Monday, June 07, 2010
Argentina vs. Nigeria - 1994: A Look Back
We are just a few days away from our first kick off against Nigeria in Johannesburg, so I was thinking what better match to look back than the same fixture that first took place in the World Cup in Massachusetts sixteen years ago.
I’m not sure just how many times did Argentina played against Nigeria prior to 1994, but I can tell you since then both sides have played have developed a friendly rivalry (though heated but not intense), many of which coming from youth level .
Before let’s rewind the clock back to that day on the 25th of June that year.
As you all know coming into the World Cup, we did not enjoy a great qualifying campaign and to some critics there were still doubt about our chances in America. However if you look deeper at Coco BASILE’s line up, you will realize that we did had a strong team.
Diego MARADONA was already 33 years old but still had the magic touch to inspire everyone. Up front, Claudio CANIGGIA was back in the team to form a deadly partnership alongside Gabriel BATISTUTA (that’s a mouth watering combo we had back then). Behind him, Diego SIMEONE and Fernando REDONDO form a solid partnership in midfield. At the back, we had world class defenders with the likes of Oscar RUGGERI and Nestor SENSINI. On top of that, we were also the Copa America holders.
Nigeria on the other hand despite making their World Cup debut were the new Kings of Africa. They too had a strong team featuring the likes of George FINIDI, Sunday OLISEH, Daniel AMOKACHI, Emmanuel AMUNIKE and the upcoming superstar Jay Jay OKOCHA.
There was a strong build up towards this game. While we brushed aside Greece 4-0 in our first match, the Super Eagles were in high confidence after their surprise 3-0 win over Bulgaria. Coincidently, playing against an African side, most people that I knew were hopping for a repeat of Italia 90 against Cameroon.
For a moment, it was the case when Samson SIASIA caught Luis ISLAS off his line and chipped the ball over him to give Nigeria the lead.
Not too long later, Argentina were back on level terms when Peter RUFAI was unable to hold on to the ball from a BATISTUTA free kick and CANIGGIA was on that right place to score from the rebound.
Few minutes later, the defining moment of the match. Diego’s picked out just one more trick out of his pocket when cleverly took a quick free kick and slid the ball towards CANIGGIA from the left side. El Pajaro could do no wrong as he fired past RUFAI into the top corner to give Argentina the lead.
Argentina held on to win this match and right after that there was a sense of believe that we had what it takes to go all the way but of course we all know what happened after that.
Though we may not necessarily view this as a classic match but no one knew just how significant that day turned out to be; the day which we will forever remember seeing Diego wearing the Albiceleste shirt ( in a competitive match) for the last time.
Now coming back to present time, ironically Diego is back in the World Cup, this time as the National Team's manager to face Nigeria once again. Not to forget, his assistant Alejandro MANCUSO also took part in that game as a second half substitute.