Tomorrow when Argentina takes on Nigeria in our final group game, it will be the fourth meeting between us and the Super Eagle from Africa.
At times, I like to think of them as our African brothers as we have been exchanging many honors over the years, mainly age group tournaments; most notably the Olympic gold medals from 1996 and 2008.
First meeting was back in 1994 when the World Cup was held in the United States. Nigeria was among debutants in that tournament but came with a reputation as one of Africa’s best. Current Super Eagles manager Stephen KESHI was part of the squad but never featured in this match.
Nigeria took the lead through Samson SIA-SIA and quickly reminded everyone of what happen four years earlier when a certain Cameroon did the same against us. But Argentina quickly bounced back with a double from Claudio CANIGGIA. Argentina won 2-1.
However the match will forever be remembered for what turned out to be Diego MARADONA’s last appearance for some obvious reason.
The next meeting will take place eight years later in the World Cup 2002 in Japan (co-hosted as well with South Korea). We were both placed in what was dubbed as the group of death alongside England and Sweden. Argentina took full points with a header through Gabriel BATISTUTA. BATISTUTA alongside Diego SIMEONE were part of that team in 1994 while Jay Jay OKOCHA was the only survivor for Nigeria.
It will take another eight years for us to meet again, in the World Cup in South Africa. This time, Diego MARADONA was back on the biggest stage but as the team’s manager.
On the field, Walter SAMUEL and Juan Sebastian VERON were reunited with Nigeria’s captain Joseph YOBO as the only survivors from 2002. Just like eight years ago, a header from Gabriel HEINZE that earned Argentina a 1-0 win.
VERON could take credit for the assist on both goals scored in 2002 and 2010.
As for this edition, Sergio ROMERO, Martin DEMICHELIS, Javier MASCHERANO, Lionel MESSI, Gonzalo HIGUAIN, Angel DI MARIA, Maxi RODRIGUEZ and Mariano ANDUJAR could start a reunion party with Vincent ENYEAMA, Joseph YOBO (his third time) and Peter ODEMWINGIE from the Super Eagles camp.
So far we have been winning all our meetings at the World Cup, surely we hope that trend will continue in thsis fourth encounter.