Angel Di Maria Sergio Aguero Lionel Messi Argentina
Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi at a training session for ArgentinaJuan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

A back three had disastrous consequences for Argentina in their awful defeat to Croatia, so Jorge Sampaoli is set to tweak his formation one more time when Lionel Messi's side go into a must-win against Nigeria in their final Group D match of the Fifa World Cup 2018.

Argentina were as worse as they could have possibly been in their last match, with Croatia running away 3-0 winners and with it booking their place in the last 16.

Many would have thought the Croatia match would be the one where Argentina would seal their place in the knockouts, before the start of this World Cup, but it was not to be, with Messi and his team putting on an abysmal show.

One more such performance and it certainly will be curtains for Argentina and Messi in this Fifa World Cup 2018.

Indeed, it is only thanks to Nigeria and their fantastic 2-0 win that destiny is still, somewhat, in Argentina's own hands.

John Obi Mikel Nigeria
John Obi Mikel will hope to skipper Nigeria to a memorable result against ArgentinaChristophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

As it sits, Croatia have qualified with six points, with Nigeria on three and Iceland and Argentina on one point each.

What that means is Argentina can only qualify for the knockout rounds with a victory, and if Iceland end up beating what will understandably be an under-strength Croatia side, then it will come down to goal difference.

Nigeria could qualify with a draw, but considering how badly Argentina have played in this World Cup and how poor that defence has looked, Ahmed Musa and company will fancy their chances of scoring a few.

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Sampaoli is set to go back to a back-four, but with a slightly different formation to the one that took the field against Iceland in their opening match of the World Cup in Russia.

Lionel Messi is expected to be pushed up front in a 4-4-2, with Gonzalo Higuain tipped to replace Sergio Aguero. Whether that works or not only time will tell, but maybe working in a similar formation that seems to help Cristiano Ronaldo, might be the solution for Messi to find his form.

Angel Di Maria is expected to return to the starting XI for Argentina, and it remains to be seen if Sampaoli gambles with an attacking line-up by giving Paulo Dybala a chance, maybe on the left of the 4-4-2.

Dybala is really the other game-changer that Argentina have along with Messi and the Juventus man really needs more than a cameo towards the end to make an impact. However, Sampaoli has resisted starting Dybala so far in this Fifa World Cup 2018, and it will be a surprise if that changes.

One definite change is going to be in the goalkeeping position, with the error-prone Willy Caballero making way for the inexperienced but talented Franco Armani.


A change of formation to three at the back worked wonders for Nigeria, as John Obi Mikel took a more defensive position in midfield and Victor Moses was asked to do the wing-back job he does for Chelsea. With Musa starring with a two-goal show against Iceland, Nigeria will hope the pace they have in attack will trouble Argentina.

Expected starting XI:

Argentina: Franco Armani; Eduardo Salvio, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Maximiliano Meza, Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain.

Nigeria: Francis Uzoho; Leon Balogun, William Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo; Victor Moses, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Tyronne Ebuehi; Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa.