That's right: for the first time ever, a white guy is going travelling in South America. Read about my adventures as I travel the continent and try my best not to steal or conquer anything.

June 17, 2006

So long Group of Death, thanks for the memories; yours, Argentina

Cambiasso betrays some enthusiasm after he puts Argentina up 2-0 against Serbia and Montenegro.

Though I have no unique insights into what took place yesterday, to write a blog set in Argentina and not mention THE GAME would be a thundering silence, as the oxymoron goes. The significance of Argentina's 6-0 dismantling of Serbia and Montenegro yesterday, considering just the impact on the tournament standings, is actually relatively minor. Argentina was expected to win, expected to finish in the top two of Group C, and expected to establish themselves as a contender in doing so. Wednesday's game between Argentina and Holland will decide who finishes on top of the group, but both teams have now assured their passage to the Round of 16. Had Argentina earned anything short of their six points thus far it would have been a disappointment.

The significance of the game to the country, however, is simply that it was one of the greatest World Cup matches in Argentina's history. The game was a majestic rout; a performance so dominating that the Serbians & Montenegrans were rendered foils for Argentine brilliance, no more a threat than the Washington Generals. Fans were delirious with the spectacle, and the players - all of them - described the experience as "a dream", or "dreamlike", or some similar nod to the sense that what just happened was so much better than what could or should have been. The game, as most of the commentators and columnists and ex-player-turned-talking heads have noted, was perfect. Looking for a quick start? Maxi Rodriguez gets the party started in the sixth minute. For consistency? Three goals in the first half, three in the second. Teamwork? 25 passes before Cambiasso drives in the second goal. Individual skill? Carlos Tevez breaking through one defender, and another, and bending the ball past the helpless keeper for the fifth goal. Even Leo Messi - the 18-year-old phenom who's face is becoming about as ubiquitous here as Maradona's - capped the scoring in his first ever World Cup match.

Now, obviously it's too soon for Argentines to clear their schedules on July 9th, or RSVP for the victory party that night. But the world has been put on notice, and while Argentina hasn't looked in finer form since 1986, their opponents are sputtering. The English got their result, but needed 83 minutes to pull ahead of Trinidad & Tobago; the Germans just squeaked by Poland with an extra time goal; the Mexicans couldn't beat the Angolans, the Italians couldn't beat the U.S., and even the mighty Brazilians looked vulnerable in their opening match against Croatia. When planning out various scenarios for this tournament - and adjusting my travel schedule accordingly - I realized that finishing on top of Group C would give Argentina the best chance of avoiding any serious competition until the semi-finals. Avoiding England, Brazil, and Spain seemed the best way to assure a good result. Now those teams ought to be asking themselves an equally pressing question: "how can we avoid Argentina?"

This city is buzzing. There wasn't an Argentine friend I spoke with yesterday that wasn't in celebration mode, not one who wasn't making comparisons to '86; there wasn't a bus on the street from 10:00 to 12:00, a business that didn't take time off for the game, a bakery with any medialunas (mini croissants) in stock by 10:30. Six is the number. 1986, 2006. Six goals, six more games. Six more victories to an event of epic proportions, and if you think I'm exaggerating, well . . . ask a porteño. You're in the minority.

In other news, it turns out that they used to show "Different Strokes" down here, only they called it "Blanco y Negro", which means "White and Black". Rather lacking in subtlety, no? Anyway, when I found this out from one of my Argentine friends, I naturally asked after Gary Coleman's famous line. I refused, just refused to believe that such an iconic catchphrase could be accurately translated. She told me that whenever he was responding to his brother with his trademark incredulity, Arnold would say "de que estás hablando viejo?" This literally translates to "of what are you speaking elder brother?", which I pointed out is totally not in the spirit of the original catchphrase, but she then told me that the more colloquial translation of the phrase is "what are you talking about older brother?" That's fine, except that of course Arnold didn't say "what are you talking about Willis?", he said "whuchutalkinboutWillis?", dropping only the patently superfluous syllables from the clause. Now, Spanish is a syllabic language, and unlike English-speakers, people really say every syllable down here, and my friend simply COULD NOT imitate Gary Coleman accurately, but only get as close as "whatareyoutalkinabouWillis", which is no more Gary Coleman-esque than the same line in Swahili. Checkmate.

Oh, and Kermit the Frog in this country? Rana René. WTF?


Blogger The Howitzer said...

Argentina's rout over Serbia (and Montenegro... what's going with this impending split anyways) should ahve really been an non-issue for the World Cup, were it not for a couple of painfully ordinary games elsewhere. I mean, this win wasn't anything out of the ordinary for the Argentines (although the score is noteworthy), and the result is as much a deal as Ukraine toppling the Saudis four - nil.

At the same time, this is the type of thing that starts world wars, and we know the Serb's track record on such things, so maybe it is deserving of the mammoth coverage.

At the same time, the Argentines should enjoy their day in the sun while it lasts. A tough match from der Nederlanders will likely ensue, as the Dutch prove themselves to be one of the real success stories of this World Cup

2:54 p.m.

Blogger Dave Peer said...

I'd have to dispute both your first and third paragraph there Dave, and I should quickly say that I'm very appreciative of the comment. I do think the win was noteworthy, because for one, the S&M folks were supposed to be respectable and possibly quite dangerous, which they showed in playing Holland quite well, and by their strong qualifying campaign. They didn't look like much on Friday, but it's tough to know if that's because they played poorly or because they were so overwhelmed by Argentina. Probably both. I watched the Ukraine-Saudi Arabia game, and I found that the Saudis mostly showed off their weaknesses rather than the Ukrainians their strengths. There was nothing in that game like the skill and teamwork that the Argentines showed. This was supposed to be the "Group of Death" and so far the Argentines have crushed it. It's a major achievement for Argentina also because they've struggled in the WC in their last few appearances, particularly in the first round, faltering when they ought to be excelling.

I doubt the Netherlands will pose serious competition. I thought them fortunate to extract a win from their match against the Ivory Coast, and this is simply not as talented a squad as previous years, though they're playing well as a team. Some of the prominent Dutch may be on the bench due to yellow cards, so the match may not present the best of both sides, but I'll be surprised to see the Argentines much challenged tomorrow. Holland's success story will be how they managed to reach the quarter-finals with so mediocre a squad, if they are even so fortunate as to arrive.

10:13 p.m.

Blogger The Howitzer said...

nope... i still think that win is one of the more over-hyped things about the cup... right up alongside Ronaldo being Ronaldo, and Roo's comeback for England.

Today's game was a good battle... especially given the absense of Dutch notable Robben, and I think it should be pretty apparent that the 6-0 triumpth of several days ago was more due to poor Serbian play than Argentine skill.. although I do concede Argentina played the best game of the WC yet.

Still Dave, I can't help but feel your defense of the Argentine's was more the result of you being caught up in the euphoria surrounding the event down there. But don't dispair, I know deep down your still a Three Lions supporter waiting for Rooney to live up to the hype. You just gotta watch one game at a time eh'?

6:18 p.m.

Blogger Dave Peer said...

I would say that Ronaldo has been crap and the Rooney saga much overhyped, as you suggest. Robben and van Bronckhorst missing, granted, was significant, but Crespo and Saviola too were on the bench; not insignificant omissions. In today's game I found Argentina the dominant squad, with Holland, oddly, looking as if they were playing for the tie, and Argentina constantly pressing for the win. I'm satisfied though certainly not thrilled with the game.

Argentina's win over Serbia & Montenegro only a sign of that side's incompetence? I doubt as much, and feel that Argentina certainly did show skill, as they did today, though obviously against their former opponents they found the back of the net far easily. We shall see against Mexico, as Holland will against Portugal. Was I caught up in the hype down here? Absoultely; it's the hype that I mainly wanted to blog about. Is that hype unjustified? That I won't yet concede. Do I support the three lions at heart? Yes, but I mean really, 2-2? WTF?

4:21 a.m.

Blogger The Howitzer said...

all right Mr Peer...

1: Portugal - Nederlands should be a classy game all around, but I have to disagree with the assertion the Portuguese will take it. I think we are/will see that Christiano Ronaldo is not worth his weight in gold (or others might call him crap)... in the end, der Nederlanders should prove too strong all around, especially in net as Van Den Sar is an unstoppable force.

2. The Argies should pull out a win over Mexico... though I don't reckon it will be as easy as you'd think... I have no real opinion or incite to offer on it though.

3. "2-2 WTF"... take it easy on the poor Lions. Owens early departure and Roo just getting back in the swing explain most of this I think. Terry played an uncharacteristically poor game which didn't help, and hopefully Ferdinand is healthy for the next match. Lampard, despite his poor showing in the goals department would have definitely been a welcome asset on the pitch. As long as Joe Cole keeps up the herculean effort and Crochie continues trying the long-balls, things should be good. Robinson needs to get back on his game for sure, but he's, IMO, the best goal minder in the WC and should get his act together. It seems its not just the POMS that are hard on the England squad, but you as well... they pulled out with top spot in the group which is all that really matters.

Reading that over, maybe it's actually me that is the hard one on England.. but you gotta be hard on the ones you love right... maybe that's why you aren't hard on the Argies?

3:02 p.m.


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