Argentina kicked off their World Cup campaign with a deserved 1-0 victory over Nigeria at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Gabriel Heinze scored the winner, heading home from a seventh minute, but despite creating a number of gilt edged chances the South American side were unable to extend their lead.
World Footballer of the Year, Lionel Messi, created and missed several chances to kill the match off, while fellow striker Gonzalo Higuain was equally wasteful in front of goal, as Argentina were denied on many occasions by the impressive Nigerian keeper, Vincent Enyeama.
Whether Argentina could squander so many chances against better sides and get away with it remains to be seen, but for now, rookie coach, Diego Maradona, must be relieved to have a secured a win under his belt
Messi and Carlos Tevez were a constant threat, taking it in turns to drop drop into the space between the midfield and attack. Chances were carved out seemingly at will, but Argentina’s finishing did not match the quality of their approach play.
Messi tested Enyeama to the limit with another curling effort destined for the right-hand corner of the goal but the goalkeeper stretched out his left hand to push it round the post.
The longer the game progressed the more stretched it became and Nigeria began to gain a foothold. Lars Lagerback’s side, energised by the appearance of substitute Obafemi Martins began to take the game to their opponents and although the threat remained sporadic, there were some anxious moments for Argentina.
Peter Odemwingie played the ball inside to left-back Taye Taiwo, and his low effort beat Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero but just skidded wide of the right post.
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero then had to punch clear a shot from Martins, while late on, Yakubu’s cross from the right found substitute Kalu Uche, but the midfielder was unable to control his shot.
At the other end Messi continued to probe, but the hugely impressive Enyeam was equal to everything that was thrown at him. Arguably Messi’s best chance came with ten minutes remaining, but Enyeama spread himself to block a goalbound shot after a wonderful interchange with Di Maria.
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria
Scorer: Heinze 6
Argentina: 22 Romero, 02 Demichelis, 06 Heinze, 13 Samuel. 07 Di Maria (Burdisso, 85), 08 Veron (Maxi, 74), 14 Mascherano, 17 Gutierrez , 09 Higuain (Milito, 79), 10 Messi, 11 Tevez
Nigeria: 01 Enyeama, 02 Yobo, 03 Taiwo (Uche, 74), 06 Shittu, 17 Odiah, 14 Kaita, 15, Haruna, 20 Etuhu, 08 Yakubu, 18 Obinna (Martins, 52), 19 Obasi Ogbuke (Odemwingie, 60).
Referee: Stark Wolfgang (Germany).