Argentina defender turns out be best attacker

For all its attacking power, Argentina needed a defender to


Boasting the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos

Tevez and Diego Milito, few would have thought it would be

defensive stalwart Gabriel Heinze who saved the team with a header

that gave Argentina a 1-0 victory over Nigeria on Saturday.

“It’s like everything that happens in football – sometimes

you’re in the right place,” said Heinze after the match at Ellis

Park in Johannesburg. “I saw the cross coming and I didn’t

hesitate about using my forehead.”

That goal gave Argentina three points, the same as South Korea,

which defeated Greece 2-0 in the first Group B match. The Asians

lead the group on goal difference.

The winner of Thursday’s match between Argentina and South Korea

at Johannesburg’s Soccer City will guarantee itself a place in the

round of 16.

Heinze, formerly of Manchester United and Real Madrid before

joining Marseille last year, said his goal meant the team could

“go to sleep at ease and look forward with optimism” to


However, that easy sleep was delayed for Heinze, who was held up

a couple of hours by the anti-doping controls after the match and

had to return to team headquarters in Pretoria in a FIFA car

instead of the team bus.

Heinze’s goal came from a flying header in the sixth minute, off

a corner by Juan Sebastian Veron.

Argentina fans who believe in omens will be encouraged by the

timing of Heinze’s goal – Argentina also scored in the sixth minute

of its opening game in 1986 and went on to win the tournament.

Diego Maradona, the star of that 1986 triumph, and now Argentina

coach, deployed Messi, Higuain and Tevez to take on Nigeria’s


But the trio could not find the net, nor did Inter Milan’s

Champions League hero Milito, who came on as a late substitute.

All of them were frustrated by a series of fine saves by Nigeria

goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, chosen by FIFA as the man of the match

– a rarity for a goalie in a losing team.