17 June 2010

Argentina x Korea

The irony of the name Soccer City is probably lost on FIFA. From the air, the stadium looks to be surrounded by nothing, a world apart, a huge bowl of money, a colorful tip jar sitting in isolation from the dichotomous reality of Johannesburg.  FIFA is an increasingly savage and rapacious beast, gnashing their teeth at the slightest provocation. During the Holland x Denmark match, twenty female Dutch fans were forcibly removed from the stadium because they were suspected of engaging in some kind of guerrilla marketing campaign, when in reality they were just trying to have some fun.  

Here in Brasil, the 2014 World Cup Local Organizing Committee, run by the mind-numbingly corrupt president of the Brasilian Football Federation (CBF) has decided that the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo will not be used in the 2014 World Cup. The reasons were clear enough for anyone who has ever tried to go to a game there, but the final excuse was that São Paulo F.C. and the city couldn’t find a financing package for a project that had exploded from an initial estimate of R$136 million to R$630 million. The transportation and tourist infrastructures of São Paulo are in no condition to receive the Shiner Circus, much less the World Cup. The decision to exclude the Morubi could be a sign that logic is starting to enter the thinking of the 2014 LOC.

Argentina x Korea this morning had me up at 7am boiling water for mate and heating up some empanadas for the 8:30 kickoff.  Argentina were dominant but Korea were strangely slow and didn’t look to impose themselves on the game at all. This World Cup has been very strange in that regard. There are a few teams that it is impossible to try to play football against. If you try to play attacking football against Spain, Holland, Argentina, Germany, a loss is guaranteed. The best that Korea could hope for was a draw and they set out their stall to defend like the goal was the 38th parallel, but Di Maria and Tevez used the space that Messi vacated and picked apart the Korean back line.

Messi was dropping into deep midfield positions to pick up the ball. In the absence of the injured J.S. Veron, Messi and Rodriguez provided the incisive passes to Di Maria and Tevez and Higuain. The latter was probably the worst player on the field for Argentina yet he ended up with a hat-trick. In the first fifteen minutes of the game, Higuain fell over when trying to control the ball and then blasted fifteen yards over inside the box.  His first goal (32nd minute) was abetted by the Korean keeper, the second he was offside (and the easiest goal of his life), and the third was more due to the brilliant passing of Messi and Agüero. Higuain should have had six. The bad news (for Argentina) about the hat-trick is that it hides Higuain’s poor overall performance and means that Milito will not see the field.

The good news for Argentina was Di Maria’s first half performance, the loss of the Messidependencia of the Nigeria game, the improved organization of the midfield, Gutierrez’s improvement at right back (though he will miss the Greece game through card accumulation), and the massive improvement over the performance against Nigeria.

The bad news:  a very worrying injury to center-back Samuel, Di Maria’s disappearance in the second half, DeMichelis total lack of concentration as the first half was coming to a close, gifting the Koreans a goal. Also bad: Maradona’s inabilty to make tactical changes in response to changed tactics from the opposing manager. Korea were able to impose themselves much more in the second half and were very close to an equalizer on two occasions. Maradona was too slow to bring on Agüero, but when he did they scored two goals in ten minutes.
The Argentina commentators on DirecTv are brilliant, so much more pleasant than the burros at OGlobo. The final words of the game: Señores e Señoras, Argentina es candidato al título.


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