Argentina v Serbia & Montenegro
My word, what happened to the Serbs, the team that went behind to Holland and formed a likelihood of equalising in that game? They were pulled apart with some force that simply outshone a super-nova. As early as the 6th minute, captain Juan Pablo Sorin linked with Maxi Rodriguez and then found Javier Saviola, who sent a pass through for Rodriguez to finish off. Twenty-five minutes later the Argentinians made double figures in passes without conceding possession before Juan Roman Riquelme passed to Saviola, who then passed to Esteban Cambiasso, Cambiasso thread another to Hernan Crespo in the box, who then back-heeled it into the path of the advancing Cambiasso and the Inter milan midfielder scored no.2. I counted something like 23 passes in total before that goal, and went up on the summit without argument as the goal of the tournament so far.
The build-up itself displayed sublime passing, control, movement on and off the ball, vision, awareness and a finish to boot. To encapsulate the 45mins, four minutes before the break Rodriguez gained his brace with Serb defender Mladen Krstajic not doing the necessary and clear away from danger. Thinking he could shepherd the ball out, Saviola tackled him coming round the player, and inadvertently nutmegged him, and shot at goal, parried by keeper Dragoslav Jevric into the path of Rodrigues to score from a tight angle.
We are aware of 3-0 comebacks in English football, except for the Serbs. Having another 45mins to play meant they were not coming off for good for a while and played with some resignation of a defeat. I would have thought they may have viewed the Ivory Coast approach of continuously coming at the Argentinians as one way of stifling them, but the game took no such turn. The game flowed on Argentina's possession, though Savo Milosevic had two attempts at goal, and then it changed horribly as a rush of blood pushed Mateja Kezman to commit a two-footed lunge on the solid Corinthians midfielder Javier Mascherano. What was the former Chelsea man thinking? he wouldn't have gotten away with that in the EPL.....well, 80% of the time, but in the World Cup under FIFA conditions?? Good thing the gallows had been taken down under Human Rights law.
Three goals and one man down, would call for the most miraculous of revivials. The Serbs could have scored and held 3-1 and still end with some credit. However, on 74mins, Lionel Messi came on for Rodriguez, and then from the 78th minute ensued ten minutes of a football carving Sweeney Todd and his henchwoman Mrs Lovett would have envied. Crespo appears not to be content in failing to score. Riquelme took a quick free-kick on the left to Messi, who broke down the flank and sent the ball across goal for Crespo to tap in. Six minutes later Carlos Tevez, a 58th minute sub for Saviola, dispossessed on the left and eluded two players before scoring the fifth and he then passed a through ball for Messi two minutes from time for the Barcelona player to round off the thrashing.
Only the single Argentinian booking of Crespo marred the performance, otherwise it would have been a 100% rout. Jose Pekerman had Cambiasso, Tevez and Messi to come OFF the bench, much less in the team, and each substitute went on to score, two of whom replacing scorers. I think the Serbs were not organised for this game and the Argentinians warned that they will reach for huge pickings if a team has no structure or game plan before them.