Marcos Rojo’s late strike extinguished Nigeria’s promising hopes of another second round appearance at the FIFA World Cup when the Manchester United defender’s volley in St Petersburg gave Argentina a 2-1 win over a luckless Nigerian side.
Lionel Messi’s fine finish gave the Seleçion a 14th minute lead before Victor Moses converted from the penalty spot, six minutes after half time after Javier Mascherano fouled Leon Balogun inside the box.
With Nigeria looking to see out the game and get the point needed for a second round passage, Marcos Rojo was left unmarked to volley home Gabriel Mercado’s cross.
“It’s a big disappointment because my team gave the best and missed qualifying within few minutes,” Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr said after the game.
“I’m proud of my players because they played well in the second half, (they played) good football like we can do. We’re missing a bit of experience, we have a young team and I think these kind of matches build the character of the team.
“In four years, they will be very strong,” he added.
Nigeria have the youngest squad of all the thirty-two teams that came to Russia for the World Cup. Team captain, Mikel John Obi is proud of this group of youngsters and just like his manager believes they will be even better by the time the next World Cup comes.
“It is what it is. We did everything we could, most especially in the second half. We pushed and pushed and we played well but it wasn’t just to be, we conceded late in the game,” said a visibly pained Mikel
“It is a very young team and I think that in four years, most of them will be ready for this tournament. I’m so proud of the boys and what they’ve done and achieved.”
Nigeria’s exit from the tournament leaves Africa’s hopes hanging on the neck of Senegal’s Teranga Lions who have a difficult final group game to negotiate against Colombia in Samara on Thursday.