Aboltabol Unlimited

Saturday, July 01, 2006

perfect World Cup...gone wrong

Yes its heartbreak time, first Argentina, then England and now Brazil knocked out of the quarters. At the start of the WC, Brazil vs England looked like a dream final (although that was always impossible if both topped their groups, as they did), then Argentina sparkled and we saw flashes of '86 in their attacking game and the dream final one hoped for changed to Brazil-Argentina, and now - in a span of just over 24 hours, both teams are out of the World Cup. Its all gone very wrong.

Brazil and England never looked good enough to be world-beaters, with Brazil a change of gear is always possible, or so we hoped...right down to the last minute against France. With a defense as poor as that, its a wonder how Brazil have conceded just 2 goals in the tournament. In Brazil's opening match when Cafu was caught off-side in one of those trademark counter-attacks, the commentator had remarked "When a right-back is caught off-side, you know its Brazil playing". Yes, goes well with the spirit of Samba magic, only the defenders seem to have forgotten their primary responsibility is to defend - how Roberto Carlos could allow Henry a free header, completely unmarked, can never be explained. I won't shed tears for this Brazil team.

Its different for Argentina. We were watching the Argie-Germany match yesterday at a pub in Khar and when the match ended we just came out on the road and trudged along silently in the rain, totally blank, none of us fell like going home. So much talent in one team that Messi and Saviola had to warm benches, and they still lost!
Some feel the turning point of that game was the injury of goalkeeper Abondanzieri, the reserve keeper looked a bit out of sorts and was no match for his seasoned German counterpart in the penalties. But the real clincher in this game has to be two bad substitutions by Argentina coach Pekerman. Riquelme is Argentina's midfield game-maker, no one makes as many goal-making passes as he does, Cambiasso coming on for him was a surprise. But a ruder surprise was Crespo being replaced by Julio Cruz: if you had to substitute Crespo, why wouldn't you bring on Messi, or Saviola - probably two of the best ball players in the tournament. And when we have already seen Messi and Tevez combine so well with their tricky pace in previous matches. Beats me. I'm sure the explanation would have been that Julio fits a center forward description more cleanly than the others who are primarily wing-players, so he's the right one to replace Crespo. Bullshit. Pekerman simply chickened out in the crunch and went in with the tried and tested, putting experience over talent.

Everyone knew Germany would win if this went into penalties, Lehmann is an expert penalty saver - Arsenal vs Villarreal was not that long back afterall - but with all respect to Germany and the wonder-duo of Klose and Podolski, this game shouldn't have gone into penalties. It was sad that the two best teams in this tournament had to meet in the quarters, but I'm sure the Argies will come back stronger in South Africa in 2010.

Tonight's England-Portugal match was not so much of a heartbreak - I was actually rooting for Portugal. The English had the best defense in the tournament, which is why they have progressed this far, but they simply didn't have enough magic in the midfield or incisive firepower upfront to go any further.J Cole and Lennon were good along the flanks, but Lampard and Gerrard looked strangely off-colour throughout - maybe because their legs are too heavy after a long and busy club season (it isn't funny how the best players who score goals by the dozens for their clubs - Rooney, Ronaldinho, Nistelrooy are the names I can think of in addition to Lampard and Gerrard - have let their fans down this WC).
Yes Rooney's red-card was a bad decision, but remember Portugal got a raw deal as well in the last match and were forced to play without Deco (their best player) and Costinha. Overall, I think Portugal will pose a bigger challenge to France now than England could possibly have. Wth Deco back in the middle Portugal will be a tough team to beat.

But the Cup is now Germany's to lose. How sad is that?


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