Friday, July 20, 2007

U20 World Cup: Semi-finals

Austria 0-2 Czech Republic
Chile 0-3 Argentina.

Well, that was ugly.

I'm referring mostly to the post-game scenes at the Argentina-Chile match last night. Some of the Chilean players, understandably not happy about two of their teammates having been sent off, squared up to the referee, who had to be escorted off the pitch by the police. And it got worse after that. It's not really clear what made everything kick off -- there's supposed to be another press conference later today -- but basically, some of the Chileans got into a scuffle with the police as they were boarding their team bus outside the stadium. (There's a fuzzy YouTube video here, but if you can tell what's going on, your eyes are better than mine.) It ended up with one of them getting tasered, several being handcuffed, and the team taken back into the dressing room to be detained. Nice.

As for the game itself? Well, that wasn't too pretty either. It started well enough, with chances for both sides, before Argentina's opening goal: a through ball to Angel di Maria, and a beautiful first-time finish that crashed in off the inside of the post. But a few minutes later it got worse for Chile, as Gary Medel was sent off for kicking out at Gabriel Mercado.

After that a little bit of football actually managed to break out, but basically the game was a flurry of fouls, yellow cards, and players rolling around in feigned agony. The Argentines were particularly good at this -- I'm sure the senior team would be very proud of them -- but the Chileans weren't exactly innocent victims either. Here is the thing: you can play hard, possibly even dirty, or you can bitch and whine about being fouled. You cannot do both. No, you can't. Because I said so, that's why.

I think the referee, Wolfgang Stark, really didn't help matters. He set a precedent by pulling out a yellow card for practically the first foul of the night, and once he'd sent off Medel (a debatable call, because Mercado kicked out at him as well; Mercado just happened to be the one on the ground pretending he'd got hit in the face), it was all downhill from there. Chile had another player sent off in the 77th minute for picking up two yellows -- it's hard to tell, from the cluster of players around the ref, but I'm assuming the second was for dissent. And, yes, that's a stupid thing to get booked for, but you can kind of understand their frustration by that point. The one Chilean player who stood out for me was the goalkeeper, Toselli, who's also their captain and did his best trying to keep his team calm. Oh, but he got booked for his troubles as well.

There were a couple other goals for Argentina -- Claudio Jacob converting a cross from Maxi Moralez, and then Moralez adding another one in stoppage time -- but the whole game just left a bad taste in my mouth.

The Austria-Czech Repulic match on Wednesday night was relatively calm by comparison. But then again, it also bored the crap out of me. The Czechs were up 2-0 after 15 minutes, with goals from Tomas Micola and Martin Fenin, and were happy to just sit back and fend off Austria for the rest of the game. The Czech Republic had the advantage of having stayed in Edmonton after their quarter-final match, while Austria had flown in from Toronto and were also missing a bunch of key players through suspensions and injuries. Erwin Hoffer started up front for Austria, but all he did was prove that he's much more effective coming on as a sub.

Anyway, I've decided that I'll be cheering for the Czech Republic in the final on Sunday. I can't support Argentina after all the nastiness yesterday, not to mention, well, they're Argentina. Plus, how can you not love the Czechs for celebrating their victory by (1) making a train across the pitch and (2) putting on deely-boppers?

And speaking of ugliness, yes, it's the Bad Hair of the Day award. I was going to give it to Chile's Christian Suarez for his half-cornrows, but then I saw his teammate Mathias Vidangossy, who has managed to combine a fauxhawk-cum-mullet and a few straggly rattails with a really unfortunate dye job that makes him look like he's got a rust-coloured opossum on his head. A truly stellar achievement.


Anonymous said...

" They are Argentina", sounds like you don't like argentines, and look likes you know nothing about football. According to you Argentina was playing nasty football, but our team got a players injured for chilean players. We play football since 1870 in Argentina, we have the most talented players (also Brasil) in the world, and our players and my country don't deserve to be pointed in that way, may be you are a chilean, who hates argentines in football or any other topic. If you commentary about nasty and "well, they are Argentina", is about our economic problems for the past 50 years, I think that is not something to make laugh your readers, it is something that we suffer every day and we wish to change it, but it is not easy, but anyway, it does not mean that you make jokes of my country, because that country, wich is beautiful, has people, may be different culture, language, and belief, but just people. For me is pretty sad to here this kind of commentary, first because most of these comments come from people even know Argentina, they just read some news, and think they now know.

Jen said...

First of all, I have absolutely nothing against Argentina as a country. "They're Argentina" was basically a reference to the fact that I'm an England fan, and therefore supposed to cheer against Argentina. (I should note that I realize there are political reasons behind the Argentina-England rivalry, but they're not my reasons; it's just an excuse for cheering for one football team and not another.)

As for Argentina the team, I can appreciate the fact that they generally play good football, but that doesn't mean I have to cheer for them. And I would have been cheering for the Czech Republic anyway, as the underdogs, but the nasty semi-final between Argentina and Chile meant that I didn't want to cheer for either of those teams, no matter who won.