Monday, June 26, 2006

Lessons (Argentina - Mexico, etc.)

Without question, Argentina-Mexico was the game of the tournament. Physical, intense, high-velocity and capped by the proverbial "goal fit to win any game" by Maxi Rodriguez. It made Joe Cole look like something of a piker for letting the ball bounce before launching into the opposite corner. Great credit for the spectacle must go to the performance of marvelously-named referee Massimo Bussacca of Switzerland.

In a game this fast and furious, he could possibly have blown his whistle every 15 seconds and handed out cards aplenty. Instead, he excercised common sense, allowed the teams to match each other tackle for tackle, and the players adjusted. Despite some criticism, that is how the game should be reffed. (Heize getting only a yellow was debatable, but I'd prefer lenience to the Survivor-like quality of Netherlands-Portugal, where it seems a player is required to be voted off the island every fifteen minutes. Argentina also had a winner in stoppage time wrongly ruled offsides, but A) the call was tight, B) also made difficult by the long distance between Messi and the Mexican defender who may have played him onside; and C) the Argentines didn't think it was good at the time either.

As to the match itself, tough to say who 'deserved' to win prior to Rodriguez's goal. Guardado, getting his first World Cup action as a 19-year old in this game was absolutely nerveless. Marquez, in addition to his goal, was phenomenal all night, and Borgetti showed that a team can in fact play with one forward and still be dangerous. Much has been made of the Mexicans pressure on Riquelme, but I didn't see it that way - he still managed to move the ball quite effectively, even if he had less time to indulge himself then he had in previous matches.

After the goal, Mexico never once looked threatening - their spirit had been crushed, as one might expect.

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