Argentina made good in Diego Maradona’s World Cup coaching debut, holding on to a 1-0 lead for over 85 minutes to defeat Nigeria at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Earlier in the day, South Korea dropped Greece, 2-0.
Argentina dominated the opening of the match, and after some close calls defender Gabriel Heinze scored on a headed ball in the fifth minute of the contest. Nigerian goalkeeper Victor Enyeama, who plays his club football at Israeli Premier League’s Hapoel Tel Aviv, was just outstanding in this match. He kept Nigeria in the game with save after save, robbing Gonzalo Higuain around the 21 minute mark, who had a scoring chance off a Carlos Tevez through ball, and later in the first half tipping a curling Lionel Messi shot away from goal. Enyeama’s Argentine counterpart, Sergio Romero, was not as severely tested, although he looked confident handling crosses and loose balls in the box.
Nigeria was not without scoring chances. In the 25th minute, Kaita shot wide on the Argentine goal, and three minutes later Yakubu couldn’t quite get his foot on a ball in the box. In the second half, Nigeria had chances as Taye Taiwo shot wide in the 70th minute, substitute Uche had a good chance from Yakubu and Yakubu himself had a chance with possession of the ball, swirled but shot over the net. Nigeria was strong enough defensively to hold off numerous Argentine charges, including a quality tackle by Everton’s Joseph Yobo on Higuain after a long pass by Lionel Messi in the 56th minute and Enyeama came up big on another Higuain shot in the 66th minute and stoned Messi on a point blank chance in the 81st minute. Still, Argentina deserved the win with a strong defensive effort and plenty of attacking.
Earlier, The Republic of South Korea downed Greece 2-0 on goals by Lee Jung-soo, who scored off a curling free kick from Ki Sung-yong in the 7th minute, and Manchester United Park Ji-sung in the 52nd minute.