Group B Final Redux: Diego Gets Argentine Subs Right, Yakubu Cost Nigeria Round of 16

23 June 2010

Diego Maradona coach of Argentina celebrates with goalscorer Martin Palermo of Argentina. (Credit Image: © Simon Bellis/Sportimage/Cal Sport Media)
They say that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same result, but expecting something different. For the better part of seventy minutes, Argentina were well on their way to being the latest example of it. However, when Diego Maradona brought on Angel Di Maria, they may have actually shown that their manager may not be as crazy as we all thought.

For all of the entire first half, and most of the second, Argentina were screaming for width. They seemed too scared to get truly wide, something Greece more than obliged them. With Greece’s 5-4-1 formation, they only cared about defending. Whenever Argentina looked like they were going to break through the first line of defense, Greece were more than happy to pick up a foul, giving their lines time to reset. Also, with Samaras losing pace, sticking him up top wasn’t the brightest of ideas. Over the course of the ninety minutes, Samaras was only able to get behind the defense on the counter attack once, and he blasted his effort well wide.

With Messi getting more and more frustrated, Diego Maradona actually made some well reasoned tactical changes. Starting in the sixty-third minute, Angel Di Maria came on, giving Argentina the added width they needed. With that, came the extra space. Javier Pastore then came on right before Argentina got their opener, a midfielder that is good at making forward runs.

While the Argentina opener came off a rather tame corner kick, Greece were a mess. Yes, one can get fatigued only by defending, and this was just a comedy of errors by everyone wearing the Greece white. After Tzorvas missed the corner kick, Greece left the entire six yard box open. That was Demichelis’s cue to take full advantage. His initial header should have went in, except he ended up hitting Milito instead. With a second chance, and the center of the net wide open, he didn’t miss. Greece, for all the defending they did during opening play, couldn’t handle a simple corner kick.

The second goal was probably even more brilliant. Greece did their best impression of opening up, and Messi had all the fun in the world with it. While Martin Palermo hadn’t scored a World Cup goal until tonight, he still has a goal poaching instinct that any manager would love to have. With Messi making the entire center of defense look foolish, his effort on goal in the eighty-ninth minute should have went in on it’s own. However, with Palermo making the forward run, Tzorvas made the mistake of parrying it where the cagey veteran could surpass Maradona as the oldest Argentine goal scorer at the World Cup.

Meanwhile in Durban, we should have seen Nigeria advance. While the draw may have been the fair result over the course of the ninety minutes, Nigeria had one clean chance they will regret for a long time. Even after a shaky start, Nigeria saw themselves 1-0 up. Granted, had their defending been any better in the ten minutes on either side of halftime, they wouldn’t have been put into the position to rely on misses scoring.

Yakubu’s effort sixty-six minutes into the match could go down as the miss of this World Cup. It could even go down as the biggest miss of any World Cup. Ayila’s run to the byline was superb, and when his cross beat Jung Sung-Ryong, Yakubu had the entire goal at his mercy. Instead of settling the ball, and running it into the net, his attempted one timer ended up a good yard wide of the near post. It’s inexcusable that a striker at the World Cup misses something of that nature.

So when it’s all said and done, the two teams that were expected to get out after the first two round of games did. The only thing exciting about it was the chances Nigeria are going to regret for a long time to come.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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