For Nigeria though they may be out of the World Cup, the future looks bright. The Super Eagles have a talented team filled with youngsters whom their coach; Gernot Rohr, believes will be better ready when the World Cup returns in 2022. And he could be right especially with the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Oghenekaro Etebo still only in their early 20s.
On the other side of the coin, the future for their opponents who crushed their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 seem bleak. Argentina has been an absolute mess in Russia. This is a disjointed team labouring in their matches and pinning all of their hopes on Lionel Messi. Although Marcos Rojo was the messiah against Nigeria, it is hard to see who will be the saviour when they take on France.
Indeed the only good news for La Albiceleste here is that Les Bleus have been unconvincing in their performances thus far highlighted by a draw against Denmark, in their final group game. However anyone will tell you that the French have the upper hand considering that their camp is not dogged by players mutinying against their manager. Or the rumour that Messi has now become leader and also manager.
Against an impressive Croatia, Argentina was ripped apart partly due to the brilliance of Croatia’s midfield maestros who toyed with them, but the main issue was that the Argentines simply lacked a clear system. This has been the ultimate failure of Coach Jorge Sampaoli who is simply bereft of ideas on how he wants his team to play or what his best players are. It is clearly obvious that while Javier Mascherano is a warrior he is also a liability for them as he made too many costly mistakes against Nigeria. The worst part is that Argentina has no adequate replacement for ‘El Jefe’ and so he must play on even to the detriment of his team at times.
It will be difficult to see Argentina progress further and France will be kicking themselves if they fail to get past this band of estranged brothers. But then again the ball is round and anything can happen. And this means even the possibility of witnessing Argentina somehow emerging triumphant over the French against all odds. Argentine fans will keep dreaming but for Sampaoli and co they need to stop dreaming that Messi will carry them to glory and learn how to operate as a team.