The day after


I feel like a boy again. A little child who dreams about football like I did when I was 9 and Argentina was the best in the World. Because I remember exactly where I was in each of those Mexico ’86 matches, in which Diego MARADONA gave the planet football, the best individual performance in the history of the World Cup.

Now I feel this team is putting Diego and my self in the same position. He is a fan now. Probably the most passionate around! And seeing him acting the same way I did when I was 9, makes this whole thing a little bit surreal.

Like experiencing the same things I did 20 years ago, when I had the proper age to act like I’m acting now! I’m changing my sleeping hours (and reducing them to a dangerous low!). I’m eating very badly and I’m not seeing friends and family (other than those who join me to watch the matches). I’m a grown up now, but I’m acting like a child and to tell you the truth: I’m loving it. Grown ups don’t enjoy football like we, the little kids of the World, do! Joking aside, I think that’s the best way to explain what is going on with my self lately, and I sincerely hope this could go on for a while.

There are thousands of ways to analyse what happened yesterday. A few concepts could help us to do so:

Argentina left behind the anxiety of the debut match against Ivory Coast and played a little bit more relaxed.

The early goal by Maxi RODRIGUEZ, in a great team effort with a back heel pass by SORIN to SAVIOLA who then made a perfect assist for MAXI, helped Argentina to control the game playing with the Serbs’ desperation.

Serbia & Montenegro suffered from the off-the-pitch problems. You could see there were no generosity amongst their players and they never played as a team. In contrast to that, Argentina had its most powerful weapon in team spirit and collective game.

The passing and more importantly the clinical finishing showed by Argentina were at the highest point. Perhaps Spain was the only other team with an unstoppable knack for scoring so far. But 3 of their 4 goals against Ukraine came from dead ball situations, whereas Argentina scored 6 goals from open play.

Argentina kept going forward and that was the key to kill off the game, making room in the team for the lethal: Carlos TEVEZ and Lionel MESSI. Both of them showing that they are ready to step up at the highest international level.

That sums up pretty much what was the best performance by Argentina in many years. But what really put this showing into perspective are the echoes you can hear from the media in every corner of the World. I want to have a word with those in charge of Gazzetta dello Sport and La Repubblica (Italia); Marca, As and Sport (Spain); Lance, Folha do Sao Paulo, Terra, Gazeta Esportiva (Brazil); BBC, The Guardian and even The Sun (England); L’Equipe (France); A Bola (Portugal) and the bookies all around the World: Are you trying to drive me mad? Don’t you know I’m already fired up? I don’t need your help to make me believe this time we can really go all the way. Thank you very much anyway. It’s a real pleasure to read your lines about Argentina, filled with all kinds of adjectives you only seemed to save for other teams.

Another kind of flattering, is coming for a different source. The purest. The most beautiful. Let me put it this way: the number of passes we saw in our second goal (25. 26 if you count Maxi’s steal with what looks like a pass backwards to HEINZE) is nothing compared to the e-mails I’ve been receiving! I apologise but I was unable to reply to all of them. I hope I’ll have the time to do it, as I enjoyed it very much. In any case, thank you very much for ‘losing your cool’ with me!

As I promised to do after every Argentina match in this World Cup, here are my picks as Man of the Match and other mentions:

First of all, like an old football saying reads in Argentina when a performance like this is witnessed: ‘La figura fue el equipo’ (‘The team was the star’). In a way to recognise a team effort rather than an individual showing. I will agree with that old cliché, there were no weak links yesterday and there is not a single player to be credited for this triumph. However, I’ve got some things to say about a couple of impressive men.

Man of the Match:
Javier SAVIOLA. For the second match in a row. He was absolutely brilliant. I can’t believe why Barcelona keeps on neglecting him. Granted he is not a scoring machine like Samuel ETO’O. Granted Ludovic GIULY is playing at a high level. But now that Thierry HENRY snubbed them to stay at Arsenal and now that Henrik LARSSON returned to his native Sweden and Maxi LOPEZ is off to Mallorca, I don’t see why he is not considered at least as a second or third option. In any case, I’m happy for SAVIOLA because without a doubt he will have his reward and will play in a top club in Europe next season once again. Yesterday he had a part in all of our three first half goals and again, he showed great sacrifice to help his team-mates when Argentina was off the ball.

Maxi RODRIGUEZ. A quiet player. A quiet guy. But he can do whatever it’s needed on the pitch. He can chase his rivals all over the field, he can pass, he can run at defenders and he can surprise opposing defenses while scoring at every chance he has. One goal to open up the match in the 6th minute. Another to finish it off in the 41st. A great show all around.

Juan Roman RIQUELME. One of the e-mails I’ve received asked me about a fantasy football advise. This guy was concerned because he wanted to include a player from Argentina and he didn’t like CRESPO that much. He had RIQUELME and wanted to know whether to keep him or not. So I said: ‘Look, he is the free kick specialist, the corner and penalty kicks taker. He can have an assist with a killer through pass at anytime. I would say keep him’. Well, he scored minus 0.50 and this guy probably wants to kill me. But I think it’s a case of this fantasy rules being rubbish. RIQUELME was the playmaker in a team that destroyed the opposition in a brilliant 6-0 victory and was the guy who had 5 of the 25 (or 26) passes in that unforgettable second goal. He ruled the timing, the pace and the flow of the whole game. Hardly a bad game, isn’t it?

Best of the rest:
Hernan CRESPO. A goal, an assist and a goal ruled out (while he was slightly onside). Great sacrifice, he was fouled inside the box in the second half and his delicious back heel pass for CAMBIASSO in the second goal was superb. Keep it coming Hernan!
Of course, I don’t want to be the public enemy number one, Carlos TEVEZ and Lionel MESSI. They played less time than the players I’ve highlighted and they came in with the game already won. But you cannot leave them unnoticed because of this. It was their World Cup debut and both of them had a goal and an assist and shook off all the pressure that was hanging on their shoulders.

Coming up in this space: What are our real chances? And we’ll see just how important our match against Holland (and finishing top of Group C) is for Argentina.