Vincent Enyeama justified claims he is one of the best shot-stoppers in Africa with a defiant display to restrict Argentina to a 1-0 win in their Group B 2010 FIFA World Cup match. Enyeama, who plays his club football in Israel with Hapoel Tel-Aviv, was named the Budweiser Man of the Match despite playing on the losing team after frustrating the irrepressible Lionel Messi with a string of outstanding saves.
Defender Gabriel Heinze scored the only goal of the match with a header from a corner in the sixth minute, but coach Lars Lagerback blamed the slack defensive marking rather than Enyeama for the ultimate winner.
Enyeama, who was playing his 56th international for the Super Eagles, made six fine saves, four of them from Messi, and was the major reason for Nigeria coming so close to almost pinching a draw against the two-time world champions. "I watched Messi's games in the Spanish league along with a little bit of good information that I got for the game," Enyeama said. "It would be my best personal performance playing against the best player in the world. For now you cannot take that away from me and that's the best game in my career.".
It would be my best personal performance playing against the best player in the world. For now you cannot take that away from me.
His team-mates credited Enyeama with keeping Nigeria in the contest and still with a chance of progressing out of their group. "He's a good goalkeeper, he made three or four really good saves and he really helped us," striker Obafemi Martins said.
Peter Odemwingie agreed: "I want to thank our goalkeeper today and our defence because against such a good team as Argentina to only concede one goal I think is a good achievement."
Enyeama was Israel's club player of the season last year and has been on the radar of several of Europe's biggest clubs over the last two years, including sides in Turkey, Spain and England.
Lagerback lamented a split-second lapse in concentration for Nigeria's third defeat. "I have given a lot of credit for the way we have handled set pieces defensively in our friendlies, but we were asleep at one of the corners and that was enough," he said. "That's the game at this level. If you have a lack of concentration for a second when you're playing those kind of players then you will be punished and we were, otherwise we would have had at least a draw."