(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - June 25, 2014: Superstar ~ Lionel Messi scored two stunning goals as Argentina survived a couple of scares.
Lionel Messi did something here that we had not seen from him at this World Cup. Not the goals, or the casual, match-winning brilliance. That was old news. It came at the end of the first half, just after he had scored from a free-kick, as he was being mobbed by happy team-mates, as the Argentina fans were chanting his name over and over.
As he emerged from the huddle came that rarest of sights: a huge, beaming smile. Finally, at his third World Cup, in his 10th World Cup match, Messi was enjoying himself.
It’s a strange thing, pressure: it comes from many sources, but ultimately the main one is yourself. Nobody would have been more aware of Messi’s failure to reproduce his own stratospheric standards at a World Cup than himself. Now, as his fourth goal of the tournament sailed in as serenely as Argentina were sailing into the last 16, it was if an enormous weight had been lifted.
Not that Messi had it all his own way. Nigeria scrapped like tigers, making them earn the win until the very last moment. Two spectacular equalisers from Ahmed Musa turned this into a two-man show, at least until Marcos Rojo scored what turned out to be the winning goal five minutes into the second half.
Nobody could accuse Nigeria of coming unprepared. They countered Argentina’s attacking trident by with four centre-backs, packed so narrowly that they could almost have been holding hands. Coach Stephen Keshi would often be seen hunching over on the touchline to check their alignment, like a joiner inspecting his handiwork.
Alejandro Sabella, Argentina coach
We’d already qualified for the next round but it’s good to have finished top of the group, that’s what we were aiming for. We improved, were more mobile, passed the ball better and were quicker. We were better at changing the tempo of the game too, improved our interplay and had a lot of chances. The further into the tournament we go, the more we’re finding our rhythm. The structure of the side is getting much better.
Lionel Messi, Budweiser Man of the Match
We were better in this game, regardless of the goals we conceded. We were more threatening today, found the spaces to exploit and had more chances to score. But we still want more. The good thing is we improved and it’s a wonderful experience with the people here. We’re all still chasing a shared dream.
Stephen Keshi, Nigeria coach
It’s an honour and we’re very happy to reach the next round. I think we lost the game because we showed them too much respect in the first half. After the break we managed to play our game, attacked more, had more possession and were better overall. But Argentina are a great team and Messi’s a great player. He’s blessed and there’s no way you can escape him. Messi’s from Jupiter.
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