Nigeria Super Eagles fell on its dagger Saturday as the African side lost 1-0 to Argentina, throwing away a big Dollar windfall from the Nigerian government. The Nigerian side missed lots of scoring chances to bin the Argies in the Group B Matches which commenced Saturday.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan had assured the Super Eagles that they would l be given 1.7 million U.S. dollars if they beat Argentina in their opening Group B match of the World Cup on Saturday
The president made the announcement when he met with members of the team and their officials in their Protea Hotel in Johannesburg on Friday.
“If you win the opening match, I will go back home in flying colors to mobilize the private sector to donate to this cause,” claimed a statement from the presidency.
He asked the Super Eagles to see themselves as representatives of Africa and make the continent proud in the tournament adding:”The weight of Africa is on you. You must see yourselves as carrying the light of not only Nigeria but the African continent as well,” he told the players.
The Nigeria side fought like true heroes but fail to subdue the true spirit of the Argies whose determination to win over Nigeria almost surpasses that of even winning the World Cup.
World player of the year Lionel Messi spoit the party for the Eagles living up to his billing with a wonderful performance in the 1-0 win to confirm the South Americans‘ status as one of the World Cup favorites.
His mesmerising display inflicted a heavy pain on the Super Eagles after the African side threw to the wind the whopping sum.
True to Diego Maradona’s earlier threat of attacking the Nigerian side like bees, the Argies from the onset took no chances dazzling Nigeria with Lionel Messi in full control and messing up the Nigeria defence with lots of fun- filled dribblings.
Though he did not score, Messi peppered the goal with shots, drawing a string of finger-tip saves, and tormented Super Eagles defence with ceaseless dribbling and incisive passes.
It was a rasping Messi volley tipped over the bar by Enyeama that indirectly led to the opening goal.
From Sebastian Veron’s corner unmarked left-back Heinze hurtled in late and headed powerfully past Enyeama to send the large contingent of Argentine fans wild.
The uninhibited Nigerians had their moments but spoiled their chances with errant finishing with Hoffenheim’s left winger Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi going close on a couple of occasions.
Argentina’s Newcastle United defensive midfielder Jonas Gutierrez picked up a yellow card four minutes before halftime with a scything tackle on Obasi.
The diminutive 22-year-old striker, nicknamed “The Flea,” put in a performance to confound critics who said maverick manager DiegoMaradona could not bring out the best in him.
Though Messi and Maradona — and their sensitive relationship — have galvanized media attention, it was defender Gabriel Heinze who headed home an early corner for the goal that beat one of Africa’s perennial heavyweights in the Group B game.
Agitated and shouting on the touchline throughout at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park, the bearded and besuited Maradona hugged and lifted Messi off the ground in jubilation at the end of arguably the highest quality match so far of World Cup 2010.
Earlier, South Korea, who were unbeaten in qualifying, took that confidence straight into the Group B opener at Port Elizabeth.
They played a slick and fast passing game to beat the Greeks 2-0 through goals from Lee Jung-soo and Park Ji-sung.
For Greece, unable to capture the form of their shock Euro 2004 triumph or make their aerial superiority count, it was business as usual at the World Cup. Their sole past appearance, in 1994, brought three defeats without a goal.
As the euphoria over Africa’s first hosting of a World Cup gave way to on-field action, Saturday will also bring an intriguing match between England and the United States in Group C’s first match at 1830 GMT near Rustenburg.
Though police said there was no indication of a specific plot, the England-U.S. match was to be the most closely-guarded of Africa’s first World Cup in case of a terrorist threat.
*South Africans were thrilled at the successful start to a tournament pessimists said the continent was ill-equipped to handle. The local Bafana Bafana (The Boys) basked in the love of a nation after they met euphoric public expectations with an exciting 1-1 draw against Mexico in Friday’s opening game.
*After watching his Nigeria side push Argentina all the way only to fall to a slender one goal defeat, coach Lars Lagerback bemoaned an unfortunate defensive lapse which cost his team a valuable point.
“It was unfortunate that it was a mistake from us that led to the goal,” he declared in the post-match press conference.
“A momentary of lapse in concentration led to the goal, but that is the game at this level.”
The coach then spoke of his concern for Taye Taiwo who was forced off after appearing to pull a hamstring.
“I hope Taiwo is alright, I have not spoken to him or the medical team but I hope it is nothing serious.”
The Swede was the probed about not shaking Diego Maradona’s hand after the match, something the journalists picked on.
Lagerback looked confused and said, “I have a lot of respect for Maradona and I would shake his hand of course. Is it custom to do so? I think you can shake hands at any moment.
“Now the most important thing is to look towards the next game and go on to win it. I did not see much of South Korea – Greece, just a few minutes before we left the hotel,” he concluded.
Nigeria will face Greece in their second Group B encounter in Bloemfontein on June 17.
USA proves a good match for England. It’s England 1- USA 1
A terrible mistake from England’s Robert Green gave USA a share of the spoils in Group C’s opening match played in front of a passionate crowd in Rustenburg. The goalkeeper, given the nod by Fabio Capello to start the match ahead of David James and Joe Hart, allowed Clint Dempsey’s 25-yard drive to slip through his grasp, giving last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup finalists a deserved share of the spoils.
The game had begun so well for England, who enjoyed an ideal start to their FIFA World Cup™ campaign, taking the lead with just four minutes on the clock. Frank Lampard found Emile Heskey who played a perfectly-weighted ball to Steven Gerrard and the skipper made no mistake with an intelligent finish past Man of the Match Tim Howard with the outside of his right foot.
From then on, however, USA gradually got more of the ball and a grip of the game. They fired their first real warning when Landon Donovan’s teasing cross from the right was headed wide by Jozy Altidore. Oguchi Onyewu also glanced wide a header, again from a Donovan set-piece, and the LA Galaxy man himself tested Green with a curling 25-yard effort which swerved just wide of the upright.
If USA seemed not to be enjoying any luck, they got their deserved equaliser in fortunate fashion five minutes before the break. Dempsey’s shot appeared to be straightforward enough to handle, but Green’s failed attempt to claim the ball drew them level. It was a horrible mistake by the England goalkeeper – one which he immediately acknowledged – but one which England ultimately failed to recover from.
Sources: Reuters and AP