The Super Eagles have lost all four previous World Cup clash with Argentina but were able to come from two goals down to defeat an Argentina side without Lionel Messi 4-2 in a friendly in Krasnodar last November.
Defender Leon Balogun, who signed for Brighton & Hove Albion from Mainz before leaving for the World Cup, says that Argentina would be a wounded lion after their 3-0 loss to Croatia and stressed that curtailing Messi in Tuesday’s St Petersburg face-off need not be a mission impossible.
“I think they haven’t found their form yet and they haven’t found Messi as well,” he said.
“They’re very dependent. They always have been. Again if you look at their qualifying campaign you can see that Messi was the one who took them to the World Cup.
“We learned a lesson from the game against Croatia – to play more patiently, and be confident in ourselves,” he added of the Super Eagles’ opening 2-0 defeat by the Balkan team.
The lesson after seeing Argentina’s own defeat against Croatia, meanwhile, is “you have to be very patient and definitely you need to be disciplined defensively. You have to close all the passes, or as many as possible, to Messi to leave him out of the game – but then at the same time take out the rest of their amazing qualities so it’s not going to be an easy one.”
The Eagles can help themselves with more of the high-speed counterattacks with which they beat Iceland in the second half of Friday’s match, according to Balogun’s fellow centre-back William Troost-Ekong. “Of course they’re deadly up front but they give away a lot of space when they play,” he said.
“Maybe because they play such attacking football and that’ll suit us. The same thing happened today in the second half – Iceland opened up a little bit and then we could kill them.”