La Albiceleste got the 3 points it wanted, but left a bunch of goals unconverted in their opening game win against Nigeria. Argentina came out roaring with a goal in the 6th minute of play. The goal by defender Gabriel Heinze came off a corner kick to the penalty spot that was met with a thundering diving header by Heinze to the top left corner, no chance for the goalie. Just like that Argentina was up and Maradona was in a frenzy on the bench along with his players. Argentina dominated the action in the first half with continuous ball control and managed to create several scoring opportunities. Midway through the first Messi was robbed on a curl shot heading into the top corner by the keeper and striker Gonzalo Higuain also missed a couple golden opportunities. Nigeria was content with keeping the deficit at 1 and trying to catch the South Americans on a counter attack.
In the second half it was more of the same. The Nigerian keeper was single-handedly keeping the Africans in the game with more brilliant saves at the expense of Messi, who was very active on the offensive side but could not convert because of the stellar work of the keeper. Argentina flirted with disaster by not putting the game away early in the second. By the mid point of the second Nigeria was beginning to test the Argentinian keeper and had the tying goal on a couple of counter attacks that just did not materialize. With a little more fortune Nigeria could have tied it, but Argentina also had chances to widen the lead. The two clearest chances where a 4 on 2 counter attack that finished with Messi grazing the left post on a low curling shot and Messi being stopped by the keeper on a nice give and go play that left him briefly alone with the keeper. By the 80th minute it appeared as though the Nigerians had accepted defeat and stopped trying. Argentina kept the ball for the good part of the last 10 minutes without any pressure being applied from their rivals. I’m not sure if that was due to tiredness or simply a continuation of their game plan to form two defending lines of 4 and wait for the Argentinians to make a mistake when attacking. Whatever it was, it must have been disheartening to their fans.
The high points for the Argentines are mostly the victory, the play of Messi and how the team looked rather solid on all three lines. The low points were the missed opportunities and the apparent lack of finish by the forwards, especially Higuain who was nearly a non factor despite missing some good chances. With the deep bench that Maradona has at his disposal I would not be surprised to see “Pipita” Higuain ride the pine next match in favor of Diego Milito or Sergio Aguero.
Up next for Argentina is the leader of group 2, South Korea (who made minced meat of a boring Greek team) in a game that should be fun to watch as both teams are dynamic and offensive. The South Koreans are aggressive and run relentlessly for 90 minutes, so they won’t fear to chase the Argentinians, as the Nigerians did, when they do not have possession of the ball. This could prove to be their undoing as it is a high risk – high reward strategy. Either they will stun Argentina early or they will take 2 or more goals against. The winner of this game will clinch a berth to the round of 16.
I expect Argentina to keep rolling.
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Written by The Gator Great