Thursday, 17 June 2010

Uruguay and Argentina Impress

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay

Uruguay's first World Cup Finals victory in 20 years put them in the driving seat in Group A after a convincing and potentially devastating victory over the hosts in Pretoria. After being more defence minded in the opener against the French in game one the Uruguyans came out on the attack and they took the lead after 24 minutes when Diego Forlán's deflected 30 yarder dipped under Khune's crossbar.

Forlán was running the show as Uruguay created chance after chance but they didn't extend their lead until ten minutes from time. Bafana Bafana keeper Khune bought down Suarez in a one on one situation and was subsequently dismissed. After a 5 minute delay, while a replacement keeper was sorted, Forlán slammed the penalty past replacement Josephs. Forlán had a hand in Uruguay's third in the last minute of stoppage time. His pass finding Suarez and his cross evaded Josephs and the ball was bundled home by Pereira to put the icing on the cake.

There follows another special contribution from Martyn Hindley, which we are again grateful for

Argentina 4-1 Korea Republic

The bluster and bravado of Argentina briefly deserted them in Johannesburg but the self-doubt was cast aside by a man El Diego looked set to ignore twelve months ago – Gonzalo Higuain the name on everyone’s lips as the Albiceleste finally brought the World Cup Finals to life.

The saga of Higuain was such a puzzling soap opera through 2009 as he was constantly overlooked by Maradona, who netted plenty of criticism for it when qualification hopes took another battering in Asunción with the loss against Paraguay.

But even if he admits it under his breath, El Diez does occasionally hold his hands up to being wrong and the watching world benefits from it – El Pipito selected again ahead of Diego Milito and rewarding his coach with a treble to trounce Korea Republic, 4-1 in Group B.

Maradona is getting his fair share of stick from all comers in these finals, those who made their mind up that this was a disastrous selection, and are now too stubborn to change their own beliefs. Whatever his credentials on the training paddock, his charges were emancipated from the weight of expectation by his broadside at the game’s great and good in the pre-match press conference; Pelé and Michel Platini the focus of his ire.

And so, unlike Spain and Italy, Argentina opened up here with a casual grace to their game and became the best crossers of the tournament to date. Only sixteen minutes had passed when Park Ji-Sung missed a defensive header to a Lionel Messi free-kick and having evaded Martin Demichelis too, the ball cannoned in off Park Chu-Young for an own goal.

From that moment onwards, Maradona’s Mourinho-esque touch was evidenced.

His pre-match comments had noted the ‘taekwondo’ style of play with which the Argentines were greeted by the Korea Republic in Mexico ’86, when opposition coach Huh Jung-Moo had been part of the Taeguk Warriors line-up.

And perhaps that had psychologically damaged the Korea Republic, who didn’t want to get close to even ruffling the hair of an opponent until they found themselves two down courtesy of Higuain’s far post header.

Once they did, their persistence was impressive and Argentina looked haunted by anxiety. Demichelis had his pocket picked by Bolton's player of the year Lee Chung-Yong on the stroke of half time for 2-1 and Argentina’s lead looked precarious when Yeom Ki-Hun stole through on goal but was intimidated by the onrushing Sergio Romero and punched his complicated finish into the side-netting.

Hurried and hassled, Argentina didn’t like the changing of the wind so decided to hit back with a gale of their own. Messi danced into the penalty area and was credited with an assist when his effort slapped into an upright and sat nicely for Higuain to tap in and the Real Madrid man emulated Gabriel Batistuta in scoring a World Cup hat-trick when heading the fourth just three minutes later.

For three quarters of the match, Argentina were imperious – the other twenty minutes or so will interest rivals just wondering how to stop them. It has been noticed just how tactile Maradona is with his players, it might be the case that putting an arm around a few players and being a motivator might be far more useful than coach and tactician to the Albiceleste because they have, quite simply, more natural talent than any other side in South Africa.

We’ll see more of its depth for the final group match against Greece with Walter Samuel a doubt after limping off injured in the first half at Soccer City and a yellow card for Jonas Gutierrez rendering him banned for that match

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