Argentina failed to convert their dominance into goals as they edged Nigeria by a single goal in their Group B encounter.
Gabriel Heinze headed Diego Maradona’s side in front after just six minutes and a combination of impressive Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and some wayward shooting prevented them from adding to the scoreline.
Lionel Messi, often criticised for his displays for the national team, was clearly in the mood to put on a show from the off, and he danced past two defenders before squaring for Gonzalo Higuain, but the normally lethal frontman fired wide.
Carlos Tevez then pounced on a loss pass across the face of the penalty area and played in Messi, whose curling effort was palmed away by Enyeama.
But from the resulting corner, on six minutes, Heinze arrived unmarked on the penalty spot and powered his header into the top corner.
Enyeama was again on hand to keep out efforts from Messi and Higuain before Nigeria enjoyed a period of possession.
However, all they could muster was Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi’s effort that he dragged across goal.
Messi then played a quick one-two from a free-kick but his sublime curling shot was tipped away by the thoroughly impressive Enyeama.
Messi flicked Juan Sebastian Veron’s low cross wide as Argentina continue to press after half-time, and the mercurial Barcelona star then curled an effort the wrong side of the post to waste a four-on-two break.
Nigeria came into the game after that and Joseph Yobo’s pinpoint cross-field ball found Peter Odemwingie, who then fed Taye Taiwo, but the defender toe-picked his shot agonisingly wide.
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, for much of the game a spectator, beat away Obafemi Martin’s swerving shot from range as the Africans began to take control.
There was still danger at the other end, though, and Enyeama continued his fine performance by yet again blocking a Messi shot following the little Argentinian’s one-two with Higuain.
And Kalu Uche should have perhaps netted a scarcely deserved equaliser with seven minutes remaining.
However, the midfielder sent his left-foot shot over the bar after being picked out by Ayegbeni Yakubu, and that proved to be Nigeria’s final chance to earn a point.
Nigeria: Enyeama, Yobo, Taiwo (Uche 75), Shittu, Yakubu, Kaita, Haruna, Odiah, Obinna (Martins 52), Obasi (Odemwingie 59), Etuhu.
Argentina: Romero, Demichelis, Heinze, Di Maria (Burdisso 85), Veron (M Rodriguez 74), Higuain (Milito 79), Messi, Tevez, Samuel, Mascherano, Jonas.
Goal: Heinze 6
Booking: Haruna (Nigeria)