The Argentine National U20 team Head Coach Javier Mascerano is one of the notable Argentina players who have played a major role in Nigeria’s several losses to Argentina in football competitions.
Mascerano who played for Argentina from 2001 to 2018 had the opportunity to play against Nigeria in three World Cups. During these three encounters in 2010, 2014 and 2018, Mascerano played full time and ensuring that his side never lost to Nigeria.
At the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup when Argentina needed outright victory against Nigeria in the final group stage to qualify after losing in their opener to Croatia, Mascerano did not only sweat on the field in the must-win encounter, his blood was also sacrificed for that victory.
He sustained injury in the match against Nigeria, which made him shed blood but refused to leave the pitch for treatment, for fear that his exit could lead to his nation’s exit as the game was still at 1-1 draw and the scoreline favoured Nigeria.
However, the 86th minutes goal which saw Argentina take the lead and eventually win Nigeria to reach the round of 16 was a relief for the blood-sacrifice which he made to ensure his country had an edge over a Nigerian side that was about to qualify for the knockout stage.
Aside the woes which Nigeria national team suffered in the hands of Argentina at the national level which made Mascerano never lose to Nigeria as a player, Mascerano was also instrumental to Nigeria’s loss of a second Olympic gold at the Beijing 2008.
Nigeria’s hope of winning a second Olympic gold in football after the Atlanta 1996 Olympics glory suffered in the final of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. This was courtesy of Mascerano’s recruitment into the Argentina U23 team.
While Nigeria was looking for a second Olympic gold medal in football, Mascerano who was recruited into the U23 football men team as one of the three over-aged players was also part of the Argentine team who won the Olympic gold medal in football at the immediate Olympics which took place in 2004 at Athens.
Hence, the Beijing 2008 Olympics final between Nigeria and Argentina which eventually went in favour of Argentina, was a battle between Nigeria’s quest for a second Olympic gold in men’s football and Mascerano’s quest for a second Olympic gold in men’s football.
However, it was Mascerano’s second quest for a gold medal at the Olympics which prevailed against Nigeria’s second quest. Making Mascerano the only Argentine player to defend an Olympic gold in men’s football and also won the gold medal twice. He practically accomplished this task at the expense of Nigeria.
In December 2021, Mascerano was appointed coach of the U20 men’s football team. Though his side could not qualify for the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup, but they were privileged to participate when Indonesia was stripped-off the hosting right and Argentina named host.
For Mascerano, the round of 16 fixtures which made his side to meet with Nigeria was an opportunity to extend the winning streak which he had enjoyed as a player over Nigeria to his coaching career. He was probably dreaming of becoming the second Argentine after the late Diego Maradona to do that, but his dreams were shattered on home soil.
The Flying Eagles of Nigeria under Ladan Bosso were ruthless with Mascerano’s side, inflicting a 2-0 defeat that did not only send the Argentine side out of the tournament on home soil, but also earned Nigeria’s first ever victory against Argentina at this level in world football.