The Super Eagles were minutes away from securing a memorable draw against the South Americans and with it, passage to the knockout rounds of Russia 2018, but a sucker punch volley shattered the West Africans’ hopes
Argentina’s unlikely hero when they faced Nigeria two years ago at the FIFA World Cup was defender Marcos Rojo, and the Manchester United defender has confessed that the Albiceleste were fortunate to go away with a 2-1 win in that game.
The Super Eagles were heading through to the last 16 at Argentina’s expense with four minutes to go of the final Group D game, but Rojo’s sensational low volley saved Jorge Sampaoli’s men, Lionel Messi and co from a first-round exit.
Messi handed Argentina the lead in St Petersburg, but Victor Moses rolled in a penalty after Leon Balogun was impeded in the box to drag Nigeria level.
The Super Eagles thought they had won another penalty when Rojo handled in the area, but the referee ruled it out despite consulting VAR.
Rojo then popped up late in the game to slam home an improbable, unstoppable finish from a Gabriel Mercado cross to send Nigeria home, away from the World Cup.
Speaking in an interview with TYC Sports as per Mundo Albiceleste, Rojo admits that after a bright start from the Argentines, they lost the plot and could have lost.
“The first half we played incredibly. But when they drew level with us, we fell apart.
“We didn’t have a plan. We just tried to score a goal before the end of the match.
“And it was luck… Imagine that I almost caused a penalty. They put in a cross, it was going for the number 9, I tried to close it down, it rebounded, went passed, and it hit me on the hand.
“At times, the hero could have been the villain of the match. The goal was incredible. The next day, I couldn’t even talk. If you see the play, you’d say, “What is Rojo doing there?”
“We went for a backline of three, Gaby Mercado sends in the cross, and I got to it on the other side. They put me in that place to score the goal.”
Messi, one of football’s greatest ever, jumped on the back of Rojo to celebrate that late winner – an image that remains one of the iconic moments of Russia 2018.
Rojo said of that picture: “When my grandkids talk about Messi, I’ll be able to say “look at this picture I have: grandfather carrying him, ha!
“That moment (his goal vs Nigeria) was incredible. It was the goal I screamed the most in my life.”
Argentina faced France next at the Round of 16 stage, where they were defeated by the eventual winners.