After victory in Athens in 2004, the Argentine football team claimed its second gold medal in a row in Beijing with a 1-0 win over Nigeria in the final of the Olympic tournament. Di Maria scored the only goal from a pass by wonder boy Lionel Messi.
Football superstar Lionel Messi rewarded Argentina in gold for fighting for his right to be at the Olympics when he set up the winning goal in their 1-0 triumph over Nigeria in the men's final on Saturday.
Messi disentangled himself from Nigeria's tight marking to put Angel Di Maria clear early in the second half and di Maria chipped over advancing goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin for the game's only goal.
On the penultimate day of the Beijing Olympics, with 32 finals, the football was played under a blazing midday sun to make use of the 91,000-seat Bird's Nest before athletics in the evening.
Fittingly it was one of the sport's most valuable commodities, Messi, who was central to the outcome after the 21-year-old's appearance in the Games was only settled a few hours before the first game after a bitter international row.
His powerful European club Barcelona had gone to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and won, to keep their prized striker out of the Games before giving an 11th-hour blessing under pressure from Argentina.
It was the perfect end for Argentina in an Olympics which have gone largely according to plan for China who wrested the title of the world sports power from an under-performing United States.
China have 47 gold medals and 89 in total, ahead of the United States (31-102), Great Britain (18-44) and Russia (17-57). There are 44 gold medals to be won on the last two days.
On the track Saturday, Kenenisa Bekele runs to become the first man in 28 years to win the elusive long-distance running double, and boxing finals start for the first time without a US fighter.
Boxing was battling to contain serious claims of bribery and the manipulation of Olympic judging panels following a series of disputed bouts.
Although the sport's ruling body AIBA insisted none of the fights were fixed, despite numerous protests, it confirmed it had been tracking "possible attempts of manipulation" for more than two months.
Bekele's fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba has already achieved the feat here, winning the women's 5,000m and 10,000m finals, becoming the first runner to succeed since another Ethiopian, Miruts Yifter, at the 1980 Moscow Games.
The United States, making a late bid for track prestige, have the men's and women's 4x400 metres relays within their grasp as long as they can hold on to the baton, an error which cost them in the 4x100m sprint relays.
Germany's Sabine Spitz won the first gold of the day with a commanding display of front riding to win the women's mountain bike cross country race.
Defending champion Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway was among many medal hopefuls who pulled out during the six-lap race, held on a demanding and technical 4.5km circuit and in searing temperatures.
China expect to sweep of all eight diving medals, but Australian Matthew Mitcham who separated Hou Liang and Zhou Luxin to be second in the semi-finals of the men's 10m platform said it would come down to whoever held his nerve best.
"It's anybody's," he said. "I think one bad dive from anyone and they're out of the competition."
Wang Hao defeated Swedish veteran Jorgen Persson in the men's table tennis semi-finals and will play Ma Lin in an all-China final.
Olympic baseball powerhouse Cuba will defend their title against South Korea - bringing the curtain down on baseball's short-lived, five-Games appearance.
The Cubans, who dispatched the United States in the semi-finals, have won three of the four previous Olympic baseball tournaments. The sport will drop off the Olympic schedule after Beijing.
Among other finals, the United States and Australia battle for the women's basketball gold for the third straight Games, Norway play Russia in women's handball, world champions Germany play Spain for the men's hockey gold and the United States verse Brazil in the women's volleyball final.
Date created : 2008-08-23