Blame it on errors and underutilised Veron
In The City
‘Hero’ posts upset wins

June 12: 
The champions were out and the potential champions were facing a tough test. But even if it was a must-win match against a fiercely competitive side, Argentina’s elimination before the pre-quarters was inconceivable by any stretch of imagination. They played close to the towering reputation, their domination was complete and yet, they have no option but to fly home high and dry.

Comparisons are redundant at the moment, but it’s almost like the Brazil of 1982 that was full of Zico, Socrates and Falcao. Argentina’s wealth of talent this time was perhaps more and Wednesday’s match was too stunning to precisely analyse what led to the colossal downfall. Bad luck Argentina appears to be the most spontaneous impulse!

The statistician points out Argentina enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession, took far more shots at the goal, outnumbered Sweden in terms of corners and free-kicks taken and even forced a penalty. You don’t get anything more in a football match. You must pay with your life if you can’t make them count, and you saw how Sweden latched onto their thin survival thread .

I expected Sweden to be defensive, but the way they went way down into their own defensive third and stayed, was unexpected in this lopsided contest.

Argentina pounded them from every corner but failed to push through in the air and on the ground. Almost the entire match was played in front of the Swedish box, but there were fast tackles and sharp interceptions and Argentina, it seemed, lacked the heart to kill.

After cursing their luck, when they settle down and ponder what undid them, the Argentines may feel they were a little too high on confidence. Brimming in talent, they perhaps thought they would destroy the opponent in every game. They came into each match as overwhelming favourites and tried to outplay the rivals right from the start. This is difficult to attain in modern football where patience and restraint often score over finesse. Argentina had the aces up their sleeves, but forgot the Kings, Queens and Jacks might rest in the rival pack!

It may sound outrageous now, but a little more caution in the England match after starting with a win could have served Argentina better. They were too keen to prove they are the best and their self-belief probably turned into premature overconfidence.

While looking back to what let them down, Argentina should also realise there was a little bit of rigidity in their game plan and selection of players. This became evident in persisting with Gabriel Batistuta for as long as they did and the conviction of the coach that Juan Sebastian Veron and Pablo Aimar couldn’t be fielded at the same time.

The cutting edge in their attacking build-ups saw them reach the striking zone on numerous occasions and one of the most celebrated strikers of all time couldn’t score more than once despite spending 199 minutes on the pitch. The man with ten World Cup goals couldn’t convert a regulation header in the defeat against England and failed to even make contact with a similar chance in the Sweden match. Not that others didn’t miss from close, but looking back, the Argentines would realise the seriousness of the Batistuta errors.

If the substitution of Veron in the England game was unwise, the decision to hold him back till the 63rd minute against Sweden was appalling. Coach Marcel Bielsa, however, was under the impression that Veron couldn’t share the pitch with Aimar.

While Aimar is gifted and comfortable with the ball, he seems too raw to be the principal gamemaker in a big match. His touches are classy and flicks and nudges clever but his delivery is not as penetrative and he looks better just behind the striking spearhead.

Argentina needed someone who would control the game from the half-line, take charge of distribution and there are few better at it in the world at the moment than Veron. His vision and ability to read in a flash where exactly his man is makes Veron special and the great Argentine dream remains one because they missed the navigator. Even after coming in as substitute against Sweden, Veron started spraying his trademark long passes with telling accuracy and opened up the game. Argentina must rue the fact that he was confined to the bench for a better part of the match.

Wasting such a lethal weapon was the most glaring tactical error on part of the coach but it would have gone unnoticed if any of those gilt-edged chances were converted. On the biggest stage of football, there is no mercy for such errors, and the bigger the team, harsher is the sentence. Painful to accept at times, but that’s life and football.


June 12: 

Calcutta champions

Calcutta district emerged champions in the state age-group aquatic championships held at Subhash Sarobar recently. They clinched the boys’ overall championships claiming 104 points while the girls team accumulated a total of 236 points.

The water-polo title was won by the Calcutta A team who beat Calcutta B in the final. Hooghly finished third.

Winners: Boys: Group 1: Sandip Das (Calcutta district, 21 points), Group 2: Abhirup Dutta Mazumdar (Calcutta, 25 points), Group 3: Arkya Pal (Hooghly 18 points), Group 4: Ashit Halder ( South 24 Parganas)

Girls: Group 1: Tamalika Sarkar (Calcutta, 20 points), Group 2: Amrapali Das Gupta (Calcutta, 25 points), Group 3: Swarnali Marik (Calcutta, 14 points), Group 4: Shilpa Ghosh (Calcutta 13 points)

Bagan practise

Mohun Bagan players under coach Subrata Bhattacharya had their first practice session this season at their home ground Wednesday.

Twelve players were present. Mohun Bagan will take part in a tournament in Bangladesh from July 1 to 9 as part of their preparations of the Asian Club Championships.

South Point win

The senior and junior boys teams of South Point moved into the quarter finals of the 30th Indian Oil Servo inter-school rowing championships held at Lake Club Wednesday.

Other quarter finalists —

Senior Boys: National High, St Xavier’s, St James’, Cathedral Mission, St Joseph’s, Chetla Boys, M.P. Birla. Junior boys: Lake View, Future Hope, St Xavier’s, St Lawrence, Don Bosco, Khalsa High, St James’.


ROWING: 30th Indian Oil servo national inter-school rowing championships (Lake Club).    

June 12: 
The Samar Singh-trained Frontier Hero posted an upset victory in the T. V. Reddy Memorial Trophy on Wednesday the opening day of the season. S. Rajesh partnered the winner. The day’s proceedings were live telecast from the sixth race onwards.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Carnival Plate 1,400m: (1-7-11) Decision Maker (J. Shukla) 1; Aethion 2; Omni Presence 3. Won by: 1/2; 2-3/4; (1-32). Tote: Win Rs 29; Place: 13; 50; 30; Quinella: 398; Shp: 150; Tanala: 2,601. Fav: Silver Touch (3).

2. Red Chieftan Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (9-4-3) Laplander (I. Chisty) 1; Random Hearts 2; Righteous 3. Won by: 1/2; 8-1/2; (1-17.7). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 13; 13; 97; Quinella: 30; Shp: 39; Tanala: 913. Fav: Random Hearts (4). (Note: The winner survived an objection).

3. Red Chieftan Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (7-4-3) Russian Art (Imran) 1; Tequila Ride 2; Sassy 3. Won by: Hd; 1/2; (1-18.5). Tote: Win Rs 34; Place: 14; 21; 17; Quinella: 160; Shp: 51; Tanala: 1,023. Fav: Beautiful Bird (6).

4. Hunsur Plate 1,600m: (1-3-7) Buffalo Park (Appu) 1; Ace Beret 2; Goebbels 3. Won by: 5; 2-3/4; (1-44.6). Tote: Win Rs 30; Place: 13; 136; 15; Quinella: 707; Shp: 423; Tanala: 2,349. Fav: Goebbels (7).

5. Capt. Nabi Khan Memorial Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (5-1-7) Greek Lady (D. Singh) 1; Red Red Wine 2; On The Post 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 2-3/4; (1-17). Tote: Win Rs 419; Place: 62; 21; 11; Quinella: 1,025; Shp: 66; Tanala: 8,329. Fav: On The Post (7).

6. T. V. Reddy Memorial Trophy 1,600m: (2-3-5) Frontier Hero (Rajesh) 1; Weapon Alpha 2; Prince Zorro 3. Won by: 4-1/2; 8-1/2; (1-42.6). Tote: Win Rs 212; Place: 45; 14; 40; Quinella: 193; Shp: 63; Tanala: 3,153. Fav: Weapon Alpha (3).

7. Capt. Nabi Khan Memorial Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (5-3-7) Renzino (Mr Storai) 1; Financer 2; Clipper 3. Won by: 3/4; 1-1/2; (1-16.2). Tote: Win Rs 95; Place: 18; 17; 16; Quinella: 173; Shp: 75; Tanala: 1,416. Fav: King’s Star (1).

8. Kengeri Plate 1,100m: (8-10-6) London Bells (J. Shukla) 1; Empress of India 2; Gracious Rohit 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-9.9). Tote: Win Rs 91; Place: 32; 58; 26; Quinella: 1,672; Shp: 278; Tanala: 36,110 (Carried over). Fav: Musselburgh (1).

Jackpot: Rs 38,180 (Carried over).

Treble: (i) Rs 155; (ii) Rs 24,720 (Carried over).

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