South American giants Argentina have blessed world football with a number of legendary players including Gabriel Batistuta, who scored his 10th and final World Cup goal in a match against the Super Eagles of Nigeria on this day in 2002.
In what was the Group F opener at the FIFA World Cup co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, Nigeria’s national team fell by a lone goal in the game played at the Kashima Stadium against their South American rivals thanks to a 63rd minute header from Batistuta.
It was the only goal Batistuta scored in three appearances for Argentina in 2002 – all of which came at the World Cup as the Albiceleste fell at the group stage of the competition for the first time in 40 years after finishing in third place with four points, behind group winners Sweden and England.
The goal was Batistuta’s 54th for the national team, which remained a record until 2016 when it was surpassed by Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi. Batistuta stated after Messi broke the record, “You go around the world and people say, ‘he’s the top scorer for the Argentina national team’. But the advantage I have is that I’m second to an extraterrestrial.”
Batistuta’s goal against Nigeria was his last for Argentina while the country’s final group stage in Korea/Japan 2002 against Sweden was his final appearance for the South Americans. The former River Plate, Boca Juniors, Fiorentina, AS Roma and Inter Milan eventually retired from football in 2005.
The Avellaneda-born former striker inspired a next generation of potent Argentine strikers such as Hernan Crespo, Gonzalo Higuain, Mauro Icardi and Sergio Aguero, with the latter having cause to share this day in football with the legend as he marks his birthday.
Manchester City’s record goalscorer turns 31 years old and can feel great about himself having helped the English club to a quadruple of domestic titles – City claimed the Premier League as well as the FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield.
Aguero was instrumental in City’s successful season, scoring 32 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions as the club also made it to the last eight of the Champions League before falling by virtue of away goals to eventual losing finalists, Tottenham Hotspur.
Van Dijk helps Ajax become European champions for the first time
On June 1, Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk helped Liverpool to win the Champions League in 2019, with the title coming 48 years after another van Dijk helped Ajax to claim the Dutch club’s first ever European title on this day in 1971.
Dirk van Dijk scored Ajax’s opening goal with a header after just five minutes of the European Cup final against Greek giants, Panathinaikos, in a match played in front of just over 83,000 fans at the old Wembley Stadium in London.
The striker featured for Ajax between 1969 and 1972, scoring 56 goals in 84 league appearances for the club in that period and winning two league titles, three KNVB Cups, and two European Cups before joining French club, OGC Nice, after spending majority of his final season at Ajax as a reserve player.
Goes to show Liverpool’s win was made in the stars, seeing how two unrelated footballers called van Dijk 48 years and a day apart in football history.