Argentina got their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006 campaign off to the best of starts with a narrow 5-4 win over Group D rivals Nigeria, who overcame their late arrival in the host city to put in a brave and at times thrilling performance. Despite squeaking home in a nine-goal cliff-hanger and taking a significant step towards qualification for the quarter-finals, Argentina coach Francisco Petrasso was less than satisfied with his side's showing.
"How can I be happy when we've made so many mistakes?" he complained afterwards. "Perhaps the occasion got to us a little, but I know this team is capable of playing much better than it did today. Nigeria are a very powerful side for sure, but we should have handled the game differently. The fact is we suffered more than we should have, although at least we've got a couple of days now to work on things."
With the morning rain making the sand a little heavy under foot, the Africans made up for their lack of experience with plenty of hard running in a powerful first-period performance. Gabriel Agu notched the first goal of the tournament on three minutes with a right-foot drive that deceived Marcelo Salgueiro in the Argentina goal, and was understandably delighted with the feat. "It makes me very proud and happy to go down in the record books, but it's obvious we've still got lots to learn," he beamed after the final whistle. Agu's strike was quickly followed by further goals from Santiago Lopez Hilaire, Federico Lopez Hilaire and team-mate Ifeanyi Onigbo to leave the game tied at 2-2 at the first interval.
Kkelechi Emeteole's side had the better of an intriguing second period to lead 4-3 going into the final third thanks to goals from Suleiman Usman and Onigbo, with Facundo Minici's spectacular bicycle kick keeping Argentina in it. Just when it looked as if the underdogs would have their day, Petrasso's charges roared back with Santiago Lopez Hilaire - top scorer in the South American qualifiers - grabbing the equaliser and Minici the all-important winner.
"We're not happy about losing, but you have to remember we had real problems getting here," explained Emeteole. "We're here to learn and gain experience for the future. I'm confident we can still make the quarters. After all, the tournament's only just started."
Referees: Antonio Buaiz (BRA), Carlos Frazao (POR), Fabio Polito (ITA)