The game of football has a strange sense of drama and Argentina’s agonizing victory over Nigeria provided plenty to reflect upon.
The game could easily have turned Marcos Rojo – Argentina’s hero with the late goal, into a villain who lost them the game.
In the 76th minute of the game, with the scores level at 1-1, the Rojo headed the ball onto his own hand in the box after a Super Eagles cross from the left flank before Odion Ighalo shot wide.
Referee Cuneyt Cakir consulted VAR (Video Assistant Referees) and deemed the incident unworthy of a penalty, and 10 minutes later, Rojo struck a late winner for the Albiceleste to put them second in Group D at Nigeria's expense.
Had Nigeria been awarded a penalty, Argentina would most likely be heading home right now and Rojo branded as a culprit along with Javier Mashcherano, who had allowed Nigeria to equalize after conceding a penalty as he brought down Leon Balogun in the area.
Argentina's runs and passes instantly lacked any sort of order, Banega swapped creativity for wild slide tackles, their shape dissolved and Sampaoli's baffling substitutions made the whole thing worse following the Nigeria equalizer.
Rojo’s situation was a lot similar to Portugal defender Cedric Alves Soares but in that case, Iran were awarded a penalty. Iran scored from the penalty and Portugal were denied top spot in Group B. Argentina would have been out of the World Cup even with a draw. The two situations showcase how differently referees interpret situations and also the fine lines that determine winners and losers.
Rojo turned out to be Argentina’s hero in the dying minutes. While a recognized striker such as Higuain missed a golden opportunity, it was Rojo, the unlikeliest of heroes, who struck gold. He had loitered around the penalty box as Argentina looked to play high balls into the penalty box. His finish as it turned out, was as a good as a striker’s.
Even Messi was approving of the drama that Argentina produced, calling it ‘beautiful madness’.
"I thank God for this joy and I thank you for that beautiful madness they have in each game,” Messi wrote on his Instagram.