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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 15:40 UK

Messi makes the difference

If there was one factor that helped Argentina gain their revenge over Nigeria for their 1996 Olympic defeat in the men's football final, it was the presence of Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi
Messi streaks away in Saturday's Olympic final
The 21-year-old is widely-regarded as one of the best players in the world, and he had another great game in Saturday's final, setting up Angel di Maria's goal in the 1-0 victory.

"Messi terrorises not only our team, but all teams in Europe," said Nigeria coach Samson Siasia after the match.

"He didn't score but he created a lot of their chances. That is why we have the silver and they have the gold."

Di Maria collected Messi's expertly-timed through ball in the 58th minute and lobbed it over Nigeria goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin to give the defending champions gold again.

"He's played very well today as he normally does in his position and I knew that he could probably be the deciding factor," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista.

Messi was almost ruled out of the Olympics because Barcelona won a ruling that to pull out of the tournament, but the Spanish team still allowed him to play.

"It was very tough for me to get here, but it has all been worth it," said Messi.

"Finally, everything has turned out fine even after all the problems people were talking about. But there is no point looking back at all of that now.

"I knew even before I came here that it would be worth it for me.

the 1996 team actually won gold so you'd say they are a better team

Samson Siasia
"We all knew when we came here that we may never have anything like this experience again, so we are fortunate that everything went well and we won the gold medal."

While Messi's presence was a huge boost for Argentina, the absence of Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi was telling for Nigeria.

Obasi scored twice in the 4-1 semi-final win over Belgium, but missed the final because of a shin injury.

"We had a lot of chances on goal, but we didn't finish," said Siasia.

"You have to score goals to win gold medals.

"That guy can do some magic, create something out of nothing, it's just disappointing he didn't play."

Asked to compare the 2008 Nigeria team to the 1996 gold medal-winning side, Siasia had no doubt as to which is the better.

"We are younger this time, but the 1996 team actually won gold so you'd say they are a better team," he said.

"After gold, I think silver is not bad. Look at Brazil, they came third."

Brazil indeed had to settle for bronze, but then, they were without the talent of one Lionel Messi in their side, too.


see also
Argentina brave heat to take gold
23 Aug 08 |  Football


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