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Nigeria 4-1 Argentina: Albiceleste youngsters battered in Abuja

By Daniel Edwards

Nigeria's Olubayo Adefemi celebrates an Olympic team goal

Nigeria's Olubayo Adefemi celebrates an Olympic team goal

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Nigeria dominated from start to finish as it handed out a humiliating reverse to an Argentina side composed primarily of Under 25 prospects in Abuja. Two goals from Ike Uche in the first half helped leave the Albiceleste in disarray by half time as they went in three goals down; Victor Anichebe also hit from the penalty spot in the first half, while Emanuel Emenike put the icing on the cake with a delightful lobbed finish minutes after the restart.

Mario Bolatti, in turn, converted a 98th minute penalty for Argentina, given in bizarre circumstances with the game already over by far.

In truth, it was a pitiful performance from the South Americans, who were out-run, out-thought and out-played by their opponents for almost the entire 90 minutes. The decision of coach Sergio Batista to name his Copa America squad just 18 hours before kick off must be questioned, as with the vast majority of this team left out of the tournament the Seleccion looked lackluster and demotivated against the tireless Super Eagles.

After a few bright moments in the opening minutes, an inexperienced Argentina team looked hopelessly out-classed against the hosts, who time and again marauded down the flanks and ripped apart the away team. Taye Taiwo and Joel Obi in particular took pleasure in torturing full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Emiliano Insua, and the opening goal did not take long to arrive.

Obi was not checked as he made it to the goal line on the right hand side, and Ike Uche was on hand to hit home with a shot that took a generous deflection on its way into the net. The Super Eagles were ahead after just 10 minutes, and Adrian Gabbarini had to stretch to tip over a cross-shot from Victor Anichebe to avoid the scoreline being doubled.

The second goal was on its way, however, albeit in controversial circumstances. Federico Fazio did not appear to do much wrong in the area as he stopped a Nigerian attacker in his tracks after 27 minutes; but referee Ibrahim Chaibou disagreed, and a penalty was given which Anichebe had no problem converting.

Just 40 minutes in, the Albiceleste found themselves staring at a humiliating thrashing, when pitiful defending allowed Uche to convert Taiwo's cross for the third. The South Americans trudged off the field at half time, while Nigeria showed their confidence when Anichebe was withdrawn even before the break in a statement of their total dominance on the pitch.

Seconds after the break it appeared that Nigeria would add a fourth, as a counterattack left Emanuel Emenike one on one with Gabbarini only to be denied by the Independiente number 1. Argentina's best chance of the match thus far then arrived; a stinging free kick from Bolatti took a deflection on the way through but pinged back off Vincent Enyeama's right-hand post.

The attempt proved to be just a slight blip in the trajectory of the game, as a fourth hit the back of the net for the Africans minutes later. With the defense nowhere to be seen, Emenike was once again left facing the keeper, and this time made no mistake as he lifted the ball over the stranded keeper to twist the knife further into Sergio Batista's charges.

Both sides rung the changes with the result long-assured for the home team, and the final 35 minutes of the fixture passed with little to encourage Argentina fans happening out on the pitch. The final minutes, however, passed in bizarre circumstances. The referee gave a non-existent handball in favor of Argentina with no less than eight minutes stoppage time played, and Mario Bolatti sent Enyeama the wrong way to give his side a consolation hardly worthy of the word.

With just two players- Ezequiel Garay and Zabaleta- included in the Copa America squad named yesterday there is little reason to draw conclusions on the Albiceleste's chances from this painful beating. But the young guns hoping to become first-teamers of the future were handed a lesson in international football from their more experienced, more physical and savvy rivals on Wednesday evening.

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