Living in the Group of Death


Argentina 2 – Ivory Coast 1
Ever since we knew Ivory Coast was in our group and we had to play our first game against them, we thought the worst things you can imagine. After beating them in Hamburg today I can say that WE WERE RIGHT TO DO SO!

That makes this win even sweeter. I hate to hear people in Buenos Aires saying that Ivory Coast was not a real test and that they didn’t have a good side at all. That’s a tendency we have in Argentina. If we win, the rival was weak. If we lose, we are rubbish. I hate that. And I’m starting to see it once again.

I have to say, however, that Argentina was superior during the first half and we went up 2-0 deservingly.
After a shaky start and some very tense legs (specially in our midfielders), we started taking control of the game. RIQUELME was clinical in the way he led our offense and we had Ivory Coast on their back foot.

I met up with my friends from college (10 years after and for our 3rd World Cup in a row!) and we all jumped with our hands to the air when AYALA headed the ball towards the goal and TIZIE (in my opinion) stopped it behind the line. That would have been 1-0 to Argentina and a little bit of calm would have followed. The referee and his linesman didn’t see it, so it was play on.

A few minutes after that controversial play, RIQUELME sent the ball to the box and after a lucky rebound, Hernan CRESPO sent our country into delirium! That’s the essence of the strikers: being in the right place at the right time.

Hernan Crespo Ivory Coast Argentina
Hernan Crespo Ivory Coast Argentina

We saw our best football after that and it was clear our team was leaving behind the anxiety. SAVIOLA was one of PEKERMAN’s bets and he paid out big time for our manager in a moment of brilliance by RIQUELME. When Javier ran towards the goal, Roman sent a perfect pass behind the defense and the former Sevilla striker sent it home with a lovely first touch.

2-0 and we were ready to party. But the substitutions PEKERMAN made in the second half were our biggest mistake.

With ten minutes into the second half I said to my friends: ‘Despite the result, Ivory Coast is playing a great game!’ That means they needed no help. They logically started to throw attackers to the field (DINDANE, KONE) and we took them out! PALACIO in for CRESPO had little to discuss. One striker out, one speedy forward in. Maybe to open up some spaces and take advantage of PALACIO’s pace on the flanks. But to take SAVIOLA out and replace him with Luis GONZALEZ was a bad move. I guess PEKERMAN tried to add somebody who could win a couple of battles in midfield and help RIQUELME in keeping possession of the ball. But in reality, the result was awful. We never played the way we could and we let Ivory Coast to believe and to try and go for a fantastic comeback. To make matters worst, everybody in the stadium (apart from the big mass of Argentines –with Diego MARADONA leading the lot!-) started to support the Africans and to boo our players.

That led to DROGBA’s equaliser and almost 10 minutes of the same old fear we felt ever since the World Cup draw took place. We were horrible during those last minutes and we could have ended up the day in tears and crying for blowing up a 2-goal lead.

3 points are in the Bank now and that’s a very good thing in the Group of Death. Goal difference could have been better, but at least we won.

MESSI, TEVEZ, AIMAR are still to play and to have them fresh and willing to show the World what they are capable of makes me feel positive too.

Now I can’t wait for next Friday (and Serbia & Montenegro) to come!

To finish this wrap up of the game, I’m going to pick my man of the match and I’ll give a few extra mentions:

Man of the match:

Javier Saviola Argentina
Javier Saviola Argentina

Javier SAVIOLA. Fast on and off the ball. Fantastic finish to put Argentina 2-0 and very handy to help RIQUELME in the creative aspects of the game.

Roberto AYALA. Rock solid to control DROGBA. Had a goal not seen by the referee and made no mistakes during the whole game.

Roberto ABBONDANZIERI. With a thousand critics breathing in his neck and waiting for him to drop the ball or concede an easy goal, he came out with his best performance in our National Team, made a great save and started a couple of counter attacks with some impressive long passes.

Best of the rest:
CRESPO scored and that’s all you ask from your strikers. RIQUELME had a assist and that could prove vital and even win you a game in tournaments like the World Cup.