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Maradona’s Argentina ease to opening victory

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June 12, 2010

 

 

(CNN) — Argentina’s star-studded line-up began their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria in their Group B opener in Johannesburg.

A goal from defender Gabriel Heinze after six minutes was all that separated the two teams after an inspired display from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

He could do little to stop Heinze’s powerful header from a Juan Sebastian Veron corner, but Enyeama kept his team alive with a string of acrobatic saves to deny World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.

Diego Maradona was delighted to secure his first victory as a World Cup coach, but critical of his strikers for failing to make the game safe.

“When you don’t kill things off in front of goal you can pay a heavy price. They almost got a draw — we missed loads of chances,” Maradona told AFP.

Players such as Leo Messi and Higuain knocked in around 60 goals last season between them yet today it was almost as if they couldn’t set their sights on goal
–Diego Maradona
“Players such as Leo Messi and Higuain knocked in around 60 goals last season between them yet today it was almost as if they couldn’t set their sights on goal.

“But the win means we can be calm — we are in the right track,” he added.

South Korea beat Greece in Group B opener

Enyeama’s tip over from a Messi shot led to the early corner from which the unmarked Heinze scored to spark scenes of wild celebration on the Argentina bench, led by Maradona.

Messi and Gonzalo Higuain might both have had hat-tricks as Argentina’s attacking flair was evident, but at the other end Nigeria also had opportunities to salvage a point.

Midway through the second half, Taye Taiwo found space to toe poke a shot from the edge of the area which went just wide of Sergio Romero’s left-hand post.

CNN’s World Cup twitter.buzz

As the clock ticked down, Enyeama blocked Messi as he looked certain to score but in a swift counter attack Nigeria then had their best chance of the match as Aiyegbeni Yakubu crossed from the right and Kala Uche made a hash of his volleyed attempt from 10 meters out.

At the final whistle it was a deserved victory for Argentina, but they will face a sterner test in their next match in five days time against South Korea, who top Group B after their earlier 2-0 win over Greece.

Nigeria, who have lost five and drawn once since their last World Cup finals victory in 1998, will be looking to break that winless run against the Greeks, who also have a poor record in football’s global showpiece.

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