Diego Maradona wants his Argentina side to get "the flavour of winning" after they opened their FIFA World Cup™ campaign with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria and the coach compared Lionel Messi's love for the ball to a child's love for chocolate.
Argentina created a series of excellent openings in the Group B match but took just one of them, Gabriel Heinze heading home a Juan Sebastian Veron corner after five minutes. Messi in particular suffered at the overworked hands of Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who secured the man-of-the-match award with a string of superb saves.
But Maradona felt the result was the most important thing for the opening game and hopes they can now go on a seven-match winning run that takes in the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg on July 11.
He said: "I really hope that my men will make the most of the support from Argentina's fans, the people in the stadium, I hope they can make the most of that so they can excel and improve. My players will then have the flavour of winning. If our players keep winning the games they are going to feel the need, the hunger to win the game."
Messi looked almost at his Barcelona best for large parts of the game and Maradona says it is easy to get the best out of him -- just give him the ball. "We've talked about this and I want Messi close to the ball," he said. "As long as he has fun close to the ball, then we will all be fine. If you take the ball away from him, it would be like taking chocolate away from a kid. He produced magic on the field today."
The Mexico 86 winner admitted the failure to kill off Nigeria did make him and his team a little nervous. He added: "We suffered a little bit by not converting all those chances, we've won the match but when you fail to take those chances you could end up with a draw every minute."
If our players keep winning the games they are going to feel the need, the hunger to win the game.
Heinze emphatically took his chance, diving to head home a corner with Chidi Odiah unable to clear it off the line.
Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback was pleased with his side's overall display but lamented the lack of concentration that allowed Argentina to forge ahead. "I'm very disappointed by the result but I'm proud of my players and the team performance they put in," said the Swede.
"Unfortunately there was a mistake from our side that created a corner kick, we were passive at the corner. We stood sleeping for one corner and that was enough, otherwise we had at least a draw. But we are not out of it yet."
Lagerback played down suggestions that he had snubbed Maradona by not shaking his hand at the end of the game. He said: "There is nothing to say it's a custom to (shake hands) after the match. I have nothing against Maradona at all, I shook his hand before the game. I have a lot of respect for him."