It could have been Lionel Messi’s last World Cup game and after their meltdown against Croatia and all of the talk that ensured after that loss, you wouldn’t have been out of line to consider them broken.
But the battled and bloodied Argentinians fought to the death to give themselves a chance of a deep run into the tournament or, at the very least, one more day in the sun.
Messi slotted home after 14 minutes when Ever Banega lofted a lovely ball into his path. With just three touches, the ball was rocketing past Francis in Nigeria’s goals. Things took a turn for the worse from there though. Nigeria took control and Argentina took a backseat.
They didn’t score but could have had a penalty when Rojo kicked Iheanacho in the face in the penalty area at the end of the first 45 but escaped punishment.
Mascherano was as lucky though as he pulled Balogun back in the area at the start of the second half and conceded a spot kick. Victor Moses got a chance to display his nerves of cast iron steel to roll the ball beyond Armani to level things and put the Argentinians out as it stood.
There was huffing and puffing and chances from both sides but it looked like it would end a goalles draw when Gonzalo Higuain drove over from a very nice angle. There was more drama to come though.
Rojo popped up with a peach on 86 minutes. Gabriel Mercado sent the ball in from the right and the defender could not have caught the ball sweeter from the six-yard line as Francis was left fastened to the floor as he watched the ball shoot by him again.
It sent Argentina through to the last 16, turning heartbreak into scenes of joyfulness. Di Maria wept, Argentina fans sang and the players surrounded Messi to celebrate their qualification