THE MESSIAH: Sublime Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) leaps to control the ball during his side's Beijing 2008 Olympic Games men's football final against Nigeria at the Bird's Nest yesterday. Messi set up the all-important goal for Angel di Maria for Argentina's second successive Olympic gold.

Argentina remain Olympic football champions after a goal engineered by superstar Lionel Messi inspired them to a 1-0 win over former champions Nigeria in the gold medal match at the Beijing Games on Saturday.

Messi disentangled himself from Nigeria's tight marking to put teammate Angel Di Maria clear on goal early in the second half of a final played in sapping 35-degree midday heat before a near capacity crowd of 89,102 at the National Stadium.

Benfica's Di Maria chipped over the advancing goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin to break the deadlock and score what proved the winning goal in the 58th minute.

"It was a dream game. All I could think of was thank God the ball went over the line and now thanks to that I have a gold medal," Di Maria said.

Argentina successfully defended the Olympic crown from their 1-0 win over Paraguay in Athens four years ago. They are now unbeaten in 12 matches stretching over two Games, an Olympic football record.

Nigeria went in with the psychological edge of beating Argentina 3-2 in the corresponding final 12 years ago in Atlanta to become the first African Olympic champions.


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