OLYMPICS / Other Teams

Angel of death helps Argentina win over Nigeria

China Daily/The Olympian
Updated: 2008-08-24 10:19


Angel di Maria provided the finish to a piece of magic from Lionel Messi yesterday, helping Argentina win its second straight Olympic football gold with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria.

Di Maria collected Messi's expertly timed through ball in the 58th minute, raced forward and then nonchalantly lobbed it over the Nigeria goalkeeper. The win avenged Argentina's loss to Nigeria in the 1996 final.

Argentina's Angel Di Maria (R) celebrates his goal against Nigeria with team mate Sergio Aguero during the men's gold medal soccer match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 23, 2008. [Agencies]

"This group deserved this," Messi said. "We knew coming in that we may never have this experience again, so we are lucky that everything went well and we got what we wanted."

Messi almost didn't play in the tournament because his club FC Barcelona wanted him for its Championship League qualifiers. But it relented at the last minute and let him play.

"I think he has played very well in the tournament," Argentina coach Sergio Batista said. "He's played very well today as he normally does in his position and I knew that he could probably be the deciding factor."

Di Maria's goal gave a lift to a final that was badly hit by searing ground temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius."

Not surprisingly, the game was poor quality in the first half with too many mistakes, misplaced passes and players moving slowly around the field to conserve energy.

After Peter Odemwingie's free kick forced Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero to make a diving save in the sixth minute, Juan Roman Riquelme sent one over the bar.

Messi had a penalty appeal turned down when he tumbled over Dele Adeleye's challenge.

Nigeria almost went ahead shortly after the first drink break when Odemwingie crossed from the left and Promise Isaac just missed the ball in front of goal. The ball came back and Isaac's looping header was saved by Romero.

Argentina, and Messi in particular, were very disappointing in the first half but di Maria almost made the breakthrough with a 30-meter shot which goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin pushed around the post at full stretch.

Messi produced one of his special moments in the 50th minute when he spun past a defender just outside the area and sent a left-footed drive which Vanzekin punched away.

Argentina's Angel Di Maria (R) celebrates after scoring against Nigeria during the men's gold medal soccer match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 23, 2008. [Agencies]

Then came di Maria's goal. Nigeria had two good chances to level First, Victor Obinna shot straight at the goalkeeper; then Ebenezer Alijore shot after a defensive error rolled just wide of the post.

Nigeria missed the services of Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi. The two-goal hero of the semi-final win against Belgium, sat out with a shin injury.


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