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While the English ploy � predictable under the circumstances � paid off, Argentina�s gameplan was not flexible and this made the difference. Despite being richer in talent, the South Americans paid for being unable to suitably adjust their ploy under adversity, which forced them to a tough corner. The advantage of starting with a win has been negated and the pre-tournament favourites need an improved performance to cross the first hurdle.
It was a tense, physical match and England�s success was built around a plan that was the easiest to think of but difficult to execute with perfection. They knew they couldn�t match Argentina in individual skill and concentrated on allowing minimum room to the players who can be deadly if offered space. This is largely a defensive ploy but on the other hand, there is risk as well.
England�s decision to allow Argentina access to their own half and defend virtually from the penalty box needed a lot of courage and confidence in the survival machinery. The move to let Argentina advance up to a point was fraught with danger but that was England�s only way out. They had to keep the errors down and to their credit, put up a nearly flawless performance in front of their own goal.
England�s best chance to use their most potent weapon effectively also lay in this plan. With most players crowding the English half, there was ample scope to let Michael Owen loose in the open space inside the Argentine territory where his speed would prove crucial.
Eriksson knew his limitations and played his cards accordingly. His cause was helped by Argentina�s failure to adjust to the situation.
Room was hard to come by in the centre of the English half but the Argentina coach should have noticed there was space to explore down the wings. The English defensive screen was wide and started from the upper part of their own half but it narrowed down towards the rear, which meant there was empty space on the flanks. Marcelo Bielsa�s boys rarely tried to use this in the first half, and most of their forays were through the densely populated part of the English defence.
They sorted it out in the second half without success but committed the blunder of the match by taking off Juan Sebastian Veron. The Argentina captain is the brain behind most of their attacks and his accuracy in passing and distribution was what they needed in their search for the equaliser.
His precise deliveries and variation were sorely missed in the second half when Argentina started getting in the crosses from both flanks.
It suited England well and once their defence soaked up the pressure, they got the chance to make the counterattacks count. They were fast in moving up and the open space inside the Argentine half excited Owen. This is what he had missed in the previous match and his pace was a constant threat to the Argentine defence.
England also made good use of the height of their central defenders and applied power to combat the flair of the Argentines. It was a tough match and as many as 41 fouls were committed though things didn�t veer out of control.
The referee had to point to the spot when Mauricio Pochettino stuck out his left knee to prevent Owen from cutting in towards the goal. David Beckham�s penalty kick, however, wasn�t the best effort and the goalkeeper should have done better with the ball driven almost straight at him.
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Yet, the first incident of �acting� happened as early as on Day 4. The guilty party was none other than Brazilian superstar Rivaldo. As he waited near the corner flag, he was hit on the left knee by a ball kicked by Turkey�s Hakan Unsal. Rivaldo immediately fell to the ground, theatrically clutching his face.
The Turkish player was at least 10 yards away from the corner flag and couldn�t have kicked the ball at Rivaldo deliberately. Strangely, Korean referee Kim Young-joo showed Unsal the yellow card followed by the resultant red (the Turk was already on a yellow). Kim didn�t care to consult his assistant even though it was a dead-ball situation.
Rivaldo should�ve got a yellow for cheating and gross unsportsmanlike behaviour, not Unsal.
In the same match, Alpay Ozalan started pulling the jersey of Brazilian attacker Luizao about 10 yards outside the Turkey penalty box. The referee, however, did not whistle for an infringement, probably invoking the advantage clause.
He stopped the game when Luizao fell � just inside the Turkey penalty box. According to the laws of soccer, the referee can defer punishment if he plays the advantage rule. But once he stops the game, punishment should be given for the initial infringement and not at the point where the whistle was blown. The referee ruled otherwise and ordered a penalty � instead of a free-kick.
Earlier, Kim booked Ozalan for a foul on Ronaldo after the Brazilian demanded a card. Maybe, the referee was overawed by the Brazilians. His decisions cost Turkey dear.
In the Spain-Slovenia tie, Moroccan Mohammed Guezzaz awarded a penalty to Spain when Slovenia medio Sasa Gajser made a fair tackle on Morientes.
Slovak Michel Lubos awarded a penalty against Paraguayan goalkeeper Ricardo Tavarelli for just �feeling� the feet of onrushing South African midfielder Zuma. The referee�s mistake cost Paraguay full points.
In the Cameroon-Ireland duel, Rigobert Song used his right forearm to divert a goal-moving ball off an accurate Robbie Keane header to the safe hands of his goalkeeper. Japanese referee Toru Komikawa overlooked the incident and denied Ireland victory.
Similarly, Japan were deprived of victory against Belgium when Costa Rican referee William Mattus cancelled a fair goal by Junichi Inamoto.
Of course, the first week saw was some good refereeing too. UAE�s Ali Bujsaim was brilliant in the opener in which Senegal stunned France 1-0. He was always close to the ball and read the game exceptionally well.
The others who stood out during the first seven days� action were Saad Komal of Kuwait (Denmark-Uruguay match), Frenchman Gilles Veissire (Argentina-Nigeria), Brazil�s Carlos Simon (England-Sweden), American Brian Hall ((Italy-Ecuador), and Denmark�s Kim Nielson (Germany-Ireland).
Indian assistant referee K. Sankaran was smart and prompt on the lines in his only match so far (Mexico versus Croatia).
It�s sad that very few quality referees come from countries outside Europe and South America. Ali Bujsaim and one or two others are the only exceptions.
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As already announced, the selectors (Chandu Borde, Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Sanjay Jagdale) will be meeting in Calcutta.
According to The Telegraph�s sources, there�s a �reasonable chance� that Yadav, who did well with the A team in Sri Lanka, could replace V.V.S.Laxman in the XV for the June 27-July 13 tri-series.
Yadav, who turns 28 in August, bats right-handed and can be counted upon for some medium-paced stuff as well.
Laxman, it may be recalled, wasn�t in the thinktank�s preferred squad for the just-ended ODIs in the West Indies, but kept his place only because the selectors didn�t wish to drop an in-form (474 runs in the Test series) batsman.
As it turned out, Laxman played just one match � that, too, because Sachin Tendulkar wasn�t available. This time, then, the selectors could themselves have a rethink.
But while Yadav�s big league call-up isn�t an absolute certainty, there�s no doubt Anil �Braveheart� Kumble will return at Murali Kartik�s expense. So, at least one change in the back-from-the-West Indies XV is certain.
Of course, there�s bound to be some discussion over Jawagal Srinath, who has quit Test cricket but is available for the ODIs. Only, who will be dropped to accommodate him?
Moreover, some of the selectors (as also many in the cricket fraternity) remain convinced the veteran ought to have made himself unavailable for the ODIs and, instead, concentrated on the longer version.
Also, there are quite a few who endorse coach John Wright�s view that those wishing to wear the India cap should really be available for all forms of the game. At different times, Wright has made it known he doesn�t favour those who pick and choose.
Wright, incidentally, won�t be present at Saturday�s meeting. At the moment, he is in Kent and will be at Heathrow on June 18 to receive Sourav Ganguly and the rest of the squad.
Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Jai Prakash Yadav, Ajay Ratra, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Tinu Yohannan.
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2 pm: Astec Gold 1. Diamonds Galore 2. Fugleman 3.
2.30 pm: Mythical Star 1. Premiere 2. Assumer 3.
3 pm: Gem 1. Going Wild 2. Beau Ideal 3.
3.30 pm: Francophone 1. Svetlana 2. Forest Prince 3.
4 pm: Nairn 1. Hello Brother 2. Ciel Fleuri 3.
4.30 pm: Almonar 1. Network 2. Ascot Knight 3.
5 pm: Arroganto 1. Fantasy Bay 2. Princess Gabriella 3.
5.30 pm: Afaza 1. Luca Brassi 2. Silver Feathers 3.
Day�s Best: Nairn
Double: Almonar & Arroganto.