Now we’ll see if Maradona, perhaps the finest World Cup player ever (I’ll accept arguments for Pele), is any good as a coach. He’s got Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, so that’ll will likely make the determination more difficult. Any team with Messi can’t be all that bad.
Messi sets up an easy goal in the third minute after dribbling three guys and they miss! After knocking on the door repeatedly in the opening five minutes, Argentina coverts on a corner. Interesting corner, too, as it’s served to the penalty spotâ€”a little further out than is typicalâ€”and a player charges in unmarked. Super nice header, but notice the player (or two) holding back the defenders in order to make the header opportunity work.
NIgeria is big and athletic and while I don’t expect that will be sufficient to win the game, those are the qualities that give you a chance at breaching the opponents’ defense. It’s not inconceivable, therefore, that Nigeria could even this up.
That said, Argentina is clearly the class of the tournament so far. The passes are faster, the creative level higher and they skills better than anything I’ve seen. I’m eager to see how their defense does today, since it’s obvious that their offense can score and likely score on anyone.
Argentina with a great set play in the 36th minute and Nigeria avoids going down 2-0 only by the grace of their goalkeeper’s excellent play. Messi’s shot was curling into the corner for certain.
Messi makes a nice run in the 14th minute of the 2nd half that nets a corner, but watch for an Argentine player setting a pick near the top of the box to get him more open. A lot of Argentina’s game appears to be fouling off the ball and if the refs get wise to thisâ€”I wouldn’t bank on it as they never seemed to get wise to Italy’s flopping last timeâ€“it could spell problems down the road.
Keeper saves a Messi shot again; Nigeria misses their best opportunity of the day a minute later. Argentina’s been subbing in defenders; looks like Maradona, demonstrative on the sidelines all day, is content to play for the 1-0 win. Last Nigerian attack, in the 86th minute, saw 6 defenders against 4 attackers. Argentina goes into the soccer equivalent of Four Corners, playing keep away until the defense opens enough for Messi to flash through on a nice attack in the 89th minute.
Argentina takes the victory 1-0, looking like the team to beat in Group B. Not like we didn’t know that already.