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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Nigeria's 'Lionel Musa' warns Argentina he is not their hero ahead of crunch World Cup Group D match

Nigeria's 2-0 win over Iceland ensured a renewed window of opportunity for Argentina, who were hammered 3-0 by Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday, of reaching the last 16

Nigeria's Ahmed Musa became "Lionel Musa" on social media in Argentina on Friday after his two goals against Iceland which not only put the Africans back on course for a last-16 place, but also restored the World Cup hopes of the South Americans.

However, the Nigerian has warned his new-found hero status in Argentina is likely to end abruptly on Tuesday when the two countries meet in a decisive Group D game in Saint Petersburg.

"Whenever I play against Argentina, or whenever [Lionel] Messi is playing against me, I score.

"Four years ago, in Brazil when Messi was playing against me, I scored two goals," said Musa, referring to the 3-2 win for Argentina over Nigeria in a group game in Porto Alegre where Messi also netted twice.

"When I transferred to Leicester City and we played against Barcelona and Messi was in the pitch too, I scored another two goals, so I think in the next game anything can happen. Possibly, I'm going to score another two goals."

Musa's double for Leicester came in a pre-season friendly in Stockholm shortly after he had signed for the then English champions from CSKA Moscow in 2016.

The 25-year-old forward is now the first Nigerian to score at different World Cups and with four goals the country's all-time record scorer in the finals.

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Gary Meenaghan: Musa's double sets Nigeria up with showdown with Messi and Argentina for a last 16 spot

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"I'm very good at breaking records and I'm happy now to be the top scorer at the World Cup for Nigeria. It's not easy but I have to thank my coach for his support because if he didn't believe in me he wouldn't put me in the pitch."

Musa was restored to the line-up after Nigeria's opening Group D loss to Croatia and repaid the faith with two fine individual strikes.

The opening goal just after half time saw him pluck the ball out of the air with his first touch before blasting it home.

The second came in the 75th minute, when after a break down the wing, Musa cut inside and waltzed around the goalkeeper before patiently firing the ball into the net.

It ensured Nigeria, with three points, went second in Group D, behind Croatia who have already qualified after successive victories, but ahead of Argentina and Iceland, both on one.

Nigeria's success also ensured a renewed window of opportunity for Argentina, who were hammered 3-0 by Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday, but now have a realistic chance to qualify if they beat the Africans on Tuesday.

"We know the importance of the last game, it's do-or-die," added Musa. "We have to win, we can't afford to lose. By the 95th minute we will know who carries the day and, by the grace of God, we are going to work very hard."

Messi and his Argentina teammates hit the training ground on Saturday with speculation that manager Jorge Sampaoli may be replaced before the game against Nigeria.

Sampaoli was roundly criticised for his approach against Croatia, sparking rumours the 58 year old would be sacked during the tournament.

It had been suggested that 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga, the team's technical director, would replace Sampaoli, but the claims were strongly denied by the Argentina Football Association (AFA) on Saturday.

Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Lucas Biglia trained separately from the rest of the squad in the gym as they recover from minor knocks.

Defensive pair Mercado and Otamendi suffered ankle injuries in the loss to Croatia but are expected to be fit to face Nigeria.

Goalkeeper Willy Caballero could be dropped following his mistake for the opening goal against Croatia, with River Plate's Franco Armani possibly in line to make his international debut.