When Gabriel Heinze scored in the seventh minute it looked like the start of a blowout. Argentina had created two good chances prior to the corner kick conversion, and in the moments after the opening goal, Lionel Messi looked ready to lead his team to a walk.
But Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama stole the show, continuously keeping Messi from opening his account and keeping Nigeria within one.
As Enyeama held-out over the next 83 minutes, Nigeria would generate a number of near opportunities in Argentina’s end. However, Nigeria could never generate the quality chances that would lead to goal scoring opportunities, led alone goals. The Albiceleste held out, getting a 1-0 result to open their tournament.
But what will be remembered coming out of the match will be the Enyeama-Messi duel. Messi may be remembered for not breaking through, but that would be a disservice to Enyeama. While Messi went barley wide with a number of second half chances, he also forced Enyeama into at least three sprawling saves. Against a normal goalkeeping performance, Messi would have had at least a goal.
But Enyeama put in the tournament’s best performance to date, and while four matches is not the biggest sample, the goalie’s performance could prove vital to Nigeria’s chances to reach the knockout stage. In a group that has been advertised as Argentina and everybody else, keeping the goal difference to -1 could put Nigeria into the second round.
But Lars Lagerback will remiss about how that one came about. A Juan Sebastián Verón corner found Heinze unmarked at the spot, with the scoring header powered into the upper ninety at the far post.
Had Nigeria reasonableymarked that set piece, they may be tied for second in Group B. As is, they sit in third place ahead of a match with Greece on June 17.
That same day, Argentina takes on group leading South Korea.