Argentina 0 – Holland 0
Last Friday, after Argentina produced the best performance of this World Cup, my question was: How can I keep the cool? The match against Holland provided me with the perfect answer.
In a way, I’m happy with that. Somehow, I was feeling notoriously uncomfortable being in that position. I hated to hear everybody talking about Argentina being the new main candidate to win the World Cup, taking the pressure out of Brazil and, like my colleague Rodrigo FRESTON said in his blog at Soccernet, we were helping the World Champions by encouraging them to play more relaxed and giving them the right motivation to face every match.
But before I keep on talking about Brazil and who is favourite and who is not, there was an intense football match last night and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Respect was present all over the field. Two teams with a great rivalry and a rich footballing history. Defeat would have been hard to take. Qualification to the second round was already in the bag. There were a lot of factors indicating that a 0-0 draw was a ‘happy’ result for both Argentina and Holland.
It’s hard to make an in-depth analysis with both teams playing with a lot of substitutes. Key players like CRESPO, SAVIOLA, SORIN and HEINZE (ARG) and ROBBEN, VAN BRONCKHORST, HEITINGA, MATHIJSEN and VAN BOMMEL (NED) were all missing, so if both teams advance and meet up again in the final (it could happen) I don’t think the match we will see will be similar and will serve as a valid precedent. It’ll be a whole different movie, with plenty of other actors taking part.
PEKERMAN played with the idea of replacing CRESPO with CRUZ and SAVIOLA with TEVEZ. But in the end, and just minutes before the match, he decided it was a good opportunity to give Lionel MESSI the first of the many World Cup starts he will have in his career.
It looked like a good idea, but for it to be a brilliant idea, we would have needed a goal coming in the first half. That would’ve been the key to open up the Dutch defense, because if they were behind in the score, they would have come forward a little bit more, letting MESSI and TEVEZ to play their best game, with lots of spaces to go forward.
The first 20 minutes were dominated by Holland. The Oranje had more possession and they controlled the flow of the game, but they were not creating chances. Argentina never felt the pressure and when we did, ABBONDANZIERI showed the security people were questioning him about before the World Cup.
After those initial moments, RIQUELME started putting the ball underneath his right shoe and we saw a couple of flashing appearances by MESSI while TEVEZ was always dangerous but ‘messy’ (oh…yeah…the irony!), and that was not enough to beat Edwin VAN DER SAR.
The most dangerous action of that first half almost ended in an own goal by Holland’s number 3, Khalid BOULAHROUZ, after a free kick by RIQUELME when TEVEZ was charging towards the near post.
Maxi RODRIGUEZ had an effort that went just wide and little else.
To tell you the truth, I think the most important thing that happened in the first half (if not in the whole match) was Nicolas BURDISSO’s injury. He has a sprain in his right knee and he is out of the Mexico match.
During the second half it was more of the same. None of the teams showed a real ambition to win it.
TEVEZ showed a lot of movement going forward, but sometimes he was a little bit selfish and, in my opinion, he and MESSI were sometimes isolated against the Dutch defense.
I thought, at that point, the best thing would have been to start with Julio CRUZ along with TEVEZ, to give the team a legit big striker who could keep the orange defense busy. And then replace him with MESSI midway through the second half.
Then again, if we scored in the first half, MESSI and TEVEZ on the field would have been lethal in counter attacks and with plenty of room to run, so it was a worthy bet by PEKERMAN. Besides, to give MESSI and TEVEZ the chance to play 90 minutes and show what they can do, while give SAVIOLA and CRESPO the chance to rest and forget about the yellow card they saw in the first round.
MESSI started to lose his explosion and his breath so he was replaced and we didn’t have the chance to see him playing alongside Pablo AIMAR.
It was good to see him taking on the field, but he had little time to show his ability.
I’m glad the Group C was left behind. After crashing dramatically in another version of the Group of Death in 2002, it’s a fantastic feeling to advance in the World Cup and to have no suspensions and only two injured players (sensible injuries, but none of them irreplaceable and both can comeback before the final –if we reach it, please, let’s reach it!-).
Right now, I’m keeping the cool and that’s superb, because it was too much pressure piling up inside me and I think amongst our players too.
Now their confidence remains intact, they are still undefeated, they will be respected but they are not the favourites to win it all. Let’s leave that privilege to our brilliant neighbours. But we know, deep inside, we know that in any given day, we are capable of coming up with another perfect performance.
Let’s do it against Mexico now and don’t think of who will come next. That’s a mistake I’m making everyday. You’re welcome to do it with me, I won’t mind, even if I have a lot of company…yeah…you know…almost 38 million people!