Friday, June 16, 2006

"Vamos a Argentina! Vamos a Ganar!"

And who can blame the Argentinians for having high hopes? Admittedly, Serbia & Montenegro were dreadful (perhaps they just want to go home and become Serbia AND Montenegro as quickly as possible...soon enough folks, you get to get tattooed by Cote d'Ivoire in a meaningless game first), but man did the Argentines look impressive - skill, speed, stamina; it was all there. Plus their coach has balls - he figured that S&M would play defensively, so he switched from the 4-4-2 of the first game to an absurdly attacking 3-4-3 and was rewarded by two first half goals from Maxi Rodriguez, the third forward. Riquelme has that ability to always have enough time - he isn't that quick himself but he's just smooth. Saviola continues to justify his starting spot (and considering what Messi and especially Tevez did in the second half, that's saying something.)

Argentina's second goal (video here) is the epitome of Why Pooh Likes Soccer, 7 players, 20+ passes (all played one or two touches), a backheel and the supposed 'defensive' midfielder rifles one in from the top of the box. Best goal of the tourney by a mile.

A note to England, France, Portugal and Brazil, note that the teams that have looked most dangerous (Argentina, Spain, the Czechs) share two characteristics - quick ball movement and a lot of off the ball movement from players. Saviola in particular showed up all over the field - he made the third goal from what seemed like right full-back. That is exactly what I meant about England needing to up the tempo - certainly they won't be able to match the skill of the Argentinians (see, e.g. Sorin's backheeled lob through-ball on the edge of the area), but they can certainly hustle and bustle their way to something akin to that effectiveness.

As for the long and don't let the door hit you, I guess. Kezman in particular, you leg-breaking bastard, you (easiest red card one is likely to see...)

Too bad that the Argentina-Holland game will be largely meaningless (Holland looked fantastic for the first 30 minutes or so vs. Ivory Coast. Somebody apparently remembered to wake Ruud up before kickoff. Also, the extended embrace between Robben and Van Persie after the latter's rocket of a goal was vaguely uncomfortable in a sort of "why can't we be friends?" manner.)

MoM: Tough to say, there were so many good performances. I'll probably take Saviola for being the key man in the first half, as most of the second was just icing.

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