Nigeria’s World Cup nemesis: Super Eagles set for fifth meeting with Argentina

Lionel Messi scoring a free-kick against Nigeria for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup
Lionel Messi scoring a free-kick against Nigeria for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup

Nigeria will face Argentina for the fifth time in just their sixth World Cup finals appearance in Russia, with the rather ominous record of losing all four previous meetings hanging over them.

The two sides were drawn together in Group D, meaning that the 1998 tournament in France was the only time the Super Eagles have qualified without coming up against the South American side.

There are only 13 fixtures in World Cup history that have been played at least five times up until the last tournament in Brazil, with one occurring six times and two seven.

Most-played World Cup fixtures (up until Brazil 2014)

Fixture Games played
Brazil v Sweden 7
Argentina v Germany 7
Germany v Yugoslavia 6
Brazil v Italy 5
Germany v Italy 5
Argentina v Netherlands 5
Argentina v England 5
England v Germany 5
Argentina v Italy 5
Brazil v Spain 5
Brazil v Netherlands 5
Brazil v Czechoslovakia 5
France v Italy 5

However, the vast majority of those include teams that having played in at least 10 World Cups, and a lot took place when there were far fewer teams competing in the tournament.

Four of Nigeria’s five appearances so far have come when there were at least 32 teams in the competition, making the number of meetings with Argentina all the more remarkable.

Here, we take a look at their four previous World Cup encounters…

First meeting: Nigeria 1-2 Argentina – Foxborough, USA – June 25, 1994

 Diego Maradona's Argentina saw off Nigeria in 1994
Diego Maradona’s Argentina saw off Nigeria in 1994

Nigeria played Argentina in just their second-ever World Cup game at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Both sides had enjoyed emphatic wins in their opening games, with Argentina beating Greece 4-0 and the Super Eagles seeing off Bulgaria 3-0, but a side featuring Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh and Michael Emenalo would be beaten by the South Americans.

They started well as Samson Siasia gave them an eighth-minute lead, but Argentina hit back with two quick goals from Claudio Caniggia to seal a 2-1 win.

Both teams would go on to win their final group games and qualify for the last 16. Nigeria even topped the group as Argentina came third, but the draw was unkind for Nigeria as they came up against Italy and lost 2-1 after extra-time.

Second meeting: Nigeria 0-1 Argentina – Ibaraki, Japan – June, 2, 2002

Gabriel Batistuta scoring for Argentina against Nigeria in the 2002 World Cup
Gabriel Batistuta scoring for Argentina against Nigeria in the 2002 World Cup

Eight years later the two sides would again meet in the group stage of the World Cup. Their opening-round game was settled by a Gabriel Batistuta goal for Argentina in the 63rd minute. The scoreline somewhat flattered Nigeria as well, as they were kept in the game by goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu.

It was a fine Nigeria side featuring the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Joseph Yobo and Nwankwo Kanu, but a 2-1 defeat to Sweden and a goalless draw with England left them bottom of the group.

Argentina, however, also suffered the same fate as a shock defeat by England and a draw with Sweden also saw them miss out on making the last 16.

Third meeting: Nigeria 0-1 Argentina – Johannesburg, South Africa – June 12, 2010

Gabriel Heinze scoring the only goal as Argentina beat Nigeria in 2010
Gabriel Heinze scoring the only goal as Argentina beat Nigeria in 2010

Four years later and it was much the same story. Nigeria once again met Argentina and they were once again on the end of a 1-0 defeat.

Vincent Enyeama could do nothing to deny Gabriel Heinze’s header after six minutes, and the likes of Yakubu, Obafemi Martins and Danny Shittu failed to recover from the defeat against Diego Maradona’s side.

They threw away a lead to lose 2-1 against Greece in their next game and drew 2-2 with South Korea in their final game, again finishing bottom of their group.

Fourth meeting: Nigeria 2-3 Argentina – Porto Alegre, Brazil – June 25, 2014

Messi scoring for Argentina against Nigeria in 2014
Messi scoring for Argentina against Nigeria in 2014

Brazil 2014 and yet again they meet, although this time the match was the final group game.

Nigeria opened their campaign with a goalless draw against Iran, before Peter Odemwingie scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Victory would have seen the Super Eagles top the group and twice Ahmed Musa goals cancelled out Lionel Messi strikes, but Marcos Rojo’s 50th-minute effort was enough to secure a 3-2 win for Argentina.

Iran’s failure to win meant that Nigeria qualified for the last 16 for the first time in 16 years, but finishing second in the group left them with a tough tie against France, which they lost 2-0.

Messi celebrates scoring against Nigeria
Messi celebrates scoring against Nigeria

Fifth meeting: Nigeria v Argentina – Saint Petersburg, Russia – June 26, 2018

Nigeria and Argentina have battled it out in North America, Asia, Africa and South America, now it’s time for them to take their battle to Europe.

The two sides meet again in their final Group D game, having been placed alongside Croatia and Iceland. Nigeria cruised to qualification, but history suggests that they’ll more than likely need a result by the time they meet Messi and company

Comment below to tell us who will win.

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