Argentina 1 – Nigeria 0 (Match Summary)

June 12, 2010 - 06024864 date 12 06 2010 Copyright imago GEPA Pictures Football FIFA World Cup 2010 ARG vs NGR Johannesburg 12 Jun 10 Football FIFA World Cup 2010 Country game Argentina vs Nigeria Picture shows Vincent Enyeama Lukman Haruna NIG and Lionel Messi ARG PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxAUTxSUIxITA men Football World Cup National team international match Johannesburg Action shot Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

The big news for Argentina leading up to their opening match vs. Nigeria was that coach Diego Maradona had elected to go with a 3 forward lineup. The key question with such an offensively-minded approach is how you compensate either in the midfield or backline. In other words, who will you borrow from to allow that extra attacking option? Argentina’s answer was interesting, lining up in a nominal 5-2-3. A 5-man back line sounds like overkill, but in practice the two outside “backs”, Di Maria and Jonas, were more like supporting midfield wings, running up and down the flanks, getting back to defend when necessary. Veron and Mascherano shared Argentina’s center midfield well, Mascherano doing the grunt work of recuperation and distribution while Veron—known as “La Brujita” (The Little Witch) for his propensity for creativity—filled the role of cool-headed play maker well. In terms of the 3 forwards—Messi, Tevez, and Higuain—Messi stayed central, though obviously had been given free reign to roam as necessary. Tevez was his usual workhorse, hustling down balls like a hungry pitbull and offering some opportunities to teammates. It was Higuain and Messi who had abundant opportunities to score, but a stellar performance by Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama kept the scoreline quite respectable. Messi did seem to find his old Barcelona fluidity at the top of the Nigerian box, several times combining on some precision give-and-goes with teammates that left him in some clear scoring situations. Champions League final standout Diego Milito subbed on for Higuain late in the second half but perhaps didn’t have time to find the game’s rhythm.

With such an armada of offense on the field, the irony wasn’t lost on anyone that the game’s only goal came from Argentine defender “El Gringo” Heinze when he made a determined run into the box to meet Veron’s corner kick with a diving header. It had the look of a set play, and the fact that Argentina had the nerves to execute it just 6 minutes into their first match is a testament to the depth of their futbol intelligence. They also showed raw fire power, hammering a barrage of 20 shots on goal at the Nigerian net.

Nigeria wasn’t without their high moments. Coming out of a game like that 1 – 0 took a defensive tenacity that is applaudable, and one they’ll need against the Koreans. Though they didn’t have many chances on goal, they’ve proven, like every other African team thus far, it will take world class performances to take them down, and nothing less will do.

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Blake Owen says:

    Facing an opponent as skilled as Argentina, I was quite surprised Nigeria wasn’t carved apart, especially without John Obi Mikel.

  2. Matt says:

    I’m really not. Argentina has a surplus of individual skill, but if their qualification group was any indication, they have trouble pulling it together. I’m not saying that they’re weak, but Nigeria aren’t stupid, or weak. They were able to exploit Argentina’s weaknesses to at least make it a game in the late running.

    • bensten says:

      I think the shaky qualification play of Argentina is over. Diego was experimenting like crazy with virtually a whole new roster each game. I think we are going to see this team settle into a deadly rythm. That’s why I think this result says more about Nigeria than Argentina. Nigeria could be another of the so-called “dark horses” of this tournament. I definitely see them advancing.

  3. Rupert J Pelfrey says:

    That brings to mind an interesting quote from Landon Donovan about Team USA. He noted that they might not be the most skilled team out there, but they had the best teamwork and genuinely liked each other.

    It reminded me of the old quote about “miles and miles of heart”….

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