Johannesburg: Lionel Messi said he was
delighted to have played a major role in Argentina`s 1-0 win
over Nigeria in their World Cup Group B match at Ellis Park
Although the Barcelona man did not score he was full of
running and gave the Nigerian defence a torrid time even if he
was unable to add to Gabriel Heinze`s early header yesterday.
Only outstanding saves by Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent
Enyeama denied him a goal of his own and Messi told reporters
afterwards he was happy overall with matches against South
Korea and Greece to come.
"It is important to get off to a winning start while
playing good football," said Messi, who was unfazed at not
opening his goal account.
"These things happen but the thing is we adhered to our
coach`s game plan," said Messi, as Diego Maradona`s side
poured forward in an attacking line-up where Carlos Tevez and
Gonzalo Higuain provided further support.
Argentina missed a hatful of chances but thanks to
Marseille defender Heinze they now have one foot in the last
"I am very happy to have got the goal which cemented the
win and allows us to go off and sleep tight tonight," beamed
the former Manchester United man.
"I was in the right place at the right time," added
Heinze. "I saw the cross come over and I launched myself right
at it," said the 32-year-old.
Veteran midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron - another former
Manchester United player - several times consulted with
Maradona as the Argentines showed they should be able to live
up to their billing as one of the favourites despite making a
meal of their qualifying campaign.
"We were in constant communication," said the veteran,
who clearly has Maradona`s ear.
Real Madrid`s Higuain admitted Argentina`s finishing had
been profligate but said "the main thing is we won, played
well and have three points in the bag."
With a three-man strikeforce there was no room for
Maradona`s son-in-law Serguio Aguero but he insisted he felt
he had felt emotionally involved even on the bench.
"I am happy. For me, to be in the Argentine squad,
playing or on the bench, is just great."
Maradona, meanwhile, was happy with Messi`s performance.
"I want him to be always on the ball. It really pleases
me to see that," said the coach.
"Football would not be beautiful if you couldn`t see
Messi do crazy things."