Etebo shines again as Nigeria crash out vs. Argentina
A Marcos Rojo goal defeated Nigeria for the second World Cup in a row as the Super Eagles were beaten 2-1 by Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
The result eliminates Gernot Rohr's side, while the Albiceleste advance as Group D runners-up behind Croatia and will meet France in the Round of 16.
Nigeria showed great strength of character, didn't panic, even when they went a goal down, and kept their shape and their discipline to match the South Americans.
Once again, one moment of lack of concentration came back to cost the Super Eagles dearly.
They defended stoutly for over 85 minutes, but once Rojo got in front of Victor Moses, they were undone and heading home.
Even worse was the inability to take the chances they created. Kelechi Iheanacho failed to find Ahmed Musa in the first half, while Odion Ighalo missed twice, his second when Wilfred Ndidi was open for a square ball.
Their failure to put away a woeful Argentina side certainly counts as a black mark.
Manager Rating (Out of 10)
Gernot Rohr, 7 - All the work the German has been doing showed on the pitch, and he seems to have almost found his best team, albeit too late in the day.
They looked organised and disciplined for large swathes of the game, although it can be argued that perhaps it would have been better starting with Tyronne Ebuehi on the left side for what he offers going forward.
His quick response - bringing on Ighalo for Iheanacho - shows he can make changes when necessary, even if it didn't work out on this occasion.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Francis Uzoho, 7 - Hard to blame him for either goal. Made a fantastic save from Gonzalo Higuain, and also got a finger to Lionel Messi's freekick.
For an inexperienced goalkeeper, the 19-year-old has a lot to be proud of, both in this game, and the tournament as a whole.
DF William Troost-Ekong, 7 - Won aerial duels, smothered Higuain and combined well with Kenneth Omeruo to keep things tight at the back despite a nervy start
DF: Leon Balogun, 6 - His lack of pace was exposed by Angel Di Maria once and cost him a yellow card on the half hour, one he took for the team.
Overall, however, his discipline and excellent reading of the play was one reason Argentina barely got a sniff, and he helped himself to an assist by winning the penalty.
DF Kenneth Omeruo, 8 - By far Nigeria's standout defender, even though he was beaten for pace by Messi. Omeruo's strength in the air and composure represent the glue that holds the Nigerian back three together.
He showed all of that composure to make three early clearances, and was consistently available to cover for the other defenders.
DF Brian Idowu, 6 - It is never easy to defend against Messi and still be adventurous. Idowu almost managed it...for the most part.
He cut off supplies to the Argentinian superstar and made one decisive, if risky intervention in the box
DF Victor Moses 6 - Started slowly, looked lost in the first half, and gave away the ball.
However, he tracked back constantly and made one excellent tackle that could have been an open goal just after he scored the calmest of penalties.
He did lose Rojo at the very end for the goal.
MF John Mikel Obi 7 - Put everything into this. He shielded the back four, won tackles, created space for others and made some impeccable passes.
Ventured upfront to help keep the high press.
MF Wilfred Ndidi, 7 - Another stirring performance from the Leicester City man. He was the perfect foil for Mikel, winning balls everywhere on the pitch, and made life hard for Javier Mascherano
MF Oghenekaro Etebo, 9 - Man of the Match for Nigeria. There was hardly anything he did not do.
He won tackles, took players on, shimmied away from the opposition and showed great strength on the ball, even advanced high up to pressure Messi into a couple of bad passes.
He sent a superb free kick into the side netting.
FW: Kelechi Iheanacho, 5 - Won precious little, either in the air or on the ground, in the first half.
Had a great opportunity to play Musa in, but tried to do it alone and ran into a three-man cul de sac.
It was no surprise to see him yanked off at half time.
FW Ahmed Musa, 7 - No goal for him tonight, but he did work his socks off.
Despite getting double-teamed on almost every occasion, he got behind his markets a number of times and almost set up Ighalo.
FW Odion Ighalo, 6 - Came on for Iheanacho at half time and immediately improved Nigeria's attacking play.
He had two opportunities to score, but saw both saved, including one when a square pass to an open Ndidi might have been a better option.
FW Alex Iwobi, N/R - Came on with barely a couple of minutes to go and hardly got a sniff.
FW Simy Nwankwo, N/R - Introduced in stoppage time to offer an aerial threat.