Messi And Argentina Needing To Pull A...Greece

Messi And Argentina Needing To Pull A...Greece

Argentina’s run in the 2018 FIFA World Cup can only be described thus far as disastrous. With Lionel Messi looking lost amidst a group of under-performers and a manager in Jorge Sampaoli who doesn’t appear to have the support of his own players, an early exit seems likely. 

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Nigeria’s victory Iceland last Friday handed Argentina a lifeline however. Now, a victory against the Super Eagles on Tuesday evening in Saint Petersburg will more than likely be enough to advance to the Round of 16 (depending on Iceland’s result and potential margin of victory against Croatia).

The Albiceleste are now aiming to become only the fourth team in World Cup history to advance the knockout rounds after only picking up a single point in their first two matches. The first three teams to do this were Paraguay, Turkey (both in 2002), and Slovakia (2010).

The last team to pull it off? None other than Greece four years ago in Brazil. After being upended in their opener 3-0 by Colombia, Greece came back producing a battling display with 10 men in a 0-0 draw with Japan. That set the scene for what was essentially a final for the Ethniki against the Ivory Coast. A win and Greece were through, while Ivory Coast had the luxury of playing for a win or a draw in order to advance. 

Substitute Andreas Samaris gave Greece a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute of that match on a magical night in Fortaleza. Greece were superb throughout, though the dream of a first-ever spot in a World Cup Round of 16 looked to be gone after Wilfried Bony equalized 16 minutes from time.

However, one more twist of fate was left to play out. Georgios Samaras was fouled in the box in injury-time. In one of the most dramatic moments of the Ethniki’s history, Samaras stepped up to coolly slot home the 93rd minute spot-kick to send Greece to the last 16 of the World Cup.

From Fortaleza in 2014 to Saint Petersburg in 2018. If Argentina are to avoid a shocking exit at the Group Stage, simply put they will have to conjure up an extraordinary night on Tuesday akin to what Greece managed four years ago in Brazil. 

by George Tsitsonis
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