The day began with an unusual overflow of Argentines into the Park Inn Media Hotel of Saint Petersburg. Their stripe jerseys and face-paintings were unmistakable. They flocked around like locusts and enveloped the Nigerian fans. Pockets of Nigerian fans wore coats of different colours. The Argentine jersey dominated everywhere.
At the St Petersburg Stadium, the crowd were intimidating. When it was time for the Nigerian anthem, we sang with all our might hoping to be heard. At the turn of the Argentine national anthem, it was deafening.
At one of the giant TVs at the stadium, the camera kept lingering on one man. His identity was not a surprise. Lionel Messi, arguably, was the greatest player in the world. At another TV, was the image of demi Argentine god, Diego Armando Maradona. His presence sparked off another roaring noise by the crowd.
Nothing unusual about that. Television prefers to focus on the talent of two players known all over the globe. No one was as ferociously talented as Maradona, whose supernatural mixture of power, pace and skill had made him the player of all times. Nigerian legend, Daniel Amokachi was equally beamed and he screamed passionately but the noise of the Argentines dwarfed his efforts.
And the noise that followed the opening goal by Messi was overwhelmingly deafening. Kenneth Omeruo had allowed Messi to open his goal account after two colourless outings that saw them drew with debutants Iceland and lost 3-0 to Croatia.
After Victor Moses restored parity through a superbly taken penalty, the game was ours to lose. And truly through a combination of inept technical crew who failed to make right changes and the inexperience of some of the players, Nigeria came so close and yet so far as it did during its debut in USA'94 against Italy.
Obviously, conclusion of a football match, particularly monumental ones like the Nigeria/Argentina game, often brings new debate and inquiry, questions about players, tactics and refereeing decisions.
Why didn't Rohr make necessary changes to atleast end the game in a draw that would have ensured passage for Nigeria?
Rohr's explanation that the team was an inexperienced one did not hold much water. "Nigeria had a good youthful team but the defeat by Argentina showed a technical flaw", Brazilian Journalist, Bernardo said.
"Nigeria had the chances of beating Argentina even before Rojo scored the backbreaking goal to sneak into the next round. The referee did not give the VAR penalty but I think he(ref) was fair on both sides", Bernardo said.
"The victory of Nigeria over Argentina during friendly games should not make you feel that you have beaten them and can beat them again. There is a difference between friendly game and competitive ones", Bernardo irritated with the loss said and walked away.