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Despite a 3-2 defeat to Argentina, Nige­ria qualified for the round of 16 and are scheduled to trade tackles with France on Monday.

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It was a survival for the Eagles who also had no fewer than 40,000 of the officially declared 43,285 spectators to con­tend with. They provided the tonic for the Argen­tines, who were also in­spired by the birthday boy and skipper, Lionel Messi.

The atmosphere was very electrifying. Argen­tine supporters had be­sieged the city the previ­ous night, some came by roads from their country that it was impossible for most Nigerian followers to secure hotels in Porto Alegre.

 Argen­tina kicked off to the de­light of their fans. Within three minutes they were a goal up through the mag­ical Lionel Messi. Angel di Maria who score the goal with which Argen­tina beat Nigeria in the final match of Beijing 2008 Olympics, went through Nigeria's de­fence from the left flank and fired a shot, which Enyeama only succeed­ed in parrying to the path of a lurking Lionel Messi who fired to the roof of Nigeria's net.

For the first time in the World Cup, Nigeria had been a goal down.  But rapid response by Ni­geria saw Ahmed Musa restoring parity within a minute. He got a pass in the left flank from Michael Babatunde and curled a knee level shot that caught Goalkeeper Sergio Romero napping. So before the opening five minutes, there had been two goals.

Di Maria again! His blinder of a shot from 20 metres in the 29th minute nearly caught Enyeama napping. The Nigerian goalkeeper had to, like an uncoiling spring, stretched hard to smother it into corner. Tension began to build up in Nigeria's area, as the Argentine surged forward ferociously, while the Nigerian side merely tried to slow down the game.

Meanwhile, news flittered in that the oth­er game of Bosnia Her­zegovina and Iran had swung in Nigeria's fa­vour with the Iran be­ing a goal down. As the time ticked down in the first half, pressure con­tinued to piled on Ni­geria. In the first of the two minutes of added time, the irrepressible Lionel Messi curled a free kick that beat the entire Nigerian defence for a second goal.

Nigeria kicked off the second half fero­ciously and within split seconds, an interchange of passes saw Ahmed Musa through, who slid the ball past an onrush­ing Argentine keeper for an equalizer.

For the first time in a World Cup match, a Nigerian had scored a brace. But almost as it was in the first half, the Argentines responded quickly and got a third goal from Ezequiel Lavezzzi corner kick as Marcos Rojo scram­bled the ball into the net.

It was towards the end of the game that the Nigerian side put up spirited efforts to deadlock score lines. It proved impossible. Yet again, Argentina won by the odd goal as in previous encounters.