Heinze helps Argentina secure full three points
Gabriel Heinze scored early in the first half as two-time champions Argentina started their 2010 World Cup campaign in style with a 1-0 win over Nigeria in a Group B clash at the Elis Park stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Lionel Messi sparkled in the entire 90 minutes with his deft footwork and lovely run-ins but Nigerian custodian Vincent Enyeama prevented him from scoring after defender Heinze broke the deadlock in the sixth minute.
Argentina created numerous scoring chances and dominated Nigeria throughout the match but Heinze's early strike was enough for Diego Maradona's boys to secure the full three points.
Left-back Gabriel Heize powerfully headed home from Sebastian Veron's corner after he was left unmarked by the Nigerian defence, which send the Argentina fans and coach Maradona into wild celebrations.
Image: Argentina's Gabriel Heinze celebrates with team-mates after scoring against Nigeria
Magical Messi in irresistible form
Argentina started the proceedings on an attacking note as Messi looked in irresistible form and threatened to run away with the match from the Nigerians.
If it was not for some acrobatic saves from goalkeeper Enyeama, Nigeria could have been down by at least five goals in the opening half.
Magical Messi lived up to his reputation and proved why he was the world's best player, bringing out numerous saves from the Nigerian custodian in the first session.
Gonzalo Higuain was guilty of wasting at least two clear scoring chances, one of which came as early as in the fifth minute with Messi setting up the opportunity after dodging past three defenders, but Higuain's shot was tipped away by an alert Enyeama for a corner, resulting in the goal.
Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi and Nigeria's Danny Shittu vie for possession
Nigerians done in by poor finishing
Even though the Argentines controlled the proceedings they failed to find the second goal against Nigeria although they threatened on more than one occasion in the second half.
Nigeria too had their chances but poor finishing did them in.
With the striking duo Obinna Nsofor and Obasi failing to make any impact, Nigeria replaced them with star striker Obafemi Martins and Peter Odemwingie just 15 minutes into the second half.
Messi was everywhere on the field and got another opportunity to score in the 65th minute but he curled a shot inches wide off the target off a Carlos Tevez pass from a counter-attack.
In the next minute Higuan got yet another opportunity to register his name against the scoresheet but for an ever-alert Enyeama, who pulled off a brilliant save.
Two minutes later, Nigeria had their best chance of scoring but defender Taye Taiwo's fierce low drive from just outside the circle flashed past the diving Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Image: Argentina's coach Diego Maradona (left) hugs Lionel Messi after the match
Argentina have a clean record against Nigeria in the WC
Enyeama stood between Messi and a goal as he denied the diminutive striker once again in the 79th minute.
Argentina's defensive midfielder Jonas Gutierrez and Nigerian midfielder Lukman Haruna picked up yellow cards in the match.
With this win, Argentina managed to keep a clean slate against Nigeria at the World Cup, having won all three of their encounters.
Nigeria, however, cut a sorry figure as their last victory at the World Cup came way back in 1998 when they beat Bulgaria 1-0.
Image: Nigeria's Chidi Odiah (right) battles for the ball with Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez (centre) and Nicolas Burdisso
Nigeria surprised the Argentines with quick counter-attacks
Nigeria went close with striker Chinedu Obasi going close with the match less than two minutes old after one of a string of errors in defence by right wing-back Jonas Gutierrez.
Obasi again threatened close to the half hour, shooting low across the goal with keeper Sergio Romero rooted to the spot and Yakubu Aiyegbeni failing to make contact in the middle.
Nigeria sought to hit Argentina with quick counter-attacks profitting from erratic passing by the South Americans.
With 20 minutes to go left back Taye Taiwo hit a low shot from outside the box that beat Romero but went just wide of the far post.
Argentina join South Korea, who beat Greece 2-0 earlier in Port Elizabeth, on three points at the top of the group.
Image: Argentina's Carlos Tevez (centre) vies for possession with Nigeria's Chinedu Obasi and Yakubu Aiyegbeni
'Today Messi did some great things'
Argentina's coach Diego Maradona attracted almost as much attention from the cameras, spending the entire game ranting and raving on the sidelines.
"Football wouldn't be nice without seeing Messi with the ball. Today he did some great things," Maradona said.
He said at first he was unconcerned by the missed chances but later said of Nigeria's poor finishing: "They let us off...If we'd taken our chances the course of the match would have been different.
"The important thing is that we got (to their goal), that the team produced interesting plays," he told the post match news conference.
"This was an important step we took today (but) we have to improve a lot of things to get to the seventh match (the final)."
Image: Argentina's coach Diego Maradona celebrates after Heinze's goal