Under pressure Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli admits his side face a “momentous” must-win clash with Nigeria.
Argentina know only a victory will do if they are to avoid a humiliating exit from the group stages.
They currently lie bottom of Group D with a solitary point to their name following a draw with Iceland and the embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Croatia.
Yet Sampaoli remains convinced his beleagured side can salvage something from what has been a dismal World Cup campaign so far.
“For us it’s a momentous game, I think both teams are going to do everything possible to qualify, that makes the match very attractive,” he said at his pre-match press conference.
“We have to make our goal of five games to reach the final. Tomorrow will be the first final.
“We don’t have any alternative and I am sure this is how it will go. Tomorrow, I am sure that they will see the best version of Argentina at this World Cup.
“Beyond the fact that I have the team in my head, I do not want to confirm it because I have not yet communicated it to the players.”
Captain Lionel Messi, who turned 31 on Sunday, has cut a miserable figure so far, missing a penalty against Iceland and making no impact against the Croats.
Sampaoli admitted: “I think the structure of the game with Croatia did not favour Messi. We will try to improve.
“This game has to be played with the heart, we have to do everything possible so that Argentina is in the next phase.”
Nigeria, second in the group with three points, need to win to guarantee their progress but could also go through with a draw if Iceland do not beat Croatia.
A convincing 3-0 win over hosts Russia helped Uruguay top Group A on Monday at World Cup 2018.
Here we take a look at all of Uruguay’s goals in animation.
An exquisite free-kick struck low into the bottom corner, by Suarez, gave Uruguay the lead in the 10th minute.
After Lucas Torreira’s corner is headed clear, it some how reaches Diego Laxalt on the edge of the box who takes a shot at goal. While it looked like it was heading wide, Cheryshev’s touch acts as a deflection and the ball ends in the back of net, as Igor Akinfeev couldn’t do much about it.
It came late in the game, but Cavani finally got his first goal for Uruguay in the tournament. Another corner kick from Torreira was headed by Diego Godin, whose shot is saved by the goalkeeper but Cavani’s rebound makes it 3-0.
Iceland and Croatia go into their final group games of the World Cup in differing moods.
While Croatia are buoyant after having sealed qualification for the Round of 16 with a stunning 3-0 win over Argentina, Iceland are facing elimination even if they beat their European rivals on Tuesday.
Here’s a look at the talking points ahead of the game.
ICELAND FACE BIGGEST TEST
Iceland have never played a game like this before. The qualifying playoff for the 2014 World Cup comes closest in terms of pressure on a single game or tie – ironically against Croatia – but needing a win to qualify for the knockout stages at the tournament proper is a different kettle of fish.
They were in a similar position at Euro 2016 heading into their final group game, which they won 2-1 against Austria, so at least they know they can deliver. On paper Croatia are tougher opponents, although, having already qualified for the Round of 16, they’ve already confirmed that they’re going to rest some of their star players.
Iceland will also face scoreboard pressure, as a big win is their best chance of making it out of the group stage. Do everyone’s favourite underdogs have it in them to run up the score against a strong side?
Added to that, they’ll have to adjust to whatever is going on in the Nigeria-Argentina game. If Nigeria are winning – and thus knocking Iceland out – will they be able to keep from letting their heads get down?
Being on this stage was a dream come true for Iceland, but a game like this will make them face the realities of the big-time.
MOMENTUM VS REST THE DILEMMA FOR CROATIA
Speaking of Croatia resting players, just how far will that go? They’re not only guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16, they’ll almost certainly go through as group winners – they have a five-goal cushion against Nigeria in the goal difference column, so even if they lose and the Super Eagles win, it will take big margins in both games for Croatia to slip to second.
Their decision to field a weaker side has met with criticism from the Nigeria camp – as it would, given that if Nigeria draw against Argentina, they’ll need Croatia to beat or at least draw against Iceland. But that is hardly Zlatko Dalic’s problem.
The Croatia manager’s bigger concern, apart from avoiding injuries and suspensions, is the risk of losing the momentum they’ve built up over their two group stage wins, especially after their superb victory over Argentina.
Would he rather give his regulars some game time to keep them sharp, or back them to be refreshed and at their best in the Round of 16?
TIME FOR SIGURDSSON TO LEAVE HIS MARK
This was meant to be Gylfi Sigurdsson’s moment. Iceland’s star player has been building up to the World Cup ever since he helped secure their qualification, and he even followed in Neymar‘s footsteps by managing his return from a late-season injury in order to be close to full fitness.
Sigurdsson has been compared to another modern great during his career, and he and Lionel Messi do have something in common at the moment: missing vital penalties.
The Iceland man benefitted from Messi’s miss, as keeper Hannes Holldorsson save from the Argentine’s spot-kick protected a 1-1 draw, but Sigurdsson’s miss was arguably bigger. Had he scored, his side would have halved their deficit to Nigeria, putting them on the comeback trail or, at the very least, improving their goal difference.
Instead, they’re two behind Nigeria on that front, and now even a win on Tuesday won’t guarantee their spot in the last 16. Ideally they also get a narrow Argentina win over Nigeria, but their best hope is to win by as many goals as possible.
For that, they’ll need Sigurdsson to deliver. He has come alive in flashes but it’s time for him to leave an indelible mark on the world’s biggest stage.