changes the whole complexion of Group D, as the Super Eagles are now second behind Croatia.
GROUP D UPDATE! Moses had to wait a good couple of minutes before taking that penalty, with Ighalo and Rojo exchanging words. Elsewhere, Croatia have just taken the lead against Iceland in Rostov through Milan Badelj.
Back in St Petersburg, Banega slides in on his man inside the box but successfully takes the ball. Nigeria are the side on top in the minutes since levelling up the contest, and that Croatia goal is only good news for the Super Eagles.
Unless Iceland net twice, Group D now comes down to events in St Petersburg. Argentina have a little over half an hour to rescue themselves, or else they will exit the World Cup at the group stage - hands up who called that before a game was played!
Musa got the better of Mascherano but could not quite pull if back for one of his teammates when in behind. Argentina are now desperately holding on and could do with a change to swing momentum back their way. Huge 30 minutes ahead!
ARGENTINA SUB! Here comes that first Argentina sub, as Cristian Pavon comes on for Enzo Perez to provide some attacking spark. A cross from the right is well cut out for a La Albiceleste corner, which they fail to make the most of.
YELLOW CARD! A few challenges flying in now. Argentina frustrated as Ever Banega has been cautioned for a foul, moments after Pavon was clipped without a free kick being awarded. Time fast starting to tick down for the two-time world champions.
Pavon went with neither a shot nor cross in the end, allowing Uzoho to comfortably collect. Nigeria now have less than 25 minutes to see out and they will be in the last 16 of the World Cup. It is all about digging in from this point.
Despite needing a goal to avoid an early exit, Argentina cannot muster a clear-cut chance. There are thousands of La Albiceleste fans urging their players on, but at the moment it is proving to be another frustrating evening for them.
More than 20 minutes have passed since Nigeria levelled up through that Victor Moses penalty, and Argentina have not done enough to warrant a second goal in that time. They are desperately looking to get star man Messi involved, ultimately to no avail.
SHOT! Wilfred Ndidi puts his foot through the ball from 20 yards and sends a shot flying over the bar. That came through good work from Ahmed Musa, who squared the ball after bursting forward. Meza is now on for Di Maria.
Nigeria concede a sloppy free kick, but once again Argentina are unable to make the most of it. Meza, on the field for less than two minutes, then failed to beat his man down the left and the latest attack came to an abrupt end.
CLOSE! The net looked destined to ripple from this Odion Ighalo shot. Rojo's clearance was volleyed inches wide of target by the striker. There could be further drama, though, because VAR is being used for a potential Rojo handball.
NO PENALTY! The referee takes a look at the pitchside monitor - usually a sign that the officials want the decision overturned - but he sticks to his original decision. Ball to hand, and not handball - Rojo has been let off.
GROUP D UPDATE! Gylfi Sigurdsson has just levelled up from the spot for Iceland in their meeting with Croatia. Nothing for Nigeria to worry about yet, unless the Icemen net another couple of goals in the last 10 minutes.
CHANCE! A glorious chance goes begging for Higuain! The ball is cut back to the unmarked striker 10 yards from goal, yet he could only send it flying well over the bar. Aguero was brought on for Tagliafico seconds beforehand.
SAVE! Argentina are all over the place at the back as they are throwing players forward. Ighalo with another big chance, with this latest one being saved by Armani down low. How big a moment could that prove to be?
This one will not even go to a VAR check, but Argentina are certain they should have a penalty. Meza was brought to ground in the box, but tellingly the substitute is one of the only ones not complaining about the decision.
GOAL! NIGERIA 1-2 ARGENTINA (MARCOS ROJO)
With three minutes to go Argentina have salvaged their World Cup campaign - again! What an unbelievable finish this is from Marcos Rojo - a defender, remember! - as he guides a volley past a crestfallen Uzoho. Argentina are heading into the last 16!
GROUP D UPDATE! Croatia have just regained the lead against Iceland in Rostov, meaning that Argentina now just need to see out these four minutes of added time and they will be into the last 16 of the World Cup.
NIGERIA SUB! Ahmed Musa is looking shattered - he has done for a while - and is now replaced by Simeon Nwankwo. Lionel Messi has just been booked, but he will not care in the slightest as his side are now seconds away from a huge victory.
FULL TIME: NIGERIA 1-2 ARGENTINA
Argentina are through to the last 16 of the World Cup at the expense of Nigeria, who squandered a couple of good chances at 1-1 and maybe should have had a penalty. Marcos Rojo grabbed the headlines with his impressive volley four minutes from time, setting up what should be a classic meeting with France in Kazan on Saturday. I'm already counting down the days!
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while a recap the other Group D match this evening between Iceland and Croatia can be viewed here
. Thanks for joining!