A Messi match for Eagles

2010-06-12 16:58

Nigeria was mis­represented.

In terms of the final scoreline, that will be regarded as the truth

and nothing but the truth.

But a close analysis of the Super Eagles’ performance will reveal a

two-pronged explanation.

The first is how unlucky the Super Eagles were, and the second is

that they always stood no chance against the Lionel Messi-led Argentina.

Although they left the field without the important three points and

became the first African country to lose in the World Cup staged on their

continent, Nigeria were just unlucky in front of goal.

But they were lucky, too, not to concede more than the first-half

strike by defender Gabriel Heinze.

Argentina threatened from the opening thirty seconds when Messi

waltzed through the defence, but the attack fizzled out.

After Nigeria

retaliated with Chinedu Obasi in the second minute, Gonzalo Higuain went wide

and Messi got tipped for a corner, it became a question of just when Argentina

would take the lead.

That question was answered from the resulting corner in the sixth

minute when Marseille defender Heinze powerfully headed in his fourth goal in 66

appearances for Argentina.

From then on it looked as if a massacre was looming for the Super


But the heavens that sent angel Gabriel Heinze to score the opener

also had mercy on the West Africans.

Messi missed in three first-half sitters, either denied by the

brilliance of ’keeper Vincent Enyeama or shot wide.

As it turned out, these mercies endured, with Messi missing after

Argentina broke on the counter in the 65th minute and then being kept out by

Enyeama 10 minutes from the end.

Had they started the first half as well as they did the second

stanza, Nigeria could have stolen at least a point from Diego Maradona’s


Nigeria swamped the South Americans and relentlessly knocked on

their goalposts, particularly between the 60th and 70th minutes.

But with wasted opportunities – like the one by substitute Peter

Odemwingie, another by Taye Taiwo and possibly the worst by Kalu Uche – an

equaliser remained elusive.

Nigeria now need no fewer than three points in their next game,

against Greece in Bloemfontein on Thursday.

The Super Eagles have now lost three times against Argentina, with

their other meeting ending in a draw.

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