Messi magic for Argentina, but England held by US
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 23:35 GMT
Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0 at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg and only wasteful finishing and a fine performance by the west Africans' goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama prevented the two-time champions from winning by a greater margin.
Messi sliced the Nigerian defense apart with a series of attacking runs and searching passes, as one of the favorites for the tournament opened their account convincingly.
Gabriel Heinze's powerful header after six minutes may have been all that separated the sides at the final whistle, but Messi showed he means business.
"It is important to get off to a winning start while playing good football," said Messi, the current world player of the year.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona, a national icon after captaining the country to World Cup glory in 1986 but largely untested as a manager, was delighted with Messi's performance.
"I want him to be always on the ball. It really pleases me to see that," he said.
"Football would not be beautiful if you couldn't see Messi do crazy things."
England's hopes of a flying start to their bid to end a 44-year wait for World Cup glory were shot down by a terrible blunder by goalkeeper Green that gifted the United States an equalizer in a 1-1 draw in Rustenburg.
England captain Steven Gerrard had given his side the perfect start to their Group C campaign with a fourth minute strike at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
But just as England appeared to be controlling the match, Green fumbled Clint Dempsey's unthreatening long-range shot five minutes from half-time.
Gerrard was quick to defend Green.
"It was one of those freak things," he said. "Robert's a man, I am sure he'll learn from this and go from strength to strength.
"He might get an important save for us that wins us a match, so we're all behind him."
England coach Fabio Capello also refused to blame the unfortunate keeper, after Green saved his country from potential defeat by pushing Jozy Altidore's powerful second-half shot onto the post.
"He made one mistake but then pulled off a great save in the second half. I was pleased for him," said the Italian.
"We had lots of chances in the game. There were a lot of positives. Just the result wasn't positive."
Despite Argentina's bright start, South Korea sit top of Group B after a comfortable 2-0 win over Greece in Port Elizabeth.
Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung was the driving force as the South Koreans outpaced and outthought the Greeks to give his team a fighting chance of achieving their ambition of a last 16 berth.
The 2002 co-hosts grabbed a seventh minute lead through Lee Jung Soo's volley before Park wrapped up the three points after a strong run through the Greek defense and a firm shot past keeper Alexandros Tzorvas shortly after half time.
On Friday's opening day, host nation South Africa were held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico, while in the other Group A match France failed to fire against Uruguay who picked up the first red card of the tournament, for Nicolas Lodeiro.