Sunday, June 18, 2006

Argentina awesome, Ivory Coast unlucky, Angolans claim point!

Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro

A breathtaking display of 'total football'!

Argentina were awe inspiring. They passed with such precision and movement, and they looked for the most part out of this world. The finishing, the dribbling, the passing and even the defending were mind numbingly fantastic. Yes I do like the superlative but that display deserves it. I might not like Maradona or the Argentina football team doing well in general but hats off when magnificence strikes, and strike by god it did! Cambiasso's goal was one of the best team goals ever at a world cup. 24 passes finally set up by Crespo's delightful backheel, the clips will be shown over and over again. Tevez's goal was outrageous, and Messi came on to no averse injury reaction, even contriving a goal for his troubles! It may also have gone unnoticed but goalkeeper Abbondanzieri appeared impressive as well. Ominous signs but one golden game for the Argies doth not a world cup make!

Serbia & Montenegro were outclassed. They had men behind the ball but didn't pressurise the Argentinians enough. Upfront they appeared fairly clueless as well. After a great qualifying campaign, conceding only one and finishing top of a tough group Serbia will be disappointed, however it's always hard facing the might of Argentina and Holland. Kezman let frustrations get the better of him as a wild lunge resulted in a red card for him.

Holland 2-1 Ivory Coast

An end to end encounter that could have gone either way.

Holland scored two excellent goals early on. Van Persie's free kick was a thunderous bullet, and Van Nistlerooy finished well after nice build up work from the team. From this point on Holland were generally under the cosh, attempting to thwart the talented Ivorians at every turn. Van Persie had an outstanding game, not only dangerous in attack his defending was also crucial at times. His overall game eclipsing the always impressive Arjen Robben (who incidentally became the first player at this world cup to be deservedly booked for diving, or simulation as it is wont to be known). In defence Holland looked better than expected, but as Van Basten noted after the game that the Ivory Coast were so good Holland had no option but to defend in the second half. Will this finally be Holland's year? Van Basten's youth policy could pay off, no longer wanting the likes of Davids, Kluivert and Seedorf it is up to this hugely talented youth brigade to bring the Jules Rimet trophy home.

Ivory Coast will be bitterly disappointed. Probably the best African team at the World Cup they found themselves in the so called 'group of death', facing Argentina and Holland in their first two fixtures. What other nation can claim such a difficult start? Had they swapped places with an Angola, Togo or Tunisia I would have expected their progression. Instead they had an amazingly difficult start in which their very talented team narrowly suffered defeats at the hands of Argentina and Holland, both by scores of 2-1. In this game they created a high number of opportunities but as in the previous game were left rueing their wastefulness as well as being foiled by a confident Van der Sar. They had a good penalty appeal turned down on 12 minutes and Bakari Kone scored a sublime long range effort on 38 minutes to give Holland a nervy final 52 minutes. Their inspirational captain Drogba picked up a yellow card leaving him suspended for the final match, which could have been crucial had Ivory Coast picked up at least a point from the game. Zakora slammed a shot into the woodwork, but other shots were prevented by blocks and poor efforts going wide or tamely to Van der Sar. Overall Ivory coast dominated the attacking in the second half but were unable to score. Their defence was also at fault for Van Nistlerooy's goal as they left him unmarked to narrowly beat offside and slot home. All in all most of the team demonstrated that they were very good players: Zakora, Kone, Toure X 2 etc, but ultimately to no avail.

Mexico 0-0 Angola

An intriguing contest that ended up with the country whose life expectancy is only 37, getting their first ever world cup finals point.

Mexico had numerous chances to seal the game but without their injured talismanic striker Borgetti the team forgot how to find the net. Early in the first half and late in the second proved to be their best periods of the match, ultimately though a goal was elusive. Fonseca, Marquez, Bravo and Franco all had good opportunities but a combination of the woodwork, top class keeping and lame efforts culminated in leaving them scoreless and their fans frustrated. Mexico still have a good chance of making the last 16 but one expects if they do achieve this they will do their usual trick of progressing no further.

Angola defended resolutely throughout the game with goalkeeper Ricardo having a marvellous game. In the first half they also had some good chances usually instigated by the very useful Figueiredo. In the second half they were reduced to a limited number of efforts produced on the break as their main aim was defending their goal with all their might. And achieve this they did as little Angola managed the unthinkable. They have only conceded 1 goal from 2 games against Portugal and Mexico and should they beat Iran in their final game will give themselves a fighting chance of making the last 16!

No comments: