Recaps and game analysis to follow one or two hours after each match.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Game 4: Argentina vs Nigeria

Have you hugged your goalkeeper today? That is the message the people of the world will be conveying to the Nigerian fans, as Vincent Enyeama is the only reason the Nigerians did not succumb to a goal-fest loss.

In the third minute, Nigeria had an excellent chance on goal, when Obassi sent the Argentinian defense to school, performing a wonderful step-over/side-step move to kick a cross into the box, but no Nigerian striker could get to the end of it. The Africans were showing heart, and I was applauding them, until it all went downhill, when in the sixth minute Veron took a corner, finding a completely unmarked Heinze who netted the ball with an incredible header.

Similar to the Greeks in the earlier game, this was the moment the Nigerians just could not get back into the game. Having to come back from a goal down forced the Super Eagles to become desperate, they constantly tried to push but would spread themselves out to easily, allowing a lot of Argentinian counterattacks to take advantage. The game should have been two-nil in the eighteenth minute when world player of the year Lionel Messi let fly a spectacular upper-corner shot that was only stopped from the flying Enyeama.

For the rest of the game Nigeria could not muster any sort of attack, resorting to desperate shots from outside of the box. Meanwhile Argentina kept pressing, but kept being denied either by Enyeama, or from poor shooting. Messi had many chances on goal, and should have scored a couple, maybe he really does under-perform for his country. In terms of the other strikers, Tevez did not have many chances at shooting, turning more into the playmaker, but he did slot some excellent passes. Hiquain on the other hand was a major disappointment, scuffing his shots, failing his runs, producing some bad passing, he was a natural candidate to be substituted first.

In terms of what to work on, Jonas Gutierrez, although an excellent full-back for Newcastle United, had a few weak points this game, allowing himself to be bullied off of the ball. Against South Korea this should not be an issue, but against the Greeks and in later stages this could become a problem. Secondly, the team needs to finish their shooting. Just like Mexico, the team did well in almost every situation, except score. Certainly the heroics of Enyeama can account for some of the blame, but there were a few chances that should have been goals, no excuses.

For the Super Eagles, well, they have the been one of the biggest disappointments in this tournament so far. They seemed to have a mentality like they didn't care anymore, being very flat footed the entire game, and their captain, Yobo, not shouting enough directions. Naturally these problems will have to be addressed in training or Nigeria will have a very short tournament. But first thing first, someone buy Enyeama a drink, he worked his butt off and seemed to be the only Nigerian (although you could argue for Yakubu and Martins) that wanted to win.

Final Score: Argentina 1 - 0 Nigeria

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