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World Cup Diary

BATTLE OF THE FORMER JUNTAS

GAME 21, GROUP C, JUNE 16, 2006 --GELSENKIRCHEN
SERBIA 0, ARGENTINA 6
FINAL

5... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

What have I missed? I was too busy writing about the unreal world's latest bullshit (Bush, the Washington press corps), I meant to complain to the football gods that this World Cup can't go on at this low-scoring pace (it's on pace to match or worsen the dismal and lowest-in-history goal-average set at the 1990 World Cup) and here come Argentina setting up beautifully, Saviola to Rodrigues for a spot-on shot from 12 yards.

13... That was an early flourish followed by nothing much.

24... Argentina free kick, knocked off the wall for a corner. Scrum in front of goal. Save. Serbia is being allowed back into this game, which has not had much to cheer about.

Let's be clear about Maradona, now that FIFA's cameras are picking him out of the sidelines as fetishly as they did Rooney in every England game: the man is a cheat. The man is a hog. The man is a whorish Catholic who thinks wearing a two-ton cross around his neck and mistaking his wanker's hand for that of God (no matter how the two can honestly be confused) entitles him to playing the game according to his self-serving rules. As an overrated player, you can't do much worse than Maradona. As an overinflated personality with methane-hot air at its core, you can't do much better. The Kyoto Protocol needs a special provision to account for his share of Argentinian greenhouse gases. He is the Antonin Scalia of footballers.

Once again our American commentators are watching a game of their own imagination's figments: this has been a poorly played, unexciting half, not a dominating performance by Argentina by any means. 30 minutes in, andwe have what, 4 shots altogether? 4 shots for both teams, just a single one on goal, and 14 fouls. terrible ratio, characteristically overrated Argentinians. And now I take it all back after seeing this unbelievable, terrific goal by Argentina... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

32... Truly, truly beautiful goal, a series of brushstrokes, Saviola to Cambiasso toward the edge of the box, at which point Cambiasso and Crespo begin a one-to dance that befuddles their defenders and leads to a Crespo rocket into goal. Incredibly executed, worth watching ten times, and almost, almost redeeming.

36... Crespo just tried to make it 3-0, and he should have, on a break-away: called off-side, again the wrong call, again bogus line-judging, again killer off-sides. I may not like Argentina. I despise football-killing line-judging. It should have been 3-0.

40... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL SAVIOLA, ARGENTINA 3-0! (With a little help from his Serbian friends)

Half-time can't come soon enough for this Serbian side, as shell-shocked as it's been since its boys faced the real thing in their shelters in the 1990s.

Hard as it is to admit for a Brazilian fan, this performance by Argentina--deft to the point of being artistic--makes the case that, so far at least, it is a better side than Brazil. So far only Spain have looked as sharp and enthusiastic, and only Germany have looked as dangerous, though without the crafty finishes. Then again, Germany have also been ridiculously unlucky. Can't say that Argentina have been "lucky" exactly: they've created their own chances and made good on them. But they're facing a Serbian side that looks more like a blanched and beleaguered thied-division team from somewhere near the Yemen-Oman border.

Second half, second wind for Serbia?

At the 55th minute of this pitiful game for Serbia, Savo Milosevic gets a header a few feet from goal, he's not crowded, he's got time, and what does he do? He misses the ball entirely.

"They should just walk off the field. Those white shirts need to go into the locker room." The ESPN commentator, referring to Serbia. They're blathering on about the Serbs' "embarrassing effort," about their loss of "character" after giving up that first goal. Would they be saying the same thing about the US team, which acted no more inspiringly than these Serbs after being hit with that nuclear bomb from the great Koller?

67... Three good goals, 65 minutes of uninspiring football: not quite a dream match, if still a dream score for Argentina.

73... Crespo just produced a nice dive inside the box: calls for a penalty. Denied. There's been all of 10 shots for both teams this whole game, six of them on goal (just one for Serbia).

74... Lionel Messi, allegedly the next Maradona, substituted in for Argentina.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL set up my Messi for Crespo!

Another nicely done goal, all the way down to what, the two, three-yard line, Lionel laterally squeaking it to Crespo in front of two Serb defenders, and Crespo booting it in for the 4-0 lead.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL 5-0!

Carlos Tevez beat one, two defenders, crossing and battling over them, shopt from the left side of the box, a diaonal shot that found its resting place against the far-corner net for the 5-0 lead. What a show!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL Messi! this is getting silly now. A common enough pass and run by Messi, a shot that the keeper could have saved in his sleep, slips below him by an inch, and it's 6-0

At least it'll make it fun to root against Argentina as they make their way to the second round. The Holland-Argentina match up in a few days should be an interesting reckoning for both teams, and the ever-dangerous Dutch are poised to make a statement of their own: no football juntas on their turfs.

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