Argentina are still a long way from shining as brightly as they might do, but they confirmed their place in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Football Tournament on Sunday, beating Australia by a solitary goal after an underwhelming performance which saw the Aussies’ spirited rearguard eventually broken by a brilliant counter-attacking goal from Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi following a great ping-pong fast passing move between Lionel Messi and Juan Román Riquelme.
In fairness, it’s a little harsh to say Argentina didn’t deserve it. After winning a little fortunately against the Ivory Coast, they certainly improved for Sunday’s match, with a good six or seven clear chances to score before they actually did, with just fifteen minutes left. Argentina’s undoing, up to that point, had been either their own poor finishing – a close range miss from Sergio Agüero was particularly memorable – or the excellence of Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici. Eventually, though, the pressure they kept exerting caused Australia’s resistance to buckle. Argentina’s eighth consecutive win at the Olympic Football Tournament (the first six came on their way to gold in Athens four years ago) has seen them into the quarter-finals. First, though, they’ve got to play Serbia in the final group match on Wednesday.
Lionel Messi wasn’t hugely impressed with his side’s showing, telling the press afterwards that ‘we played at a slow pace, but we won and that’s what matters.’ He did, however, demonstrate a turn of phrase most unbecoming of a Barcelona player when following that up with, ‘It’s also good [sometimes] to win without playing well.’ For his part, Australian boss Graham Arnold was in no doubt as to what caused his team’s defeat. ‘If it hadn’t rained today, we would have won for sure,’ the Olyroos boss remarked with a wry smile, as the world’s media struggled to contain their mirth.
Argentina 1 – 0 Australia (Ezequiel Lavezzi, 75th min)