Monday, 28 June 2010

Argentina v Mexico

Argentina 3 Tevez 25 52, Higuain 33
Mexico 1 Hernandez 71

They could have been ahead early, the Mexicans, and then I'd be writing a different story. Salcedo's shot out of nowhere crashed against the bar after eight minutes, and then a minute later Dos Santos hit one just wide. The replay showed it was actually going just inside the post when it left his boot, but then bent agonisingly away. Thrilling stuff, anyway. Why can't we play like this? was the general feeling across the Enger-land.

So a good start by Mexico, and a respectable performance throughout. Which doesn't help the people of Mexico now, except that their Grim Day has now become a Day of Rage, directed at FIFA and the officials after the first Argentinian goal.

Actually, FIFA and the Officials is a good name for a band. Like Florence and the Machine. What do Florence and the Machine do when they break down? They call Mike and the Mechanics. Boom-boom! Thank you Twitter, who says you're a waste of time?

Yes, alright, the goal. It came when Tevez got onto a Messi through ball, and his effort was blocked by keeper Perez as he charged out. Messi chipped it back in and Tevez headed it home from short range, but as he was about two yards offside we all just assumed it would be a free kick.

When the goal was given, there was incredulity. We all waited for the replay to tell us there was a Mexican by the left or right byline playing him on, or something, but no, it was just an absurd decision.

In contravention of FIFA's policy of rigid control over the facts, someone in the stadium chose to replay the goal on screen. The mistake was there to see, but because video evidence isn't allowed to be taken into consideration, the referee was obliged to allow the goal.

It was a terrible, embarrassing moment for football, and FIFA have acted today. Their spokesman Nicolas Maingot has promised to make sure such replays are never shown again. I kid you not, that's their response. I don't want to suggest that FIFA are a moribund bureaucracy blindly adhering to obsolete doctrines, or anything, but I can't help noticing his name is an anagram of Maginot.

Most of you will have seen the replay by now. I expect it made the news, as the second in a series of two interesting goals. There's an old Chinese curse, may your team concede interesting goals. I haven't talked about the first one yet, but I may be calm enough now.

In the earlier game, the England game, a Frank Lampard shot hit the bar, bounced over the line by a clear yard and come out again. There, I've said it. It feels better now it's out. But it doesn't make England the same as Mexico.

This is because Mexico played well but their fate was sealed by a linesman, a defensive error and the moment of Tevez genius we'd all been waiting for. Not quite Maxi Rodriguez from the 2006 game, but quite good enough to win a halfway won game. In my notes I've written you have to say that's magnificent, and I think you know which performance of high handed chicanery and effortless genius I'm talking about. England on the other hand played appallingly, and their fate was sealed by their own failure to apply the basics.

You could argue, if you were so minded, that had the Lampard goal counted England wouldn't have had to be attacking so hard and leaving gaps at the back, but then you'd have to explain why they managed to leave gaps at the back at 0-0 and 1-0 in the first half, why they neglected to plan for the not entirely implausible event of German breakaway attacks and why Terry chose yesterday to forget to only be a twat off the field. Enough.

Yes, the first game of the day keeps spilling into the second. I expect it'll keep spilling into my Christmas card greetings as well. These aren't some shallow wounds we're all carrying, you know.

The Mexicans pulled one back. Hernandez got a through ball from Gerrardo Torrado (I wonder if he's related to Melanie Bellamy?), turned his defender in the box and blasted home from short range, and you felt they might make things harder for Argentina, but in the end the game was only ever going to go one way.

So Argentina go through against Mexico, just like 2006, and they get Germany in the quarter finals, again just like 2006. Germany won that one on penalties, but I've got a feeling it might go the other way this time . After all, this is South America's year.

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