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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Bielsa gets back to basics
Argentina go 1-0 up against Nigeria
One goal was enough for victory over Nigeria
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Coach Marcelo Bielsa has introduced much that is new to the Argentina team.

But his side's winner against Nigeria came from a move as traditionally Argentine as beef and tango.

The towering far-post header on a deeply struck set-piece has been a key part of Argentina's repertoire for years.

Often it is a centre-back who offers the biggest threat.

In his playing days Daniel Passarella frequently used his mighty leap in such situations.

Mauricio Pochettino and Gabriel Batistuta celebrate the goal
Pochettino and Batistuta celebrate the goal
Had he been fit to face Nigeria, captain Roberto Ayala may well have been the main target for the far-post cross.

Although it was Gabriel Batistuta who headed home, Mauricio Pochettino was just behind him ready to apply the killer touch.

Batistuta's 10th World Cup goal gave Argentina a win which came harder than Bielsa had expected.

Argentina's coach revealed his intentions with the selection of Claudio Lopez on the left-wing.

Two years ago Lopez lost his first-team place when Bielsa decided the side was light in midfield.

In came the scampering Juan Pablo Sorin, with Kily Gonzalez moving forward to displace Lopez.

But now Bielsa felt that Nigeria's weakness on the flanks would give Lopez the chance to tip the balance.

Open Quote
The margin of victory should have been bigger but we are satisfied because it is a good victory - we have passed the first significant test
Close Quote
Marcelo Bielsa
He soon saw, though, that he had been mistaken.

Nigeria's defence was tighter than he had hoped, and so Gonzalez, with his thrust and aggression, was introduced at the interval.

Even though not everything went according to plan, Bielsa can still reflect on his side's debut with a certain pleasure.

A valid comparison is France's opener against Senegal.

Also taking on African opposition, the reigning world champions looked woefully short of attacking ideas.

Argentina would seem to have greater resources at their disposal.

They have more players capable of making a decisive attacking contribution from open play.

And their set-pieces look much more dangerous.

Defensively, too, the comparison works well for Argentina.

Marcelo Bielsa on the training ground
Bielsa had his squad back in training first thing on Monday
France suffered terribly to counter the pace of Senegal striker El Hadji Diouf.

Nigeria's Julius Aghahowa carries a similar threat, but Argentina's high pressure marking worked so well that the Nigerians were unable to bring him into the game.

Bielsa is also secure in the knowledge that his side has extra gears in reserve, that they are capable of more than they showed against Nigeria.

Both from an individual and a collective point of view, there is room for improvement.

But the position of goalkeeper continues to be a worry.

Pablo Cavallero produced one outstanding save from a Jay Jay Okocha long shot.

But in the last few minutes he looked a bag of nerves as Nigeria desperately lobbed some high balls into the Argentina box.

Future rivals will have taken note.


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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