Saturday, June 17, 2006

Argentina 6 Serbia & Montenegro 0

Taken from The Daily Telegraph, UK.

As a statement of intent by Argentina, this performance was as convincing as it could possibly be.

The victory also included what could prove to be the tournament's most sublime move, producing a goal up there with Diego Maradona's wonderful second against England 20 years ago.

Fittingly, the legend himself was present to witness the latest Argentine team; wearing a light blue and white striped shirt, Maradona could not contain his excitement as the South Americans teased and titillated with tantalising technique and magnificent movement.

This was a treat, a present to the world wrapped in blue and a veritable exhibition of how to contain, control and, ultimately, conquer. After overcoming the determination of the Ivory Coast in a thrilling match, Argentina put down their marker.

It was a warning to the rest of the world. And for those who still believe England can win the World Cup, it was a yardstick for which Sven-Goran Eriksson's team have yet to measure up to. A day after they laboured against T&T, Argentina danced past S&M.

Juan Riquelme, the man of the match, said: "We are now keeping a rather high level, from the first match. I just hope we can go on improving. We're very happy with the way we played but we want to improve further. But I think everybody who watched enjoyed this.”

Serbia and Montenegro, effectively out of the tournament, were so frustrated that they finished with 10 men. The Chelsea failure Mateja Kezman was sent off in the 65th minute for a two-footed tackle on Javier Mascherano.

But such was Argentina's dominance that they gave a World Cup debut to Lionel Messi, Barcelona's protege who was allowed a final 15 minutes and wasted little time in announcing his arrival. He made his country's fourth goal within three minutes and completing the rout with the sixth goal.

Worryingly for the rest of the teams in the tournament, Argentina eased up in the second half. In the first their play was so mesmerising that the three-goal advantage was one from which Serbia could not recover. And when, in the 31st minute, substitute Esteban Cambiasso completed a 24-pass move that began from inside the Argentina half, Gelsenkirchen witnessed one of the great World Cup goals.

It was ballet on grass; Javier Saviola to Maxi Rodriguez, up to Cambiasso, out to Hernan Crespo. A back-heel from Crespo set up Cambiasso for a goal that will be etched in his nation's history.

"I thought at the time it was a beautiful goal,” Crespo said. "Now I want to watch it on the television to see just how beautiful it was. I can't remember being involved in such a great goal.”

Already Argentina were ahead. After six minutes Juan Sorin brought the ball back from the byline, to Javier Saviola, and Rodriguez finished. Argentina lost Luis Gonzalez with a hamstring strain, but his replacement wasted no time in making a point with the second goal. Cries of ole, ole, ole” accompanied their passing and Rodriguez added the third after Dragoslav Jevric had parried Saviola's shot.

When Kezman departed, Argentina went into cruise control. Messi set up Crespo in the 78th minute, Carlos Tevez danced past Goran Gavrancic and Igor Duljaj for the fifth, and, three minutes from the end, Messi - the youngest player to represent his country - completed the rout.

The beleaguered Serbia coach Ilija Petkovic took the blame. He said: "This is the worst result in the history of our countrys football, but I won't condemn my players publicly. I've seen mistakes and errors, but I'm going to accept full responsibility for what happened. It wasn't the players' fault, it was mine.”

Man of the match: Juan Riquelme (Argentina).

Argentina (4-1-2-1-2): Abbondanzieri; Burdisso, Ayala, Heinze, Sorin; Mascherano; Gonzalez (Cambiasso 17), Rodriguez (Messi 75); Riquelme; Saviola (Tevez 58), Crespo. Goals: Rodriguez (6, 41), Cambiasso (31), Crespo (78), Tevez (84), Messi (88). Booked: Crespo.
Serbia and Montenegro (4-4-2): Jevric; Duljaj, Gavrancic, Dudic, Krstajic; Koroman (Ljuboja 49), Nadj (Ergic ht), P Djordjevic, Stankovic; Milosevic (Vukic 70), Kezman. Booked: Koroman, Nadj. Sent off: Kezman.
Referee: R Rosetti (Italy).

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