Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Negative Football Gets What It Deserves

The problem with World Cup football, as it reaches its later stages, is that nobody wants to lose. The result is lifeless midfield snore-fests, and everybody pretending they're Italian the minute they get a goal.

Let me be clear here: the word "Italian" in the preceding paragraph is not meant in a complimentary way. If I were to use "Italian" as an adjective to describe most other fields of human endeavor, it would be as a synonym for "class" or "style". In the specific field of human endeavour known as "protecting a one-goal lead", the adjective "Italian" should be taken as meaning "abandoning all play on the other side of midfield, and erecting a fortified moat-and-trench system with barbed wire and landmines along the edge of the penalty area".

How else do we explain Jose Pekerman's bizarre tactical decisions on Friday? Here we had the tournament's most exciting team, in firm but not decisive control of a 1-0 game against Tournament hosts Germany, and Pekerman decides to take off its two best players to that point - Riquelme and Crespo - and replaces them with a defensive midfielder and an utterly ineffectual forward in a weird attempt to hold on to a one-goal lead. Result - Argentina give up a goal and as the team went down to inevitable defeat in the penalty shoot out (Franco vs. Lehmann was a foregone conclusion), all three of Argentina's most creative players - the two subbed players and Messi - were on the bench.

Pekerman, who had spent a decade as youth coach training these players and two years as head coach getting them to this stage, threw everything away because he tried to be Trappatoni. Sad - but he deserves to go for being so stupid. After all, even the Italians aren't "Italian" anymore; under Lippi, the azzurri don't sit around after they score one goal - they keep attacking (viz. the 3-0 win against Ukraine). That's why they have a decent chance of knocing off the hosts this afternoon.


Blogger Rio said...

the more i go down your list of older articles, the more i agree with ya.

11:39 PM  

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