Tag Archives: Argentina

A long, bad sports weekend

At least for me. In the span of two days, the three teams I like best (Spain is a close fourth because I love the way they play, but that’s for another day) were eliminated in the knockout round. On Saturday, the United States was eliminated by a sturdy Ghana squad. On Sunday, England crapped the bed against Germany and Mexico was soundly defeated by a very good (though still unappealing) Argentina side.

1. Ghana 2-1 United States. Once again, the US failed to start when the game did. Five minutes in, Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a goal Tim Howard really should have saved. But he still scored. And that, in a nutshell, is the United States’s problem. The back four is leaky and slow. I love Jay DeMerit and I think he’s an excellent defender, but the fact is that he has no pace whatsoever. The goal was as much his fault as Howard’s. But that’s neither here nor there. The real issue is that the US starts slow. Unbelievably slow. It’s like the team needs to play from behind to show any urgency (the exception was the Algeria game, when the urgency of elimination was there from the beginning – where was that in the bleedin’ knockout round??). I’m at a loss to explain why the US does that. It’s unfathomable, to me, that the team cannot get up for an elimination game in the World Cup. Perhaps that’s what’s missing: some sort of killer instinct. Someone who’s ruthless and demands more and more from his teammates. What US soccer needs is some sort of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, at least in terms in competitiveness.

2. Germany 4-1 England. Great players, terrible team. That’s the refrain played in England (though it must be noted that England has an inflated sense of its place in world soccer, much like Mexico; again, fodder for a later post). England never looked good at all. There was something wrong with the team from the beginning. I like Fabio Capello and believed he was the right choice for England manager, but he made a bad call playing Jamie Carragher. Carragher simply doesn’t have the pace to play against the world’s best strikers. Too late, he inserted Matt Upson, who was a much better fit beside John Terry. Compounding that mistake was his misguided faith in James Milner as a wing player when Joe Cole was a much better option. Finally, the team failed to include Wayne Rooney, a top-5 striker in the world (at least this year). The failure to get Rooney involved is the squad’s biggest failure and the best proof that England’s best players cannot play together. Perhaps it’s time to look to support players – players who fill vital roles and rely on a few big names (Rooney, Gerrard, and Terry among them; I remain convinced that Lampard and Gerrard cannot play together and that Gerrard is the better player).

Sergio Romero gets lucky v. Mexico (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

3. Argentina 3-1 Mexico. The scoreline is deceiving. Argentina dominated Mexico in this game. In fact, the only thing that could have saved Mexico was if Carlos Salcido’s amazing 8th minute strike had gone in. Instead, shaky Argentine keeper Sergio Romero got just enough of it to direct it off the crossbar. Bad luck went further against Mexico when Carlos Tévez’s goal was wrongly allowed to stand. In the end, that didn’t matter. Argentina outclassed Mexico from the 20th minute on and thoroughly deserved their win, even though I cannot root for them because of Diego Maradona. During the match, the commentators suggested that Maradona was responsible for Argentina’s success. I humbly suggest that my cat could manage Argentina to the knockout round. Maradona doesn’t really have to earn his money so long as Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano are on the pitch. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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World Cup 2010: Group B jerseys

In part 2 of a series, I’ll look at Group B’s jerseys.

Argentina home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The Argentine squad will wear a classic in South Africa. The sky blue and white striped shirt is synonymous with Argentine soccer. It’s so well-known that not even Adidas had the gall to add silly extraneous piping or weird swooshes. The stripe pattern disappears a bit on the shoulders, but on the whole it remains the traditional shirt. And I like that.

Greece home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

While the country’s economy collapses around it, the Greek national soccer team heads to South Africa in a barebones white kit. Don’t get me wrong – I like the shirt for its simplicity. I wish the collar was a full collar but, once again, Adidas must do something stupid. I think the half-collar is more ridiculous than the abstract strip that wends its way around the player’s body. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to represent, but somehow it doesn’t look completely stupid. The Greek FA’s crest is well-done, as well.

Nigeria home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The Nigeria jersey appears to be a remnant of old Adidas templates. The bad side striping and the silly sleeve striping make a mess out of an otherwise classic-looking shirt. The other major problem is that the shirt borders on the boring. I don’t know much about Nigerian soccer or its history but I would think that the FA could come up with something to link the past and the present. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the shirt. It’s classic and simple – and I like that – but it’s missing a certain pizazz found in other classic shirts.

South Korea home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

This is not, I must say, an improvement over the 2006 World Cup jersey. The red is an excellent color and goes well with the blue but the shockingly idiotic ribs – for lack of a better term, because they look like human ribs – on the shirt ruin everything. I’m not sure what Nike was thinking, to be honest. Perhaps it will look better on the field when the players are in motion (something I’ll look for) but somehow I doubt it. This is not a good shirt, which is too bad since South Korea figures to be entertaining.

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World Cup Qualifying previews

Jay DeMerit (ISI Photos)

Jay DeMerit (ISI Photos)

Bad news and good news for the US: Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu’s central defense partner, has been left home as the rest of the squads travels to Trinidad to take on Trinidad and Tobego tomorrow night. Perhaps that’ll give someone else a chance to make a good impression. Good, or perhaps just interesting, news is that Edgar Castillo, a Mexican-American left back, has been cleared by FIFA to play for the United States. Perhaps he’s the best option at left back now that Jonathan Bornstein has totally crapped the bed.

As an aside, Grant Wahl has a good Q & A session with Bob Bradley here. It’s well worth checking out.

A re-energized Mexico takes on Honduras at Estadio Azteca. I think that as much as Javier Aguirre has helped the team, the real key has been Giovani dos Santos’s (re)emergence as an attacking force. He’s been on fire since the Gold Cup which hopefully means his club career will be re-ignited.

In CONMEBOL, it’s do or die for Argentina against Paraguay tomorrow night. Perhaps literally. A must-win game means that Diego Maradona and his boys will be under tremendous pressure. I’m not sure if any of them would be welcome back in Buenos Aires if they lose.

In UEFA qualifying, Don Fabio is thanking Slaven Bilič for saying his team lacks “Englishness” since the Italian took over. There are calls to start Jermain Defoe but I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Look for David Beckham to get his 114th cap, though.

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World Cup Qualifiers: USA 2-1 El Salvador

Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore (Jonathan Ferrye/Getty Images)

Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore (Jonathan Ferrye/Getty Images)

Watching the United States play in World Cup Qualifying should be a zen exercise because, really, only a zen master could stay calm the entire time. That means, by extension, that Bob Bradley is either a zen master or, perhaps, a high-functioning unemotional zombie. Who knows, really?

In tonight’s match, the United States continued a disheartening pattern in World Cup Qualifiers: it was scored upon first by an inferior team. That is not to say that El Salvador is bad; it’s just that the US and Mexico clearly have the most talent in CONCACAF. In any event, the US should be taking the game to its opponents rather than settling back.

I was truly impressed in August in Mexico City when the US attacked Mexico from the outset. The US looked good, using Donovan’s creativity and Charlie Davies’s speed to establish an early rhythm. It paid off with an early goal. The US did nothing like that today. Instead, they laid back, as if expecting the goals to come without effort. Perhaps they’re suffering from the same malaise as Mexico: they think they don’t need to work against lesser teams. That, of course, is just plain wrong.

That said, the US deserved their win. We can take three positives out of this game:

1. Jozy Altidore has the potential to be a beast. He needs practice, playing time, and patience.

2. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have a good connection. That needs to be exploited further in future matches.

3. Stuart Holden and José Francisco Torres looked really good as late-game substitutes. They brought a shot of energy and effort to the game, which was sorely needed.

On another note, the refereeing was typically terrible. FIFA really needs to step in and change the way CONCACAF referees operate. The second half was a disgrace.

QUICK KICKS: A quick CONMEBOL update in that Brazil thoroughly outclassed Argentina in Rosario by a score of 3-1. Hopefully, that match marks the end of Diego Maradona’s reign as Argentina’s manager, a job for which he was entirely unprepared.

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Saturday Night Links: college football edition

Gael Kakuta

Gael Kakuta

Where else to start but with FIFA handing Chelsea a 1-year ban on signing new players for illegally signing Gael Kakuta, a French striker formerly attached to Lens, a French club? Wow. Just wow. FIFA really laid the hammer down on Chelsea, which is great, if the precedent stands. They also have to ensure that this new precedent is applied to all clubs fairly, from the biggest to the smallest. Apparently, something similar happened to AS Roma when it signed Philippe Mexès from Auxerre in 2005. In that case, the penalty was reduced to 1 transfer window (rather than 2) and a €7 million fine. On another note, how come the victims are always French?

Not surprisingly, Chelsea has filed the “strongest possible appeal” to the ban. Perhaps that appeal will carry more weight than just a regular-strength appeal. Or it’s just hyperbole. I expect Chelsea to get at least the same punishment as Roma, even with their strong appeal. Manchester United might be in for the same problem when FIFA gets around to ruling on its signing of Paul Pogba (yet another Frenchman… seriously, what’s up with that?).

Speaking of appeals… Arsenal are going to appeal Eduardo’s 2-match ban for diving. It says here that the appeal will be rejected and he’ll be gone for 2 matches.

Silly season update: how the hell did Hull get Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink? And why did Celtic release him? What’s going on there? I’m thoroughly confused by all of this. Though he’ll make a good partner for Jozy Altidore.

Hype from CONMEBOL in that Dunga doesn’t like Diego Maradona. Does anyone really like Maradona, though?

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Argentina v. Nigeria or, Messi is dominant… again

Since nobody wrote about this here at SoccerNation, I thought I’d take a few minutes and, once again, extol the greatness of Lionel Messi.

Messi dominated every aspect of the gold medal match last night. He was, of course, especially active in the attacking third of the pitch. He had several good runs and his vision menaced the rock-solid Nigerian back four all night. To their credit, the Nigerian defenders did what they could. They tried everything, from cutting off angles of attack to being physical. Unfortunately for them, Messi is not just quick on his feet, but solid on them, as well. Finally, he unleashed the beautiful pass that sprung Angel di Maria for the only goal of the game.

But that play was made by Messi’s effort throughout the match. Though he was dominant in the attacking third, he was unafraid to come back and help out his own midfielders and defenders. Granted, he didn’t go back all that often (he mostly hung around at midfield, serving as a safety valve for clearances) but he did what was necessary.

Although Riquelme was the captain, I think Messi was the most influential player for Argentina. He was consistantly great and that bodes well for Argentina in the World Cup Qualifiers as well as Barcelona in Spain and Europe. Three months ago, Cristiano Ronaldo was the unquestioned best player in the world. Now, Lionel Messi is challenging him. I’m hoping for a showdown – again – of epic proportions in the Champion’s League sometime this season.

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