A good start

Against tricky opponents, Argentina got off to a winning start in their campaign for the 2010 World Cup. The goals in the Monumental came from near identical free kicks from Juan Román Riquelme, who showed (as one of our readers has already suggested) that Alfio Basile had every reason to show such confidence in him despite his lack of recent competitive action.

Those two spectacular free kicks – both in the first half – didn’t tell the whole story, however, because this was a performance from Argentina which recalled the best of their showing in the Copa América earlier in the year in Venezuela. Early on Chile showed promise, worrying the home defence with their direct and clever attacking play and speed on the ball, especially down their right flank where Gabriels Heinze and Milito on the Argentine left were bothered several times in the opening twenty minutes.

When a free kick was given away by Chile twenty-five yards out in the left-hand channel, though, only one man was going to take it, and how he took it. Riquelme stood over the ball, complained for a minute about the defensive wall encroaching into the ten yard limit, and then curled it over and round said obstacle as if the Chileans weren’t even there. Goalkeeper rooted to the spot, The ball was bouncing in the net and Riquelme celebrating almost before anyone even realised the kick had been taken.

From that point on the victors were never in doubt, Riquelme doubling his and his team’s tally on the stroke of half time with another flawless free kick, this one even better than the first, with the goalkeeper again caught flat-footed. Echoes of recent eulogies to Lio Messi: When Román lined up the second free kick, the whole stadium knew what he was about to do. Goalkeeper included. But could he stop it? Could he hell.

Speaking of Messi, he was the other great figure of the match, on one ocassion holding onto the ball for a good thirty seconds on the left wing, evading challenge after challenge from hopeless Chilean defenders. It was but one instance, but it summed up how difficult he was to cope with throughout.

In the second half it was time for the party pieces, with Fernando Gago replacing Maxi Rodríguez, a change which gave us the unexpected site of seeing Javier Mascherano on the right wing – a position in which he did a more than decent job. Sergio Agüero replaced Carlos Tevez, who’d had a frustrating afternoon of poor finishes, and kept things going where the Manchester United man had left off, missing two or three good opportunities to add to Argentina’s tally, most notably after Messi put him through with a simply ridiculous through ball which somehow evaded three defenders.

So no more goals in the second half, but a performance for Argentine fans to take heart from, as two returnees to the Monumental, Marcelos Bielsa (formerly Argentina manager) and Salas (former River striker) saw their side well beaten. Chile may well qualify for 2010. Argentina, as ever, will expect nothing less, but this performance should give them good heart when they get on the plane for their match in Caracas on Wednesday.

Argentina 2 – 0 Chile

Riquelme: Argentina 1 – 0 Chile (27th min)

Riquelme: Argentina 2 – 0 Chile (45th min)

5 thoughts on “A good start

  1. Riquelme stood over the ball, complained for a minute about the defensive wall encroaching into the ten yard limit
    Classic Roman. And so were the goals.

    Great match report. My primary worry now is all the chances we’re missing without a no.9 on the pitch.

  2. Taking nothing away from the strike, I question the Chilean keeper for the first goal. That’s the side he’s supposed to be covering, and he was miles away from it.

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