Batistuta header sinks Super Eagles
By James Pearson
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Nigeria, who failed to rise to the occasion and avenge their 2-1 defeat in the 1994 Unites States World Cup finals, never really threatened Pablo Cavallero in Argentina's net throughout the match.
Only after a sustained period of pressure midway though the second half did Batistuta score a well-deserved goal and the match winner just after the hour mark.
The South Americans started the match in ominous fashion, putting the African side on the back foot almost from the kick-off, despite the late withdrawal of captain Roberto Ayala who was replace by Diego Placement after picking up a knock in the pre-match warm-up.
However, it was The Super Eagles who earned the first corner of the match on four minutes, however Crewe Alexandra defender Effe Sodje fired over with a wild right-footed volley.
Gabriel Batistuta then went close minutes later with a fierce right-footed drive before Kanu was stretchered off after landing awkwardly whilst attempting to tackle Juan Sebastian Veron, however the Arsenal man was not seriously injured.
The first set piece of the match fell to Argentina, however Juan Sebastian Veron played in a poor ball from the right, after Ortega was fouled by Garba Lawal.
Nigerian keeper Ike Shorunmu was then called into action twice when Javier Zanetti firstly launched a shot on goal, before Batistuta tested the keeper with low-drive moments later following a poor goal kick.
Both keepers then made two superb saves. Shorunmu had to be his toes to force a superb 30-yard drive by Ortega, whilst Cavallero saved well from Jay Jay Okocha, after the Paris Saint Germain star cleverly worked some space for himself outside the penalty area.
Experienced striker Batistuta almost put Argentina ahead before the break, but the Roma hit-man headed over from close range at the far post after a deep Veron corner.
After a disappointing first half Marcelo Bielsa removed left-sided forward Claudio Lopez and brought on dangerous Valencia winger Kily Gonzalez.
Amazingly Batistuta did not net his first goal of the tournament minutes into the second half, when he toe-poked his shot wide whilst stretching at the far post following another Veron corner.
Again the likeliest avenue for a goal coming from the match is a Veron corner. This time an inswinger from the right was glanced wide by Mauricio Pochettino in the six-yard box.
Juan Pablo Sorin was next in the line to test Shorunmu, after superbly controlling the ball following a pin-point pass from Ortega.
Batistuta finally broke the deadlock, netting a goal in the third World Cup in a row, on 63 minutes with a well-directed header at the back post following yet another Veron corner, this time from the left.
Moments later Argentina, clearly buoyed on after taking the lead, forced Shorunmu to tip over the bar again from Veron's rasping right-footed free-kick from 35-yards out.
Sodje became the first man in referee Veissiere Gilles's note book, after a reckless challenge on Placente, before being replaced by Justice Christopher on 74 minutes.
Arguably Argentina's man-of-the-match Veron, was then replaced by Valencia young attacking midfielder Pablo Aimar to give the Nigerians yet another attacking headache to cope with.
Aimar's first touch almost resulted in a second goal for the South Americans. The youngster was brought down just outside the area, with Batistua forcing the impressive Shurunmu into yet another excellent save from the resulting free-kick.
Substitute Crespo almost doubled the South American's advantage, however curled his shot high and wide after never really digging the ball out from under his feed after an incisive through-ball.
Shorunmu capped a personal fine performance denying Gonzalez with a diving save to his left, after the sub fired in a fierce left-footed drive on the stroke of full-time.
Despite late pressure by The Super Eagles it was far too little too late for the Africans, who were a thoroughly beaten side when the full-time whilst was blown by the French referee.
Argentina: Cavallero 7; Pochettino 7, Placente 7, Samuel 7; Zanetti 8, Simeone 7, Veron 8 (Aimar 78, 6), Sorin 8; Ortega 8, Batistuta*9 (Crespo 83, 6), Lopez 6 (Gonzalez 45, 7).
Nigeria: Shorunmu *9; Yobo 6, Babayaro 5, Okoronkwo 5, West 6, Sodje 6 (Justice 74, 6); Okocha 7, Lawal 7, Kanu 6 (Ikedia 48 7); Ogbeche 5, Aghahowa 6.
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Click here for Nigerian boss Festus Onigbinde's reaction.
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