Argentina has successfully defended its Olympic football (soccer) gold
medal with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer
was at Saturday's match in Beijing's and has a report.
Nearly 90,000 fans filled the National Stadium on a day where the heat was almost as big a story as the game. The kickoff was at noon local time, and under bright sunshine, the temperature reached 42 degrees Celsius on the field.
That made football's world governing body (FIFA), in consultation with medical officials, decide to have short breaks about midway through each half to allow the players to go to the sidelines to drink liquids to prevent dehydration.
The lone goal of the match came in the 58th minute. Angel di Maria controlled a well-timed through ball from Lionel Messi and deftly chipped the ball over the head of the Nigerian goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin.
Argentine coach Sergio Batisa, through an interpreter, said they had a game plan for the conditions.
"It was a difficult game," he said. "We knew that up front. Nigeria from midfield up front had very good players. So we tried to make sure that we did not get up tight, and just play our own game. We wanted to play intelligently, move the ball around. We didn't want to run as much. We wanted the ball to do the work."
Nigerian coach Samson Siasia said because all of the other Olympic games were played late in the day or under floodlights at night, the final should have been also.
"I think it actually affected both countries," said Siasia. "I'm guessing most players did not actually perform to their level because of the heat, and you got tired in a little bit of time. But we didn't' make the rules. They decided to play the game at 12 o'clock, which I don't think was a good idea."
Brazil, which has yet to win an Olympic football gold medal, had won the bronze medal by beating Belgium on Friday in Shanghai, 3-0.
Attendance at the football matches broke an Olympic record, with 2.14 million - 1.4 million for the men's games and 740,000 for the women's games.