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Argentina 1-0 Nigeria World Cup 2010 Group B

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The second opening game for World Cup 2010 Group B was the match between Argentina and Nigeria.  The match ended 1-0 to Argentina’s favor, but in truth, it was a surprisingly very tight and well-balanced match in which I believe Nigeria was rather unfortunate on not being able to at least equalize. Prior to the match, both teams have had their respective plans laid out. Argentina started with the attacking trident of Higuain, Messi (who was given a free role), and Tevez. While Nigeria started out with Yakubu as their sole attacking lone spear but reinforced as the match wears on especially in the second half. Another interesting point is Juan Sebastian Veron’s role in the Argentina squad as well as some players form both sides that attracted attention in the match. Since it is of no secrets by now that I am tipping Argentina to win this year’s World Cup, the points which I will be making below are mostly about Argentina, but I will try my best to include things that caught my eyes from the Nigerian team in the match as well.

The match started as a high octane extreme attacking match with both teams attacking liberally, especially Argentina with the aforementioned attacking trident. After just 5 minutes, Argentina immediately scored through a really nice move. A corner kick resulting from Messi’s stinging shot which was saved (the first of so many more in the game) was dispatched by Veron and then Gabriel Heinze appeared so suddenly and abruptly into the penalty area such that he was free to head the ball and he did just that to score the first and only goal in the match which turned out to be the winning goal for Argentina. However, unlike Greece in the previous Group B match, Nigeria wasn’t really shocked with the early goal and maintained their high-gear approach of the game.

Another point to take note is Jonas Gutierrez. Although a lot of pundits criticized Maradona’s decision to bring Jonas on board in favor of other who are supposedly more high profile such as Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. The fact that he played in England’s lower division with Newcastle in the recently concluded club season doesn’t mean that he’s not a great player. He was brimming with energy and passion in the game and since he played as a right back, he reminds me of Brazil’s Maicon. He was practically everywhere on the pitch. When the team attacks, he’s right in front ready to receive the ball and when he has the ball, he could be seen crossing to the strikers, but when the opponents launch a swift counterattack, Jonas is suddenly at the back again defending and trying to win back possession. The amazing thing is that he does that while completing the whole 90 minutes without any sign of tiring down and thus needing to be substituted or rested.

Another interesting point, as mentioned in the first paragraph is Veron’s role in the squad. This is again the substantiation of the “pseudo-manager” effect which I have explained so many times by now and another bad sign for Germany since they have lost Michael Ballack, the player which has this role in the squad. Veron was the pseudo-manager in the squad, and thus might just be another of Maradona’s concealed genius masterstrokes. In the match, whenever possible, it could be seen that Maradona was conveying instructions to Veron, and then in the match itself, Veron could be seen waving his arms, shouting commands to the players and the players seem to react according to the instructions, such as slowing or quickening the tempo of the match. Despite how much Maradona moved around the touchline barking instructions, a pseudo-manager such as Veron is still needed.

The second half started where the first one had left off with both teams continuing to operate on high gears. Argentina continued to dominate possession and the match with Tevez as the embodiment of the team’s high octane approach. However, since Argentina failed to score that second and killer goal, Nigeria started to realize this and they immediately made two attacking substitutions with Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins entering the fray. Nigeria’s attack turned from a one tipped spear to become a trident with Martins, Yakubu and Odemwingie.

Exchanges of entertaining and heart-stopping counter-attacks ensued between the two teams with Nigeria’s Taye Taiwo nearly equalized before injuring himself. Bad sign for Nigeria. But he was substituted with Kalu Uche, another striker, and by this time, about 10-15 minutes from the end of the game, Nigeria operated with four strikers on the pitch now in their quest to find the equalizer, and by now, Argentina started to get pinned back as they continued to fail to get another goal and Nigeria acquiring more and more belief as time passed. Perhaps it was due to the match ball, but Argentina’s efforts continued to go over the bar (also observable in other matches). In any case, Nigeria crept closer and closer to scoring a goal.

Maradona seemed to realize the 4 engined Nigerian bombardment as well as his team’s failure to score the second goal prompted him to make a defensive substitution after two attacking ones prior to this when he sent Nicolas Burdisso into the fray. Argentina continued to become shakier and shakier but they did manage to get to the Nigerian goal as Higuain was denied a penalty. In the dying minutes of the game, Nigeria continued their resilience and as many as six Nigerian players were committed to the attack at that time.

However, it wasn’t enough as Argentina managed to hold on to their slender lead and start the World Cup campaign with a victory. For Nigeria, they have to snatch a victory and a draw at the very least against South Korea and Greece.

Meanwhile, for Argentina, they only have to draw or preferably defeat South Korea and/or Greece to ensure their qualification to the knockout stages. This is a great start for Argentina, and a preferable one as well in my humble opinion. This is so as Argentina managed to get off to a good start by winning their first match, but they don’t peak too early just like themselves in 2006 and Spain traditionally in the World Cup.

Written by cp

13/06/2010 at 00:55

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