Diego Maradona’s boys took the fight to the Super Eagles as early as the fourth minute when Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain almost capitalized on a defensive lapse from the Nigerian defence. Lionel Messi bursts past four defenders and delivered an inviting low cross from the left only for Higuain to guide his shot where he was facing from six yards, thus failing to hit the target.
In the sixth minute Messi was back in the picture again. The Barcelona star midfielder found himself in acres of space from about 20 yards, picked his spot and tried to lob Vincent Enyeama. However, the 27-year-old keeper was alert and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner. From the resultant set-piece Juan Veron picked an unmarked Gabriel Heinze on the penalty spot and Heinze didn’t need a second invitation as he dived at full stretch to poke home a powerful header and put the La Albiceleste 1-0 up.
Higuain could have put Argentina further ahead in the 21st minute had it not been for poor finishing. Carlos Tevez was the provider this time around when he picked Higuain in the box, but Enyeama enlarged himself when coming out to make a great stop. It was all Argentina at this stage. However, in the 28th minute the Nigerians finally had a real chance at goal.
Chinedu Obasi had time and space on the left side in the box, but his shot was nowhere near causing problems for Sergio Romero.
Minutes later Messi, who had the Nigerians chasing his shadow for most of the first stanza, tried curling it past Enyeama, but his left-footed strike found the latter at his best again diving to parry it away with his left hand for a corner. The score at the interval was 0-0. Nigeria had no answers to Argentina’s constant attack.
Chances for both teams in the second stanza were far and few in between. Unlike the first half the second half started on a slow pace. Argentina were the first to attack in the 48th minute when Messi knocked it to Veron on the far right and he picked Messi in the box with a low cross, but for the umpteenth time in the game Messi’s deft touch failed to hit the target when it went past the upright.
Nigeria responded to the barrage of Argentina’s attacks with the introduction of Obafemi Martins who replaced Victor Obinna in the 52nd minute and eight minutes later Obasi made way for Peter Odemwingie and the substitutions appeared to breathe some life to the Super Eagles. But minutes later in the 65th minute Nigeria were on the back foot again after Sani Kaita cheaply gave away possession in Argentina’s own half.
Tevez picked up the loose ball and ran over the field with Argentina’s four men forward confronted by only two from Nigeria. Messi tried again to beat Enyeama to his right with a curler but his shot went inches wide. In the 72nd minute Nigeria responded with an attack of their own when Odemwingie found Taiwo in space on the edge of the box, but the defender’s shot went past the far post.
Bad news for Nigeria as Taiwo had caught the ground when he hit the shot and he was immediately replaced by Kalu Uche, who wasted a glorious opportunity in the 83rd minute.
Uche found himself in space on the penalty spot, but his left-footed shot went over the bar. It was to be the last piece of real action before the final whistle.