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12.06.2010 18:38

Messi does everything but score (1-0)


Argentina started their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday afternoon, and although he failed to score, Leo Messi’s performance was outstanding.

Messi has often been criticised in his home country for failing to produce the same magic for Argentina that he has at FC Barcelona. But it was impossible to criticise his display against Nigeria today, as he contributed to a 1-0 win that leaves Diego Maradona’s side comfortably poised for a place in the last sixteen.

Messi the playmaker

messi_nigeria2010a.jpgMessi was given a relatively free reign in a more attacking role than he is usually given for his country. And if he has sometimes seemed unsettled for Argentina in the past, there was no sign of that today. He displayed a perfect understanding with his team-mates and almost all of the creative play went through him. 12 of Argentina’s 20 shots on goal were from Messi, and all that was missing was the goal. On three occasions he had chances where he would normally be expected to score, but Nigerian keeper Enyeama was in outstanding form and won that individual battle.

Heinze nods Argentina ahead

messi_gol_nigeria2010.jpgHaving taken a sixth minute lead through a headed Heinze goal from a Verón corner, there was a lack of urgency to Argentina’s approach. By half time they could well have had the game done and dusted, but further goals just didn’t want to come. For much of the second half, they seemed more intent on defending their lead rather than building on it, and such complacency could have proved costly had Nigeria managed to capitalise on their own chances – in particular one that fell to Kalu Uche in the final minutes.

It was anything but a spectacular result, but the performance was a very convincing one that will have left the Argentinian supporters feeling very positive indeed about their team’s chances. They now share the lead in the group with South Korea, who beat a disappointing Greece 2-0 earlier in the day.
Images: FIFA.COM
Images: FIFA.COM
Match stats
Argentina, 1
S. Romero, Demichelis, Samuel, Heinze, Jonás, Verón (Maxi, min 73), Mascherano, Di María (Burdisso, min 84), Messi, Higuaín (Milito, min 78), Tévez.

Nigeria, 0
Enyeama, Odiah, Yobo, Shittu, Taiwo (Uche, min 74), Kaita, Haruna, Etuhu, Obinna (Martins, min 52), Yakubu i Obasi (Odemwingie, min 60).

Goals: 1-0, Heinze, min, 6.

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).

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