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Saudi Arabia do what Nigeria never could…beat Argentina at the World Cup

19:55 EAT 22/11/2022
Enyeama, Messi, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria
The Super Eagles should take a few notes from The Green Falcons

Football fans stood up to acknowledge Saudi Arabia after they came from behind to pull off one of the greatest World Cup giant killings on Tuesday, defeating Lionel Messi and Argentina 2-1.

The Green Falcons trailed at the break, but two second-half goals and a stout rearguard display secured all three points, while Argentina ran out of ideas as they sought to avoid an almighty upset.

In defeating Argentina, Saudi Arabia became the first Asian team ever to defeat the South American giants at the tournament, and the first non-European team to beat the Albiceleste since Cameroon stunned Diego Maradona and co. at the 1990 World Cup.

In victory, Saudi Arabia also achieved a feat that Nigeria have never managed to…despite multiple attempts.

The Super Eagles have been drawn against Argentina on five occasions at the tournament; it regularly seems as though fate has a plan to draw the two continental heavyweights together.

In fact, only once have Nigeria qualified for a World Cup and not had to see off Argentina—when they reached France in 1998.

On five separate attempts, Nigeria have clashed with Argentina, and on each occasion, they’ve come off second best.

In the Super Eagles’ first appearance at the tournament, they were pitted against Argentina—losing 2-1 in Foxborough—and the pair met again in 2002, with the Super Eagles losing 1-0 on that occasion. In this second instance, neither side failed to escape the group.

Nigeria didn’t qualify for the tournament in 2006, but were on the losing side again in 2010—the first World Cup on African soil—when they were beaten 1-0.

In 2014, Ahmed Musa scored twice in a memorable encounter but, eclipsed by Lionel Messi and with Marcos Rojo scoring the winner, Argentina still took all three points.

Their most recent tournament meeting was in Russia, four and a half years ago, when Gernot Rohr’s side failed to hold on and progress to the Last 16, with Rojo again scoring the winner four minutes from time.

There was something unmistakeably Nigerian about Saudi Arabia as they took on Argentina on Tuesday…perhaps it was those rich green shirts that had a thoroughly ‘Naija’ feel about them.

Saudi Arabia even had their own Vincent Enyeama—who pulled off magnificent saves against Argentina in 2010 and 2014—in the form of Mohammed Al Owais.

The keeper may have been beaten by Lionel Messi from the penalty spot, but he made five key saves and, at least twice, came with authority to claim the ball.

While Nigeria fans, like the rest of the watching world, will doubtless celebrate and appreciate Saudi Arabia’s giant-killing heroics, the Super Eagles should also reflect on how a team ranked almost 20 places below them on the Fifa World Rankings can neutralise Argentina in a way they were never able to.

There are lessons to learn here, both for players and federation; from the tactical strategy, the astute appointment of Herve Renard, the unity, the clinical finishing in the final third, the defensive rigour.

Hopefully, both the NFF and the Super Eagles were taking some notes…for the next time they find themselves on the grandest stage.