Thursday, June 01, 2006

That small senor did it in 1986

I became a permanent football fan somewhere around the age of 10, when one night I watched a small Argentinian score a goal with his hand, then out-run 5 English players - including the goalkeeper - to score the most outrageous goal in football history (yes, that was my first World Cup match).

A few days later that same man out-foxed 6 Belgians to score another mega goal, and take his team into the finals. The following Sunday I stayed up to watch that small man single-handedly win Mexico '86 for his team.

I think this year could just be Argentina’s time once again (don’t remind me of 2002); please senors, allow me to explain why Argentina will be this year’s very, very dark horse.

The big thing going for Pekermen’s boys this time round is mainly the absence of expectation. Former manager Marcelo Bielsa’s announcement in 2002 that the AFA ought to clear room for the trophy in their cabinet has proven itself a grave error and put incredible, unnecessary pressure on an otherwise capable team; it eventually led to their premature ejaculation from JPN/ KOR.

Then there is this formidable team. Crespo, Messi, Tevez and Julio Cruz make a cunning and thoroughly dangerous strike-force.

Directing the orchestra from just behind the front two is the thoroughly influential Riquelme, who – if he’s really in the mood – can turn a match on with the flick of a switch. Pekerman is likely to also play Javier Mascherano – a future MU player? – with Riquelme, likely in the “Makalele role”.

Gabriel Heinze is back! HEINZZZ.....ZAY!!! Even his name sounds something like “Thou shall not pass!”This time he is likely to be played as center-back, with full-backs Sorin and Deportivo’s Coloccini – two dudes never shy of foraying forward.

Team apart, Pekerman is a wily tactician. He can change the shape of the team within minutes, to accommodate the need of the hour. He helmed the team that won the Youth World Cup in Malaysia in 1997, from which a number of talents form this senior team.

A tough group C sees them as top seed with Serbia & Montenegro, Ivory Coast and Holland – another group of death following 2002. I rate the underrated Holland to go through with Argentina, and with both these teams playing each other last, S&M and IC could well be playing their own match to see who comes in 3rd in the group, instead of fighting for a place in the last 16.

The 2nd round, however could be a bit trickier, with either Mexico or Portugal waiting in the wings, as winners / runners-up of group B. Both teams would prove a tough challenge for the Argentineans, and the neutrals would hope for a Portugal vs Argentina fixture, pitting Scolari – another sly dude – against the astute Pekerman.

Should Argentina sail through this, the momentum will be prefect for the juggernaut to plough through the q-finals, probably facing Italy, Germany, or likely even Brazil. I’m strangely encouraged by this scary prospect because:

1. Argentina is often likely to self-destruct against unfancied teams, so I would be wary if they met Croatia, Ghana, Guus Hiddink's Australia, or even the USA (coming off the win against England, even Dennis Bergkemp and Holland was the underdog in their 1998 q-final face off). The bigger teams, however, bring out the best in them ;

2. In the qualifying rounds, Argentina were second to only Brazil, and that too on goal difference. In their game in Buenos Aires, they beat the Brazilians 3-1, and convincingly too;

3. A team that wins the World Cup must beat the big names! ... we can’t all hide like the English, can we?; and

4. No space for sentimentality! Only Roberto Ayala, Sorin, Crespo and Aimar survive from the 2002 squad, while even former captain Javier Zanetti and goalkeeper German Lux were axed from the team headed to Germany. Contrast that with England and... Darius Vassell???

5. They are probably the best “team” among the leading contenders. Devoid of big star names, they are drawing each other closer and closer and are emerging a very strong unit. It’s on the cards, brothers – prepare to watch magic in blue and white again! Pasti jalan, brudder...

P.S. *DISH* *BISH* needs guest bloggers for the World Cup. From any aspect -- World Cup widows, Angola fans, or even why you think Guus Hiddink has got another trick up his sleeve (For South Korea '02, read Australia '06). LET'S DO IT FELLAS!


km phang said...

plis senor......... enuff wit 1986!

Anonymous said...


Metria said...

Can write about Michael Ballack and other good looking footballers or not?

Mr D said...

funny that was also my first world cup. While I marvelled at Primadonna's skills am not a fan of his personality and the whol hand of god...oh well it was the english and all they do is whinge sometimes...hahaha....

Viva Aussie!!

Keropok said...

! phang: those kinda memories live on brother. unlike the tired argument on whether "the ball really crossed the line that day in 1966"!

! anonymous: we're all entitled so some measure of foolishness, i guess :)

! metria: as long as there is some footballing merit, boleh-lah... but not to the extent of talking abt how nice his hair looks when he heads the ball!!!

Keropok said...

! Mr D: I still think 86 was the last best WC. Maradona set a high benchmark for first time watchers like myself, I guess. It made me sad to see him in his "foolish years" - the world's most gifted player ridiculed and reduced to a freak.

But he's back, baby!

MR D, gimme a piece on Aussie, mate!

kickciggys said...

cant say much bout the 86' WC because daylight wasnt even upon me 1st was mostly about one pony tailed italian mesmerizing the world and then amazingly missing a spot kick that gave dunga's team the cup.among the lot i definately see leo messi doing the same this year...hopefully not the penalty the spanish armada...hahahahaha

Metria said...

Ah yes that pony-tailed Italian, the same one that kept me awake late that night, with me and my cousin staring at the TV, hearts in our mouths, willing Italy to win. Baggio steps up, we're both on the edge of our seats, "C'mon, c'mon, score score score score score!!" we were chanting... and then ... we watched as the ball sailed clear over and the Brazilians erupted with joy.

"@#$%!!!!" my cousin said, summing up our emotions perfectly.

I'm still waiting for Italy to make it up to me.

Keropok said...

! kickciggys @ mat rempit: i rate that pony-tailed fella's goal vs romania in the s-finals that year as among the best in the tournament history.

The final - on the other hand - was the worst. I remember thinking "Oh get it over with so I get some sleep!"

! metria C'mon, u probably supported him for another reason, right? ;)

I mean, even captain Franco Baresi missed his spot kick, but nobody remembers him!

Anonymous said...

u forgot cambiasso.