Nigeria’s pride remains despite heartbreak
The Super Eagles have officially been eliminated for the World Cup, and while that initial statement is incredibly disappointing, there’s a lot to unpack. The African nation put in one hell of a shift last night against Argentina, and in the end, they came up short against a team that were considered to be the overwhelming favourites to win the group. Many didn’t even think that the Nigerians would take the group to the final game when in reality, they did so much more than that. They brought a nation together through their love of football, and while it didn’t quite go their way, the Nigerian national team can hold their heads up high.
The nature of the loss will probably sting the most for Gernot Rohr and his team, as they were so very close to achieving their goal of reaching the last 16 in Russia. They came up against a team who simply weren’t at the races throughout the majority of the game, with their only major spark in the first 75 minutes being Lionel Messi’s tremendous opening goal. That could have been enough to throw Nigeria off their game plan, but to their credit, they stuck with it. They took their time and didn’t rush into anything silly, and while they went into half-time behind, they came out with a vengeance as they capitalised on Argentina’s complacency.
Nigeria won a penalty within 10 minutes of the start, and Victor Moses tucked it away to ensure that the pressure went right back onto the favourites. The next half an hour saw the Super Eagles go back and forth between hanging on for dear life and counter-attacking with a great deal of intent, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to secure that second goal that would’ve all but killed off the game. They remained competitive but you could sense that their legs were starting to tire, and then in the blink of an eye, their hopes were shattered by none other than Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo.
The 28-year-old finished off a delightful move from Gabriel Mercado’s ball into the box, as Argentina held on to book their place in the knockout stages against France. But while many are choosing to focus on the negatives surrounding this loss, we’re looking on the bright side. Rohr always said this was a team for 2022 and not 2018, and when you consider just how impressive they looked against Iceland and then Argentina, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic as we look ahead. While this journey may be over, a new one is just beginning.