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Argentina tops Nigeria to win second straight gold

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - Angel Di Maria scored in the second half and Argentina beat Nigeria, 1-0, at Beijing National Stadium on Saturday to become the first men's soccer team to repeat as Olympic gold medalists in 40 years.

Argentina extended its record winning streak in the Olympics 12 games. The last time Argentina lost was in the 1996 final to Nigeria. Hungary was the last team to win consecutive golds in 1964 and 1968.

"The feeling we have is incredible," said Argentina's captain, Juan Riquelme. "I hope our country is celebrating back home. It was a beautiful day from the start."

Argentina posted its fourth shutout in six games, following its impressive 3-0 win over Brazil in the semifinals with a gold-medal performance in the final.

Nigeria medaled for just the second time in its history, adding a silver to its 1996 triumph. Argentina, which lost the 1928 and 1996 Olympic finals, won its fourth medal in men's soccer.

"I'm a little disappointed because we could've created history for us and Nigeria," said Nigeria forward Victor Obinna. "But I'm so proud we won the silver. I'll be honest, nobody gave us support, we were here on our own as a team. We had to pull together as a team and fight for one another."

Di Maria and Argentina star Lionel Messi combined on the winning goal - the duo also teamed to score the game winner in overtime against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

Argentina and Nigeria both struggled to find a steady rhythm early in the match in 90-degree temperatures before the teams settled in after 20 minutes.

Messi, who wasted a chance early in the match, had a better scoring opportunity in the 22nd minute, but tripped in the penalty area. Messi threw his hands up after falling down - asking for a penalty - but it was clear he tripped over Nigeria's Chibuzor Okonkwo.

Nigeria had the next chance when Peter Odemwingie got under a cross and headed high from seven yards.

Due to the extreme heat, the match was briefly stopped in the 30th minute - a rarity in soccer - to allow players a short water break.

Nigeria had the first scoring chance after the match resumed, playing the ball across the area and getting a deflection on goal from Promise Isaac that goalie Sergio Romero had to jump to save at the right post.

Sergio Aguero, who had two goals and set up a third in Argentina's victory over Brazil, sent a header high in the 40th minute, and Di Maria nearly found the upper-left corner in the 45th but Nigeria goalie Ambruse Vanzekin dove to push the ball wide.

Nigeria did a great job of slowing down Messi in the first half, limiting his looks and not allowing him much space when he did have the ball.

Argentina opened the second half with a great chance when Aguero got behind the Nigerian defense for a potential one-on-one chance against Vanzekin. But he got off his line quickly and knocked the ball away before Aguero could take a shot.

Messi found a little space a few minutes later, unleashing a shot from outside the area that Vanzekin dove to punch away. The speed of the shot was evident when Vanzekin punched it, because it sailed back outside the area.

Although Messi couldn't create his usual magic to score, he again set up a goal to give Argentina all the offense it needed in the 58th minute. Messi delivered a long pass to Di Maria down the left side to give him a one-on-one chance with Vanzekin.

Vanzekin charged off his line to pressure Di Maria, but the 20-year old - known as "The Little Angel" - chipped the ball with the outside of his left foot and it sailed perfectly over the goalie and into the net.

Romero made another key play for Argentina in the 63rd minute, diving to snag a cross from Obinna, who had a teammate waiting at the far post.

Isaac set up Nigeria's next chance in the 65th minute, crossing from the right to Victor Anichebe, who tried to get a touch to deflect the ball on goal but it was knocked just wide by an Argentine defender.

The teams were given another water break in the 70th minute, and seven minutes after the restart Messi stole the ball just inside midfield to create a deadly opportunity.

He raced down the center of the field and made it to the top of the area, where Nigeria's Onyekachi Apam chased him down and made a sliding tackle to knock the ball away in the 77th minute.

Nigeria had a few decent chances to tie the game over the last 20 minutes - six minutes of injury time were added - but couldn't convert. The Nigerian missed a few shots wide, Romero made one key save and the best opportunity slipped away on a bad bounce.

Three minutes into injury time, Nigeria played a long free kick into the box to Odemwingie. He tried to control the ball with his chest but it bounced away and Argentina cleared. He would have only had to beat Romero from about eight yards for the tying goal.

08/23 05:08:41 ET


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