Argentina net gold in football

Argentina achieved revenge over Nigeria for their 1996 defeat with a narrow victory in the Olympic final in the blazing heat of the Bird's Nest stadium.

Lionel Messi, the 21-year-old Barcelona player whose participation in the tournament was threatened after his club won a legal battle with Fifa, proved the pivotal influence laying on a goal for Angel di Maria and regularly tormenting the Nigerian defence.



Everton's Victor Anichebe came closest to an equaliser for Nigeria but was twice denied by some brilliant goalkeeping.



Victory meant Argentina had buried the ghost of 1996, when they lost 3-2 to a Kanu inspired Nigerian side, and became the fourth country to defend their Olympic crown after Great Britain (1908, 1912), Uruguay (1924, 1928) and Hungary (1964, 1968).



It also meant two Olympic gold medals for Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, the only survivor from Argentina's side in 2004.



Unlike 1996, this final was no classic though matters improved after a cagey first half.



Nigeria's Lokomotiv Moscow forward Peter Odemwingie had the first effort at goal, a tame long-range free-kick before Juan Roman Riquelme had a fairly woeful effort from his own free-kick in a much more promising position.



Messi kept threatening but Nigeria were snapping into the tackles, though African hearts were in mouths when the Barcelona forward threw himself over the foot of Chibuzor Okonkwo in the area, but referee Viktor Kassai of Hungary was not impressed.



Nigeria started to be more adventurous with Odemwingie looping a header over the crossbar and then sprinting past Pablo Zabaleta down the left. Argentina were in all sorts of trouble from his cross, but the ball ricocheted off Promise Isaac and keeper Sergio Romero was able to claim.



The closest to a goal in the first half came right at the end when di Maria unleashed a vicious strike that Nigerian keeper Ambruse Vanzekin did well to turn aside.



Messi had been kept quiet but five minutes after the break he finally showed his class.



A great first touch allowed him to skip past a challenge and he curled in a left-foot shot but Vanzekin managed to parry it.



But Messi was irrepressible and played a key role in Argentina's goal. It was his quick feet that gave him space to roll a perfect pass into the path of di Maria.



The Benfica midfielder showed a clean pair of heels to the Nigerian defence and as Vanzekin advanced to meet him hit a delightful chip over the keeper and into the net.



Anichebe came off the bench and came close with his very first touch but was blocked out.



Messi continued to threaten, playing through Sergio Aguero who was denied by a vital challenge by Onyekachi Apam.



The defender then was equally good to halt Messi in his tracks as the forward looked set to apply the coup de grace.



There was time for Anichebe to come within millimetres of an equaliser - he got a great touch to divert a cross inside the near-post but Romero just got a hand to it, and then managed to stop it rolling over the line.



News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash