Friday, June 30, 2006

Germany v Argentina

Venue: Berlin. Crowd: white shirts all around. At stake: a berth in the semi-final. The announcer’s assessment as we move to kick-off:

It’s European controlled aggression against South American patience.

1 minute: Tension is high from the start, and the Slovakian and Swiss officials are forced to separate the jostling players during an early free kick.

2: Schneider and Mascherano tussle in the Argentine end; Podolski gets the first card for the originating tackle. Is this destined to become a replay of Portugal/Netherlands?

Germany controls nicely outside the box, but fails to get a shot away.

The longer this game goes on, I suspect Argentina will feel they’re favourites.

The game has apparently gone on long enough that this bears mention.

7: Podolski’s long kick from the deadball bobbles out of the keeper’s arms, but is quickly recovered.

Is it going to be Ballack’s day, or Riquelme’s day?

Crespo and Klose might have something to say in response to that question.

11: Argentina put together a sustained period of ball control, and look threatening. The crowd roars when Germany regains possession.

15: On the counterattack, Schneider crosses the ball up to Ballack, whose header shoots high.

Cries of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland’ ring around the stadium now.

23: Riquelme falls just inside the German box, and the referee does well to wave play on. It’s not a difficult call, but we’ve seen a few of those go wrong this Cup.

There’s a hush across the stadium as Argentina attack.

25: Crespo and the last defender struggle for the ball just a few feet away from the German net, and Crespo brings the ball to his feet with a nudge of his hand. The ‘what me? I did nothing’ gesture fails to persuade the official of his innocence.

Half an hour of football, and I can’t recall either goalkeeper having a real save to make.

30: One-third of the way through the match, and it’s settled into a rhythm. We’ve seen some pretty displays of ball control, and a few surging runs by individual players – including a great burst of speed from Podolski, but the efforts have failed to produce good goal-scoring opportunities. Credit the defenders on both ends, who’ve been effective, if not flashy.

There’s a nervous anxiety among the German crowd every time Argentina has the ball.

33: That makes for a great deal of anxiety: Argentina is running at 63% possession.

40: Out of boredom, the crowd entertains itself with a brief rendition of ‘Ole,’ which peters out quickly. With no sign of a goal coming before the half, there’s restlessness and the odd boos and whistles.

45: Podolski wins a free kick from just in front of the right corner spot. Schleinstager crosses well, but it’s headed away and the half is whistled over.

Second half
46: Morin is carded and will not play the next match – if there is a next match.

48: Argentina’s corner. Ayala lunges at the ball from a good position at mid-net, and suddenly it’s in: only his 7th goal in 100+ internationals. One section of the stadium rejoices. Everything has changed. Argentina 1 Germany 0.

We have a real football match.

52: Germany pressures immediately – and with 40 minutes to work with, there’s plenty of time to adjust tactics.

This Argentine defence is breachable.

54: It’s the Germans who are first exposed as play opens up and Riquelme and Crespo breakaway down the pitch. Crespo fails to release quickly, and opts to pass back, at which point the threat is cleared.

59: Schneider is brought down by Mascherano deep on the right side of the box. The kick is intended as a curling shot, but sails well over.

61: Schneider leaves the game, replaced by the speedy Odonkor. Germany immediately draws a corner, this time from the left. Again, nothing. The replays show Ballack had his shirt tugged in the box and the defender could easily have drawn a card.

63: Another corner. Klose and Abbondanzieri go up for the ball: the defence succeeds, but the keeper is left writhing on the ground.

You can see he got a knee in his tummy from Klose.

68: Germany lines up a free kick from far out after Ballack is fouled. And then play halts for the game’s first moment of high drama: Abbondanzieri signals he cannot go on. The stretcher comes out, and for once the player remains prone for the journey off. Leonardo Franco comes on, but the free kick sails over.

Now Riquelme comes off to boos and jeers, replaced by the defensive-minded midfielder Esteban Cambiasso. The defences are being drawn tight.

73: A near-disastrous turnover in Germany’s end nearly finishes the match, but the Argentine shot goes into the side netting.

74: Odonkor is fouled 30 yards out – although on replay it looks like a stumble. Podolski strikes low, and it bounces off the wall. Borowski comes on for Schleinstager.

I can’t recall the Argentine goalkeeper having to make a serious save in this match.

78: Crespo departs for Julio Cruz.

80: The ball sails to Borowski in the box, who head flips it on to Klose. The match is transformed again: Klose’s header rifles into the keeper’s low right corner. The stadium rejoices. Argentina 1 – Germany 1.

Klose rescues Germany!

The 1-2-3 prettiness of the Klose goal is the highlight of the match so far. Two minutes ago, I was prepared to write that Ballack would be criticized after the match for failing to manage an effective attack – few opportunities, even fewer shots on net. That critique still holds true, but the equalization is all that matters to the German side.

85: Klose is taken off for Oliver Neuville. As extra time draws closer, both sides looks substantially different than at the match’s start.

88: Maxi Rodriguez is carded for a dive deep in the box. This is good in the sense that it discourages diving, but bad in the sense that Rodriguez probably was tripped. Either way, his position would not have merited the match-deciding discipline of a penalty shot.

89: Lehmann earns his keep with a magnificent diving save, although the offside flag had gone up.

91: Argentina draws a corner; Rodriguez sends it in high and Lehmann contains.

93: Odonkor draws a card for a tackle from behind. And shortly following the whistle blows.

Extra time 1
95: Cruz is carded for a half-elbow as he goes up for the ball in mid-field. While there’s a bull market in cautions, the officials have kept the match under control after a physical start.

I just hope 22 players stay on the pitch.

97: Ballack is having a terrible time in the box – tugs and wrestles abound – but he clutches his nose as he falls, and is lucky not to draw the game’s second card for simulation.

99: Ballack is now limping around the pitch, but Germany has used its three substitutions to bring in Odonker, Borowski and Neuville.

105: A flurry of activity by the Argentines, but the shot goes over the bar.

The players change ends.

Extra Time 2
107: Argentina pressure twice, and their fans stir with excitement at the prospect of avoiding penalties.

108: Rodrigeuz takes another corner, but it's easily headed away.

110: Yet another Argentine corner. It's the story of extra time -- both sides nervous and having difficulty creating, but the better pressure coming from Argentina.

113: Penalties now seem inevitable -- and Argentina, with its second-choice in net -- should not be favoured.

114: Friedrich is carded for a kick at the boots.

115: Odonker's strike from the right is straight at the keeper and saved. Ballack has left the pitch to be attended to by the medical staff.

117: Two end-to-end rushes by the tired squads thrill the crowd, but neither produces a shot on target.

119: An Argentine free kick from far out sails into the area, and is headed away.

And so the game will be decided by:

Good omen for the Germans: their last penalty shootout loss was in Euro '76. Germany is to shoot first:

Neuville: Hard shot to the low right scores: 1-0.
Cruz: High left and in the back of the net: 1-1.
Ballack: High middle of the net: 2-1.
Ayala: A save for Germany! The shot is low and right, but not far: 2-1.
Podolski: Shoots to the same spot, but hard: 3-1.
Rodriguez: Low and to the far left, just inside the post: 3-2.
Borowski: Stutters in his walk-up, then strikes low right as the keeper has moved left: 4-2.
Cambiaso: A second save on the low right strike. Germany has won: 4-2.

The stadium is delirious with joy. But on the pitch, the players scuffle as the devastated Argentine players grapple with their misfortune. Gabriel Heinze is at the heart of the melee and is finally restrained. The tournament's second-favoured side is out of the competition.

This is an unseemly end to what has been a joyous occasion for Germany.


At 10:16 AM, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Thank ... you.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Pretty boring 1st half. The second has opened up, as the Argentinians scored. The Germans look apprehensive to me, though. Not agressively attacking the Argentinian defence, like Mexico did.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Cmon, Avi. Hit the publish button, man.

Beautiful goal by the Germans to tie it up. This is going to be an awesome finish.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Sheamus Murphy said...

Less than ten minutes left in extra minutes - if this goes to penalties it will be a real shame - what a match so far. Argentina has the run of the play, but can they do anything that isn't speculative? Too many far out fliers.

Watch for the Germans on the fast break. They're still the scariest in the box.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

I don't think penalties are always a "shame."

The sides are well-matched, and a flukey goal (especially one due to a mental breakdown due to tiredness) seems just as unfair to me.

Germany remains a model for how to play a non-possession game, but still have control.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I thought the Germans dominated the 2nd half. And Lehman looked fantastic in the shootout.

Then the Argentinians went crazy. Especially Heinze, which is a VERY German name, btw. I wonder how a guy with a last name like that could end up in Argentina? Hmm. I wonder.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Sheamus Murphy said...

Jens Lehmann redeems himself for that weak first goal with a workmanlike save. Good read. Eat your heart out Oliver Kahn. Podolski makes it 3-1. Can the Argentinians claw their way out of this hole?

Apparently not.

I love the fight. "Let's make friends" or whatever the slogan is my arse. A touch of class.

They are doing a good bit of crying. There seems to be a lot of crying in football.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sheamus Murphy said...

Avi I will disagree forever about penalty shoot outs. Goals are rare in football and however they come, that's the way to settle it between two tight sides. Goals that look like flukes on how they get in the net aren't flukes when you consider how hard it is to even get close to the net.

If a mismatched side can make it to a penalty shootout, then that's their reward for not conceding, and they deserve a chance to win.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Lehmnan's save on the offside play was impressive -- even though it didn't matter (when he lunged for the ball, he didn't know it was offside).

Lehmann was in a tough spot on the first goal -- Ayala had great positioning and could have sent the header in any direction.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

That went on so long there's only an hour to the next match!

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Who cares about the next match? Unless you want a nap, or like watching Italian men drop at the slightest touch. I desparately want the Ukrainians to win, and I NEVER say that.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

cue "Ukraine is weak" joke/dialogue

that was fun

and I'm half loaded

even better

my gig isn't as good as Andy Grabia, Male Prostitute

but it will do

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous J.R. said...

A pretty entertaining ARG/GER match. I don't think it lived up to all the hype it was receiving, but a lot of fun to watch as a neutral nonetheless.

That was the real semi-final in the top half of the bracket, because I don't think ITA or the UKR could beat either. So Germany will be in the final.

And I'll be the first to say, they will not win.


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