Monday, July 23, 2007

U20 World Cup Finals

Czech Republic 1-2 Argentina
So Argentina won, as you might have predicted. But although they dominated possession, the teams were very closely matched, in a replay of their scoreless draw from the group stage. The opening goal didn't come until the 60th minute, and it was the Czechs who struck first, with Martin Fenin holding off the defender to swivel and power his shot in at the far post.

Argentina responded almost immediately -- you're always more vulnerable when you've just scored a goal -- with a perfect through ball from midfield that split the defence for Aguero to run onto and slot past the keeper. The winning goal for Argentina was late in the game, Miguel Zarate beating Radek Petr at the near post and making his team six-time world champions at this level. The commentators seemed to think that Petr was slightly out of position for the shot, and he did look wrecked after the game, but if so, it was harsh on him, because he'd he'd been outstanding throughout the tournament up till that point.

Also outstanding: Sergio Aguero, who won both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, and of course is now going to be constantly referred to as the new Leo Messi. (Can you even have a new Messi if the old one's only 20?) And Maxi Moralez, who is literally easy to overlook but has been fantastic in every game I've seen, even when, like in this one, he's running around with his head all bandaged up. Finally, I have to give kudos to the referee; when he pulled out his card for an early booking, I was afraid it was going to turn into a repeat of Argentina-Chile, but although there were plenty of fouls, he seemed to keep things under control. Yay for avoiding another international incident.

In the third-place match, Chile managed to cobble together 11 fit players to beat Austria 1-0, the only goal coming from a free kick in first-half injury time that defender Hans Martinez volleyed acrobatically into the net. The third-place finish is Chile's best ever and will hopefully console them somewhat for losing out to Argentina in the semis. As for Austria, they did well to make it this far, and I'm going to give them (collectively) the final Bad Hair Award of the tournament, for all painting the Austrian flag on the back of their heads.

That's it for the U20s, although if I feel really ambitious I may do some sort of overall tournament wrap-up. Depends how bored I am by all the pre-season friendlies: quite a bit, or a really staggering amount?

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