FOX Soccer Exclusive
Argentina looks destined for World Cup glory
It was a day of dreadful mistakes and great goals.
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The officiating at this World Cup hit its nadir as England was denied a goal against Germany while Argentina was incorrectly awarded one in their win over Mexico. The mistakes were obvious, inexplicable, and are adding to the sense that something has gone very wrong with the refereeing in the sport’s global showcase.
In the evening, Argentina built on an offside goal by Carlos Tevez to down the Mexicans 3-1 at Soccer City. No one should argue that Mexico was eliminated because of that bad call from ref Roberto Rosetti and his crew, but it tainted what was another at-times dominating performance by an Argentina side that looks capable of winning it all.
Its next opponent, Germany, marched on to the quarterfinals this afternoon in Bloemfontein, dealing England its worst-ever World Cup defeat in a comprehensive 4-1 fashion. Germany exploited a wretched English defense with three goals built up quickly out of the back and some superb individual play. England, however, should have gone into halftime tied up 2-2, and the question “what if?” lingers over this one as well.
Mexico came into the World Cup as a side reborn under Javier Aguirre, playing a composed, aggressive brand of football that had catapulted them back into the World Cup, and arguably back to CONCACAF’s top slot. Tonight, they left the Cup as the old Mexico, a side that lost its composure under adversity and were punished for simple lapses in reason.
The cause of one the lapses is understandable: they got jobbed by a referee and his linesman who flat-out blew a call. Carlos Tevez opened the match up for Argentina in the 26th minute with a goal that was clearly offside, and despite a touchline conference between referee Roberto Rosetti and his assistant Paolo Calcagno, that goal was allowed to stand.
It was a horrible error, magnified by the fact that it was the second of the day to strike a knockout round match. It would cost the Mexicans dearly.
Take nothing away from a magnificent Argentine side that appears destined to reach the finals. It played a smart, coolly efficient match that pounced on Mexico’s weakness. Lionel Messi again demonstrated why he is the world’s best player, orchestrating an offense that can be almost impossible to contain.
And yet, you could see the disgust and distraction on the faces of Mexico’s players. They surrounded both officials — and would confront the Argentina bench at the half — and were clearly rattled by what was an obvious gift. The fact is, until that point, they had been playing their game, shocking Argentina with early forays, including a rocket by Carlos Salcido off the crossbar in the 8th.
But Mexico failed to shake off Tevez’s header off a Messi flick, and seven minutes later, Ricardo Osorio, showing his focus was elsewhere, made a dreadful mistake. Taking a back pass, the Mexican defender failed to account for the presence of Gonzalo Higuain — and passed a square ball directly to the Argentine forward. It was too easy for the Golden Boot hopeful, who rounded Oscar Perez to put it home for his third of the tournament.
Tevez then scored a brilliant goal in the 52nd minute that iced the game. It was a stunner from long range that smashed to the top corner, leaving Perez helpless on the play.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was able to pull one back for Mexico in the 71st when he rounded Martin Demichelis to spike the ball into the top of Sergio Romero’s net. It wasn’t enough as Argentina, which had taken a bit off the pedal, regained its footing and played out the remaining time.
The good news is that England was able to get the license plate of the truck that hit them. That’s because they were always staring at the backs of the German attackers who had just sunk another goal into their net.
That said, the first match of the day will be remembered for another reason: a badly blown call that erased a goal scored by Frank Lampard. His shot, which ricocheted off the crossbar and down clearly across the line, was missed by an out of position linesman, costing England what might have been a critical tying goal at the half.
Yes, it was a game-changing decision. And yes, this 4-1 mauling was also a comprehensive failure by an England team that, on this day, showed no grasp of defense. It was an ignominious end to a campaign that never really got started — and it now makes the group they were in with the Americans, Algerians and Slovenes look like the weakest of this entire Cup (What that says about the Americans is not attractive).
It was a stunning repudiation of an English team that had pretensions of winning it all, and a deep humiliation for a country that thinks of itself as the spiritual home of the game.
But, back to that absent defense: England’s two wide backs, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson were eviscerated. Their one-time captain and arguable clubhouse cancer, John Terry, combined wonderfully with a clueless Matthew Upson to allow the first German goal. England reliably blames its goalkeepers for the foul-ups, but today, David “Calamity” James was never at fault. What was he supposed to do when then men in front of him allowed German players to get the ball one hundred yards upfield in two or three passes? Three times, no less.
This young German side, steered by Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillipp Lahm, displayed devastating control of the game, toying with the English in a way that would invite pity if the English weren’t so cocky. After watching $100m in talent blasted off the field by a side that was faster, smarter and better, one might think clubs will be reexamining their balance sheets tonight as England’s FA is left to reflect upon another damaging World Cup display.
We don’t know how the games would have come out had the refs gotten the calls right today. On the evidence, a far better German team thrashed an overrated England. And while Mexico has improved, Argentina looks like a machine.
But these were inexcusable errors likely to have far-reaching ramifications for a sport that has resisted coming into the 20th Century, to say nothing of the 21st. Tonight, both England and Mexico are wondering what might have been, if only the men in the middle and on the lines had gotten it right.
USA 1-2 (aet) Ghana | Recap
Argentina 3-1 Mexico | Recap
Brazil 3-0 Chile | Recap
Spain 1-0 Portugal | Recap
Netherlands vs. Slovakia starts off the day from Durban (10:00 a.m. EDT) in what may be the mismatch of the knockout round. Brazil and Chile have a more enticing game at Ellis Park (2:30 p.m. EDT). As always, if you’re away from TV, all the games can be followed right here on FoxSoccer.com and via Twitter (@championsonfox).
Holland hasn’t really kick-started the engines, and there’s little reason to think they will against Slovakia. They shouldn’t have to: Slovakia should be delighted just to be here, and will exit with heads high no matter what the final scoreline is. Brazil-Chile could be pretty thrilling: The Chileans aren’t going to lie down against their continental rivals and should kick, scratch and claw against Brazil free-flowing passing game. Unfortunately, due to some ghastly refereeing, Chile will come in with a bunch of key men unavailable. That’s gonna hurt.