In a couple of hours’ time, Argentina will be going for a second gold medal of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games when the men’s football team take on Nigeria, their conquerors in Atlanta 1996, in the OFT final. Argentina are seeking to defend their title, having demolished arch-rivals Brazil 3-0 in the semi, with Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano hoping to become a double Olympic gold medalist.
Much is being made of the physical difference in size between the sides, with Nigeria’s average height of 1.82 metres a whole five cms (two inches) taller than Argentina’s. The shortest player on the pitch, though, is also the one perhaps most capable of winning it with a moment of individual brilliance: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Both sides have scored ten goals en route to the final, Argentina with five consecutive wins, whilst Nigeria, after drawing their opening group match, have won four on the trot. ‘We know that they’re not going to stop attacking,’ said Argentina Olympic coach Sergio Batista, ‘but we also know that they’ll want to impose their own style, and that’s where we have to be intelligent.’
The side’s main cheerleader, though, is in confident mood. ‘We’re going to win, I don’t have any doubts. 2-0 would be perfect,’ Diego Armando Maradona told the press after joining the side for their final training session on Friday.
The starting XI for Argentina is expected to be a repeat of the side that beat Brazil. So:
Argentina starting XI to face Nigeria, Olympic Football Tournament 2008 final, managed by Sergio Batista:
Zabaleta —- Garay —- Pareja —- Monzón
Gago —- Mascherano —- Di María
Messi —- Agüero