Argentina 1 Nigeria 0
Vuvuzela Rating: 2.8 – Low Hum
In the pre match press conference both sides revealed the nature of their preparations and the story of their qualifying campaigns.
Maradona continued his mental antics. He flew a sky-writing plane over Italy inscribing “you can swivel for your money” into the Italian scenery, this was in response to customs recently stopping and questioning him over tax owed to the country during his playing stint with Napoli. In an effort to maintain the squad’s fitness El Diego has encouraged his players to spend lots of time by the pool in the hotel and have bellyflop competitions, he claims this obscure approach will ensure his players are “mentally and physically ready for whoever it is we are playing in Africa somewhere”.
The Nigerians have had their fair share of problems during qualification, The Super Eagles found themselves stranded on the runway of Makurdi airport ahead of a flight to face rivals Mozambique. Reports at the time suggested a cousin of the King of Nigeria had offered to transfer the money needed for the teams travel and accommodation expenses into the bank account of head coach Lars Lagerback, but the payment was never made. The Nigerian team did eventually arrive at their hotel in Johannesburg albeit a day late, after Kanu and Obafemi Martins clubbed together to charter a private jet for the team and staff.
As the game kicked off, Maradona paced up and down the touchline nervously touching his nose and sniffing in a strange manner. It did not take long for the South American’s to stamp their authority on the game, they pressured the Nigerian defence and within moments it crumbled into a dark green heap. A corner was swung into the box, half cleared and Gabriel Heinze launched into a full length diving header, directing the ball right into the top corner of the Nigerian goal. He would later credit this goal to the aforementioned belly-flopping practice the team had been undertaking as the manager had instructed. The man himself danced up and down in the technical area, in a suit which, it was later revealed, was that shiny it enabled him to be seen from space.
Lionel Messi continued to torment the Nigerian defence, appearing to apply dots of superglue to the inside of his boots at times when the referee had his back turned. But the African side did have their fair share of chances, with Chinedu Obasi dragging a shot wide of the Argentinean goal. He later claimed that he was blinded by the reflection of the floodlights in Juan Sebastian Veron’s exceptionally well buffed head. Man of the first half was undoubtedly Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who had to replace his gloves as the half time whistle approached as they were developing holes in two of the fingers. Argentina continued to threaten and were good value for their one goal advantage when the interval arrived.
Argentina began the second half in a similar fashion to how they started the first, with Messi, Higuain and Tevez combining well and looking to press home their dominance. Nigeria attempted to counter by bringing on former Newcastle United striker Obafemi Martins, who promptly responded by not touching the ball for an entire 20 minutes. Taye Taiwo spurned an opportunity to level the scores when his sliced shot went that far over the bar that it caused an unsuspecting fan in row VV to become permanently attached to his vuvuzela. Meanwhile Argentina continued to waste chances, with Messi and Higuain both shooting wide when they should have done better.
Maxi Rodriguez replaced Veron after 73 minutes, with the ancient 35 year old taking his place on the bench with a bemused look, and promptly asking if anyone knew what his name was, or where he had left his keys. Meanwhile Martins got his first touch and tested Romero in the Argentinean goal for the first time, but the goalkeeper applied a hefty fist to the ball and clearing away. At the other end Messi spurned yet another chance when Enyeama made another quality save and caused Mick McCarthy to spontaneously combust in a fit of rage in the BBC gantry. The game petered out and ended in a deserved 1-0 win for Argentina. Both sides had chances and Nigeria arguably should have troubled the scorers themselves in the closing stages but Argentina will be happy with the result, if not the performance. Nigeria can draw positives but must be more clinical if they are going to progress in the tournament.
Match Statistics (Powered by OptaJoke)
44 – Lionel Messi was fouled 44 times by the Nigerian team. Tormented.
86 – Of those watching the BBC coverage, 86% agreed that Mick McCarthy’s analysis was “considerably worse” than the sound of the vuvuzela. Irritating.
128 – Despite conceding one goal, the Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made 128 saves during the game. Thwarted.