JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Gabriel Heinze scored on a diving header and Argentina hung on for a 1-0 victory over Nigeria on Saturday despite missing a fistful of scoring chances in the teams’ World Cup opener.
Heinze’s goal came in the sixth minute, when he took advantage of weak defense to power in a shot from 12 yards off Juan Sebastian Veron’s corner kick.
The Nigerians had a clear height advantage, but struggled for much of the match to contain Argentina forward Lionel Messi, who tormented them with his masterful moves.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain failed to convert three good chances, including what seemed a certain goal in the fourth minute. Messi also came agonizingly close several times.
“We’re not going to kill ourselves. We have two more games to play.” said Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, whose saves kept it close. “We thank God the score was a little encouraging.”
The Argentines almost paid for their squandered chances, as the Nigerians gained confidence in the second half.
Taye Taiwo came within inches of an equalizer with a low shot that flew just past Sergio Romero’s left post, and substitute Kalu Uche then scooped a weak shot over the crossbar from inside the box with eight minutes left.
Argentine coach Diego Maradona prowled the sideline throughout the match, with hands clasped behind his back. For the first time as Argentina coach, the former captain wore a suit — a stark contrast to the image of him hurling himself, tracksuited, into a puddle on the field when Argentina beat Peru last year.