Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day 8 Review

I'm guessing Pelé may have woken up this morning feeling as though his life isn't quite as perfect as it once was. My reasoning is squarely based on the fact that yesterday Argentina scored arguably the greatest team goal ever in the World Cup - better even than the fourth goal of the 1970 Final that Pelé helped Brazil to score.

It was Argentina's second goal in a 6-0 thrashing of Serbia & Montenegro and can only be described as 'poetry in motion'. Twenty-one passes were strung together leading to Cambiasso's 31st minute strike, and of the 50% possession Argentina had in the match, most of that must have come in this one move alone.

Argentina showed how well they can play football in their previous match against the Ivory Coast, but this performance went one better than that. They passed the ball around with the nonchalant skill that we've come to know from the greatest Brazilian sides of the past, and on this form it's irresistible to put some money on them winning the World Cup outright. They played in such a way that Serbia & Montenegro, normally a good defensive unit, didn't even figure in the match. The Europeans are now out of the tournament, but Argentina are through to round two where they'll be joined by a Holland side trying hard not to be outdone by the sort of display we saw in Gelsenkirchen yesterday.

Holland picked up another three points in the second of Friday's games against the Ivory Coast, but for the second time in this tournament, the Ivorians lost 2-1. Robin Van Persie's 23rd minute free kick set the Dutch on their way and three minutes later Ruud van Nistelrooy added a second. The Africans appeared to be reeling but they never gave up and 12 minutes later they got their reward when Bakari Kone struck a 25 yard shot after a powerful run.

The second half didn't quite live up to the first with the Dutch holding firm but play continued to switch from end to end as Ivory Coast tried repeatedly to penetrate Holland's back line. In the end it was not to be, and sadly the best of Africa's representatives at this tournament will now be preparing for one last game against Serbia & Montenegro next week.

The final game of the day saw another spirited performance from Angola, thought by many to be at the opposite end of the African football spectrum to the Ivory Coast. They gave Mexico a run for their money throughout last night's match and performed the seemingly impossible - a 0-0 draw against the team that convincingly beat Iran 3-1 last Sunday.

Mexico were the first to fly out of the traps with a first minute shot from Carlos Salcido that flew narrowly over the bar, but this was to be almost as close as Mexico would get to scoring. Captain Marquez hit the post soon after from a 30-yard free kick as Mexico tried time and again to find a way through Angola's steady, well-manned defence.

Angola created a few chances, none of which seriously threatened Mexican goalkeeper Sanchez, but when Andre Macanga was sent off 11 minutes from time for a hand-ball that earned him a second yellow card, Angola really did need to concentrate on keeping their defence strong. That they did to earn their first ever point in World Cup Finals history, a feat which made the Angolan fans very happy indeed when the full time whistle went.

Mexico now have four points from two games and should progress through to the second round with Portugal, but their weaknesses have now been exposed for all to see. Anyone favouring a strong run from Mexico in this competition may now be thinking twice on the strength of this ineffective performance.

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