Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Champions in the making

Call it whatever you want. History in the making. Best game of your life. World Champion Showcase. As the final goal of the Argentina and Serbia & Montenegro game nestled into the back of the net, I was quite certain that we have just seen the dawn of a new world champion. With such arrogance, such grace and such pace, the Serbians were outplayed and outfought as the Argentinians romped to a 6-0 win. The largest score line in the World Cup 2006 so far. From Germany to Singapore to Argentina, the resounding victory left the fans salivating with anticipation.

Argentina never looked like world champions. After the departure of the Maradona era, the Argentines were struggling to live up to their tag of World Cup contenders. More often than not, Argentina fell flat on their face after expectation reached fever pitch. In the last World Cup, with all the talent on their side in the form of Crespo, Veron and Zenetti, they were outclassed 1-0 by England and left to lick their wounds with a shock first round exit.

Not so this time. Peckerman revamped his squad and included the likes of young Messi, Riquelme, Tevez and Cambiasso. The result is a team filled with flair, grace and excitment. The likes of Veron and even Zenetti were overlooked as Peckerman strived to turn Argentina back into World Champions again.

And boy has this changes proven to be a masterstroke. The way Argentina demolished Serbia & Montenegro a while ago must have made the likes of Brazil, Germany, England and Italy seat up an take notice. It was one thing to beat the supposedly meanest defence in Europe. But to defeat them so comprehensively was to send a signal that one of the best attacking footballing nations has arrived in the form of Argentina.

Each of the six goals was so expertly crafted and so aesthetically pleasing to the neutral fan that you cannot help but wonder if this is why they call football 'The Beautiful Game'. Argentina never broke a stride and mercilessly ripped the helpless Serbians apart.

How wonderful it was to see Tevez twist two defenders inside out before inevitably placing the ball into the back of the net. How masterful it was to see how Argentina string 24, YES 24 passes before hammering the ball into the back of the net past the shellshocked goalkeeper. Esteben Cambiasso certain relished that as he scored ONE OF THE GOALS of the World Cup.

It was simply remarkable to see that even at 4-0 up, the Argentinian armoury still managed to produce goals at a languid pace. The patient build up, the simple one-twos and the deft flick and the defences are sliced apart like a knife through hot butter. How tough it must have been to be a Serbian defender that night as they were reduced to mere spectators by a team that attacked for entertainment.

If Argentina can keep playing like they do, no doubt, they will be there and the whereabouts when the trophy is given out on July 10. Tipsters started out anticipating the Brazilians to have created the biggest impact. I disagree. Argentina is the team of the moment. But I will not mind a final between the samba yellow jerseys and the Maradona inspired Argentina. But no prizes for guessing who I pick to be the winner.

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