We all knew it would happen: Greece stood no chance against the advancing Argentines. And yet, they put up a good fight. It ended Argentine 2, Greece 0.
South American soccer stars are shining bright at this World Cup and on Tuesday Argentina became the first side to win all its points in a group. There was a hint of calculation in their line-up, as Mascherano, Higuain, Di Maria, Samuel, Tevez, Garce and Heinze were rested. But if Greece were in any way hopeful that the new squad would somehow perform less effectively, well, the reality was sobering: Lionel Messi’s team attacked in wave upon wave and even as they managed to puncture Greece’s defences and the excellent goalkeeper on the night, Tsorvas, only in 77th minute, there was no doubt who was the cat and who was the mouse in this game.
Make no mistake, Greeces fought bravely and with conviction. It is just that Argentinean soccer is so brimming with talent and so committed to an attacking style that their call these days can only be answered by Brazilians and maybe Spaniards.
And then there’s the wizard, Messi. He is yet to register his name as a scorer, but he is operating in his own space-time continuum. He is a blessing for football and we hope he’ll continue to grace the global stage for many years to come.
Group B matches set up the games for Saturday: Argentina will play Mexico, which should be a mouth-watering duel, and Uruguay will play South Korea. We can’t wait for those duels.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Greece: Tzorvas, Kyrgiakos, Vyntra, Papadopoulos, Torosidis, Tziolis, Papastathopoulos, Moras, Karagounis, Katsouranis, Samaras
Argentina: Romero, Burdisso, Demichelis, Otamendi, Rodriguez, Veron, Bolatti, Maxi, Aguero, Messi, Milito
Man of the match
Seven changes in Argentine team tonight. Maradona opted to rest some of his stars ahead of the quarterfinal game against Mexico. Yes, we know they still may play against Uruguay, but we can’t see Greece beating Argentina tonight.
Lionel Messi is Argentine captain tonight, as Mascherano is on the bench.
The game is terribly slow. Argentine team are showing no signs of urgency that so defined the games against Nigeria and Korea.
- 13th minute: First counter-attack by Greece. Great pass to Samaras, but not much more.
- 16th minute: First scuffle after Samaras and Demichelis run into each other. Suddenly, sleepy Argentines are quite anxious to tell Greeks what exactly they think of Samaras’s start.
- 18th minute: First good chance for Argentina Guerro weaves his way through Greek defence and shoots, forcing Tsorvas to make a great save.
- 19th minute: Veron’s great long-range shot is spectacularly saved by Tsorvas, who looks to be in a good mind-space tonight.
The game is slow and uninteresting in the 20s. As they expire, Kostas Katsouranis gets the first yellow card of the game, for bringing down Guerro. (Yes, Maradona’s son-in-law.)
- 32nd minute: Guerro’s great shot’s blocked by diving Vintra. That kid is genuinely talented.
Photo: Argentina’s Lionel Messi (C) fights for the ball with Greece’s Nikos Spyropoulos (bottom) during a 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
- 35th minute: One can feel Argentineplayers are turning up a notch or two. Greek defenders are ever more panicked in their reactions and are happy to shoot the ball anywhere out of the game, the further the better.
The game is slow to the point of falling asleep. Messi’s returning ball to the Greeks after an injury interview outrages Greek captain Karagounis, for some reason. Maybe because there’s nothing else to do than quarrel over the way ball is returned to the game.
- 43rd minute: Karagounis’s great cross is well dealt with by Argentine goalkeeper Romero.
- 46th minute: Maxi Rodrigues’s shot, and soon afterwards Messi’s, are dealt with well, actually very well, by Tsorvas.
- 48th minute: Samaras is doing the usual one against three routine, where three Argentinean defenders surround him, but he still shoots dangerously on goal. He misses this time, but maybe next time he’ll be luckier.
- 54th minute: The pace is picking up as well as the ferocity of tackles.
- 57th minute: Clemente Rodríguez’s venomous shot flies past Tsorvas’s near post.
Rehhagel looks strangely pensive. Does he feel this could be his last World Cup game? His players are fighting bravely against the favoured Argentineans, every inch of the field.
- 65th minute: Argentines scream “penalty”, but the referee is not interested.
- 69th minute: Tsorvas saves Messi’s free-kick from 30 or so metres
- 70th minute: Bollati hits straight into Tsorvas, who, even as he is winded, keeps the ball in his hands.
- 77th minute: Goal for Argentina! De Michelis first heads the ball, then smashes the rebound into the net. Greeks look shattered!
- 86th minute: Messi hits the near post, after his usual solo walk through Greece’s defence.
Argentines are so superior that they have time for show-boating. Although Greeks are losing, they don’t even get to see Argentinean half.
- 90th minute: Argentina score again! Messi’s powerful shot is saved by Tsorvas, but Palermo buries the rebound into the net. Greece are now officially out.
- 91st minute: First Greek shot at the goal for this match! Romero saves a great shot by Samaras.
- 92nd minute: Another shot by Samaras saved by Romero.
- 93rd minute: Game ends. Greeks simply had no chance.
By Branko Brkic
Photo: Argentina’s Martin Demichelis celebrates scoring a goal during a 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against Greece at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh