Sunday 23 September 2018

Significance of Nigeria match not lost on Argentina boss

Under-pressure Sampaoli says contest is momentous.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is under pressure (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is under pressure (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

By Press Association Sport Staff

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.

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Argentina were humbled 3-0 by Croatia (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

“The week was difficult after the defeat, it means we depend on a result. I am convinced that the team is going to win tomorrow.”

Sampaoli is expected to make changes with Sergio Aguero reportedly facing the axe, while goalkeeper Willy Caballero is set to make way for Franco Armani following his blunder against Croatia.

“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,” Sampaoli added.

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.

Coach Gernot Rohr is not paying any attention to the rumours of disharmony in the opposition camp.

“We focus on our own game and the things we have to do to win this important game,” Rohr said.

“We do not change how we prepare because of what is happening outside. We focus on what we can control.”

Press Association

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