Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria saves against Lionel Messi of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup

One Super Eagles star whose wish has come to pass is defender William Troost-Ekong, who before Friday’s World Cup draw told a Dutch publication he would be delighted for Nigeria to again come up against Argentina at Russia 2018.

The confidence of the all-action defender was certainly buoyed by the Eagles impressive 4-2 win over the South Americans in a friendly last month also in Russia.

Nigeria’s other win over the two-time world champions was also in a friendly – 4-1 in Abuja in June 2011.

However, Argentina have come out tops the four times they have clashed with the West Africans at the World Cup – 2-1 (1994), 1-0 (2002), 1-0 (2010), 3-2 (2014).

Lionel Messi and company laboured till the final day of the South American qualifiers to book their flight to Russia 2018.

Legendary Diego Maradona, who led his country to win the 1986 World Cup and also coached them at the 2010 event, was very much aware of their struggles and admitted they will have to step up their game if they hope to emerge from Group D.

Victor Ikpeba was quick to point out that Nigeria have beaten the Argentines when it has not really mattered and it would be best they get their points in their opening two group games against Croatia and Iceland before the final game against Argentina so that they could go past the first round in Russia.

“Our wins against Argentina were in friendly matches and I will expect us to get maximum points against Croatia and Iceland, so the Argentina game will not be that crucial for us to come out of this tough group,” said the 1997 African Footballer of the Year.

Coach Gernot Rohr said what last month’s win over Argentina has shown is that anything is possible with his young team.

Ogenyi Onazi (left) chases after Lionel Messi at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when Nigeria and Argentina last clashed at the World Cup

Interestingly, Russia 2018 will be the first time Nigeria will square up against Croatia and Iceland.

Former Eagles coach Austin Eguavoen has warned Group D is not about Argentina and Nigeria as both Croatia and Iceland will also have a say in this group.

The closest the Eagles have tackled the Croats was in a pre-World Cup warm-up against Yugoslavia in May 1998.

The Yugoslavs, who then included the Croats, won 3-0.

Croatia eliminated Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the European final playoffs to qualify for this Mundial.

Russia 2018 will be their fifth World Cup appearance.

They finished third on their debut in 1998, but have since failed to go past the group stage in 2002, 2006 and 2014.

They boast several top-class players like captain Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Parisic and Mario Mandzukic under the guidance of coach Zlatko Dalic.

Iceland, on the other hand, were The Story of the last Euros in France as this country of just over 300,000 went as far as the last-eight including shocking the Three Lions of England and pegging back eventual winners Portugal.

Their spirited display lifted by their vocal travelling fans gave a new meaning to international football.

They won a qualifying group that had Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey.

The goalscoring  talent of the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson will be crucial in how they fare in Russia.

 

Nigeria Fixtures

June 16 vs Croatia Kaliningrad

June 22 vs Iceland  Volgograd

June 26 vs Argentina St.Petersburg

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