In a repeat of the 1996 Gold Medal game from the Atlanta Olympics, Argentina, on a beautifully chipped ball by Angel di Maria in the 58th minute, defeated the Super Eagles of Nigeria under the blistering noon day heat in Beijing.
IOC Decision Likely to be Criticized
In another strange decision no doubt to placate television interests (similar to all of those noon kickoffs during World Cup 1994), both teams endured 90 minutes with field temperatures well over 42 degrees Celsius (~107 degrees Fahrenheit).
"Play was stopped twice to allow players to take on water to deal with the searing 42C (107F) heat..."
"Maybe the heat was a factor," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista. "I think it the game had been played in another part of the day it would have been very different. We tried to make sure that we didn't get uptight, just to play our own game. We wanted to play with intelligence and move the ball around and not run around so much. We wanted the ball to do the work."
And Nigeria coach Samson Siasia was critical of the decision to play the game in the middle of the day.
"No team has actually played at noon since we started this tournament," said Siasia. "It affected both countries and most players didn't perform to their level because of the heat. "But we didn't make the rules. They said play the game at noon which I don't think wasn't a good idea."
Source: BBC Sport, 23 August 2008.
In a display of common sense, the referee stopped the run of play on two occasions to allow the young men to properly hydrate themselves. Having a noon kickoff in Beijing meant that the game was televised at 0100 hours in Argentina, and at 0600 in Nigeria, along with most other African and European nations who had the most interest to watch this game.
The question remains, why?
Well done, Argentina.