A Gabriel Heinze header gives Argentina a 1-0 win over Nigeria.
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria
FIFA World Cup 2010
3pm (BST), Saturday 12 June
Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Lionel Messi ran the show, but Gabriel Heinze scored the only goal of an excellent match that starred Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona had an embarrassment of attacking players to select from and went for a stunning front three of Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain, Barcelona's Messi and Carlos Tevez of Manchester City.
Up against them, Nigeria sent out Bolton's Danny Shittu and Joseph Yobo of Everton to try and keep them out. But they looked completely out of their depth from the start as Argentina could have been a few goals up inside the opening ten minutes.
A combination of poor finishing, most notably from Higuain, and world class goalkeeping from Hapoel Tel Aviv's Enyeama kept Nigeria in the game. As it was, Argentina still managed to take a deserved sixth-minute lead through a superb diving header from Heinze.
That effort from the former Manchester United left-back, who now plays for Marseille, came just after Enyeama had saved a series of Messi inspired attacks, the first a fingertip push over the bar from a 20-yard curling effort.
Argentina were almost made to pay for their profligacy in the 28th minute when Chinedu Obasi found space in the penalty area only to drag a shot narrowly past a post.
Messi continued to dictate the game, though, and it was largely down to Enyeama that Messi and co. could not increase their lead before the break.
Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback sensed his side could still get something out of the game the longer Argentina went without scoring again and sent on Wolfsburg striker Obafemi Martins for Malaga's Victor Obina seven minutes into the second half.
Peter Odemwingie, a surprise omission from the starting line-up, came on for Nigeria soon after. And the Lokomotiv Moscow forward created possibly Nigeria's best chance of the match in the 71st minute when he set up Taye Taiwo, who hit a straight shot just inches wide of Sergio Romero's left-hand post from the edge of the penalty area.
Nigeria were always a threat while Argentina toiled in front of goal, but Messi was so unfortunate not to get his name on the score sheet and he was denied again by Enyeama and then a last gasp saving tackle from Sam Kaita in the closing stages.
The match was played out as Argentina displayed some first-rate possession football and Nigeria ran out of gas in the energy-sapping altitude.Argentina
22 Romero, 2 Demichelis, 6 Heinze, 13 Samuel, 7 Di Maria (4 Burdisso 85), 8 Veron (20 Maxi 74), 14 Mascherano (C), 17 Gutierrez, 9 Higuain (19 Milito 79), 10 Messi, 11 TevezSubstitutes not used
1 Diego Pozo, 21 Mariano Andujar, 3 Rodriguez, 12 Ariel Garce, 15 Otamendi, 5 Bolatti, 23 Pastore, 16 Aguero, 18 Martin PalermoNigeria
1 Enyeama, 2 Yobo (C), 3 Taiwo (12 Uche 74), 6 Shittu, 17 Odiah, 14 Kaita, 15 Haruna, 20 Etuhu, 8 Yakubu, 18 Obinna (9 Martins, 52), 19 Obasi Ogbuke (11 Odemwingie, 60)Substitutes not used
16 Ejide, 23 Aiyenugbu, 5 Afolabi, 21 Echiejile, 10 Brown, 13 Yussuf, 22 Adeleye, 4 Kanu, 7 UtakaReferee
Wolfgang Stark (Germany)