Argentina needed to avoid defeat against Nigeria in order to top Group F. Attacking brilliance from Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria - the catalyst of a 3 2 victory over a spirited Nigerian side who also progressed from Group F.
Below is how the Argentines rated:
Goalkeeper - Sergio Romero - The Monaco keeper was barely involved. Nigeria had a 'shoot on site' policy, especially from long range.
But other than the two Ahmed Musa strikes, which Romero could do nothing about. He did not have much to deal with because of a lack of quality when creating chances from the Africans - 6
Left Back - Marcos Rojo - A full back designed for the modern game. Plenty of energy and enthusiasm when attacking but lacking defensive ability. That is the way the world game seems to be going right now. There is a concerning lack of defensive quality throughout the world.
Rojo got forward on occasion and looked an attacking threat. His pace and fitness were utilized to get forward and create chances for his team mates. He also managed to score. Ezequiel Garay headed a corner on and Rojo inadvertently kneed the ball home. However he was beaten on a regular basis and allowed crosses to be delivered far too frequently - 6
Centre Back - Ezequiel Garay - Has signed for Russian side, FC Zenit St Petersburg, today. He is one of Europe's most highly rated defenders. A commanding, physical presence, he looked assured. A rarity in the Argentinean defence.
He managed to attack a Messi corner and flick on for Rojo to score, a real threat at set pieces.
The gap between him and his defensive partner, Federico Fernandez, was too large. Allowing the Nigerian attacking players to drive at their defence. This cost them a goal on the day and will need to be addressed if Argentina are to challenge for the tournament - 6
Centre Back - Federico Fernandez - The polar opposite of Garay. He looked uncomfortable all too often and unreliable through out.
Equally he did not address the gap between himself and Garay which enabled Nigeria to score. Argentina are defensively frail because of this - 5
Right Back - Pablo Zabaleta - The Manchester City player is widely regarded as one of the best right backs in the world. A real attacking threat usually.
It was his defensive skills that he used well today. Providing several last ditch tackles to save his team after impressive Nigerian counter attacks - 7
Central Midfield - Javier Mascherano - A sitting midfielder, hugely underrated. He regularly broke up Nigerian attacks and was his usual physical presence in midfield.
He also used his excellent passing ability to good effect. Kick starting attacks from deep and orchestrating the Argentinean team - 7
Central Midfield - Fernando Gago - Recently returned to Argentinean club football with Boca Juniors, he had a quiet game.
Nigeria had a big, powerful team which asserted their physical attributes. Gago was out muscled and out paced through out - 6
Central Midfield - Angel di Maria - Off the back of an impressive season at Real Madrid, he had brought his excellent club form to the international fore. He drove at the Nigerian side, committing players and creating space for his team mates.
His clever, fast-paced link up play with Messi will be crucial to Argentina's world cup campaign. He also tested Nigerian keeper, Vincent Enyeama, on several occasions and on another day would have had a hat-full of goals. An imperious display of attacking football - 8
Attacker - Gonzalo Higuain - He did not have a good game. Highly rated through out Europe, he is not performing to his potential.
All too regularly he misplaced passes and his poor first touches, cost his side territorial position - 5
Lucas Biglia replaced the ineffectual forward after ninety-one minutes. He did not have enough time to make any impact. He was brought on to sure up the midfield and make sure of the game. Argentina won so you could say he did his job - 6
Attacker - Lionel Messi - All but guaranteed the title of the greatest footballer in the history of the game if he can lead Argentina to world cup glory. His statistics speak for themselves.
Four goals and two assists in three games. He is certainly trying his best to aid his team's cause.
In the third minute he struck a powerful rebound shot in to the roof of the net to put Argentina 1 nil up. Then on forty-five minutes his mesmerizing foot-work, bamboozled the Nigerian defence and won a free kick on the edge of the area. Messi stepped up and expertly struck the free kick in to the the top right hand corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
A sublime performance, magical at times. Not quite perfection - 9
Messi was replaced by Ricardo Alvarez on sixty-three minutes. His job was done.
Alvarez did not play much of a part in a pedestrian paced second half. He showed a couple of neat touches but nothing of real importance - 6
Attacker - Sergio Aguero - After an injury ravaged campaign with English champions, Manchester City. Injury unfortunately prematurely ended his game today.
At times Argentina increased the tempo and accuracy of their attacking play to devastating effect. He combined with Messi and di Maria well and was a constant threat - 6
Aguero was replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi on thirty-eight minutes. Lavezzi was a bright spark for Argentina. He, like di Maria, ran at the Nigerian defence. Committing players and creating space for his team mates. He worked tirelessly for the cause.
A striker with real quality and ingenuity, he needs to start. His good form will surely put Gonzalo Higuain's starting position under threat - 7
Argentina saw off a spirited Nigerian side 3 2. The Africans are always physically strong and fit men, they utilized this and combined it with some accurate passing. Playing on the counter attack they exposed Argentina's defensive frailties and were unlucky to be defeated. They do though, progress to the knock-out stages.
Argentina led by the wonderful Messi have to be considered as serious contenders. A more rounded team performance, with Mascherano, di Maria and Lavezzi also impressing. They showed today that they mean business.
They are still defensively suspect. And can be beaten.
But with Messi at his magical best, Argentina will take some beating.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU