Posts Tagged ‘Beijing 2008’

Nigeria 0-1 Argentina: Albiceleste Retain Their Olympic Crown (OLYMPICS 2008)

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Four years after the gold in Athens, another 1-0 scoreline confirmed Argentina as Olympic football champions. In 2004, the match-winning goal had been scored by a certain Carlos Tevez; this year in Beijing, salvation came from above. “Little Angel” Di María flapped his celestial wings and delivered a fatal blow to finalists Nigeria, exploiting an inch-perfect pass by Lionel Messi. The real star of the football Olympics obviously, was the the little “atomic flea” from Barcelona: Messi was not even supposed to be here (after the Catalan club had won their late July CAS appeal), but in the end he was the first player to raise his gold medal high in the sky, his first big success with the Selección Argentina.

(From Gazzetta): The biggest highlight of the first half, without a doubt, was the time-out given to both teams by the referee to permit them to… drink. As far as we know this had never happened before in an international competition, but was surely a sensible choice given the extreme local weather situation (32ºC with 35% humidity… not too smart to be playing at noon huh IOC?). Needless to say these conditions naturally favored Nigeria more than Argentina, even though the African 1996 champions suffered a bit early in the match and after the “re-hydration” break (when Riquelme & Co. were playing more lucidly).

The rest of the time though, albeit risky, the offside trap organized by African coach Samson Siasia was working perfectly: Messi and Agüero could combine one-touch passes as much as they wanted, there was always one Nigerian defender glued to the Barcelona striker’s backside. As for the work down the wings of Zabaleta, the Argentine full-back was more effective with his forward runs than his crossing, to say the least. Thus, the only “real” Albiceleste chance to make the 1st half highlights reel was a long-range effort by Luciano Fabián Monzón, deflected without too many problems by Nigerian keeper Ambruse Vanzekin. In contrast the Africans were multiplying their runs down the wings, and progressively increasing their passing accuracy in doing so. In minute 34 Nigeria obtained the biggest chance of the half, as offensive midfielder Promise Isaac successively obtained not one, but two crosses from both sides. Alas for his team his finishing touches left something to be desired.

Catching a break at the half, the Argentines tried to “go for the kill” very early in the second, repositioning Messi in a central role in order to make him dictate play better. A move which was immediately going to pay dividends. After two very good chances in minutes 47 and 50 (a spot-on pass for Agüero and an accurate long-range effort, both well-saved by Vanzekin), the pixie from Barcelona struck the dagger deep into Nigerian hearts: executing a perfect pass for Di María in space, Argentina had their first big opportunity of the match and they were not going to miss it. Just like against Netherlands in overtime, the little Benfica winger did not flinch: a chipped shot over the rushing keeper finally but La Selección in the lead. 1-0 Argentina.

Knowing the final scoreline, it’s fairly easy to guess what happened in the remaining 30 minutes of play. Nigeria were now forced to push forward in order to equalize, giving Argentina acres of space to hit them on the counter-attack. The match suddenly became very vibrant, and although the African team were taking many risks at the back, they were the ones who obtained the most significant scoring chance. Substitute Victor Anichebe notably, was the most dangerous for Nigeria getting behind two very good crossed by Obinna. The Africans were was unlucky however because in both cases, the deflections of powerful center-back Ezequiel Garay and goalkeeper Sergio Romero on the line denied the Everton striker the joy of the equalizer.

Time eventually came to an end, thus giving Argentina a sweet revenge over their lost 1996 final in Atlanta, and re-confirming them Olympic football champions for the second time in a row. For Barcelona this was probably a pretty good operation as well: their star player will now return from Beijing happy, and all the more motivated to win a few extra pieces of silverware this season.


 Nigeria Football Association NIGERIA-ARGENTINA
Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (Argentine Football Association)
GOALSCORERS: 58’ Di María (A)
NIGERIA (4-3-3): Vanzekin – Adefemi, Apam, Adeleye, Okonkwo – Kaita, Isaac (70’ Ekpo), Ajilore – Okoronkwo (64’ Anichebe), Odemwingie, Obinna. (bench: James, Ogbuke Obasi, Ambrose, Ezenwa, Olufemi). Coach: Siasia.
ARGENTINA (4-4-2): Romero – Zabaleta, Garay, Pareja, Monzon – Gago, Riquelme, Mascherano, Di Maria (88’ Banega) – Messi (93’ Lavezzi), Agüero (79’ Sosa). (bench: Fazio, Acosta, Buonanotte, Navarro). Coach: Batista.


Argentina 3-0 Brazil: Seleçao Taught a Lesson in Futból (OLYMPICS 2008)

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Just like a sheet of paper from a page-a-day-calendar, Argentina ripped Brazil out of the stack, crunched it up, made a little paper ball, did a few juggles and then backheeled it into the trash. Everyone was anticipating this game as the final-before-the final in these 2008 Beijing Football Olympics, and boy did we not get disappointed.

Three goals to nil are a fierce but realistic goal difference, and the two red cards earned by the Auriverde (frustrated by an immense Javier Mascherano) will provide historical evidence this was indeed a severe beating inflicted on their rivals by Argentina. At the very least, a sweet sweet revenge from last year’s Copa America final, lost 3-0 in Maracaibo. Something tells us that in the next few hours, Dunga’s tenure as head of the Brazilian national team (already under severe criticism for poor performances in the World Cup qualifiers) will be severely at risk.

(From Gazzetta): EARLY INCANDESCENCE – As expected from a fixture like this one, Tuesday’s match took very little time to catch fire. In minute 2, Ronaldinho (bestowed with the usual playmaking duties alongside Diego) delivered an inch-perfect assist for Rafael Sobis, who (alas for Brazil) missed his control inside the box. With Argentina forced into their own half, it almost seemed as if this Brazilian team had abandonded their defensive focus à la sauce Dunga (this despite the three-defensive-midfielder line) and was back to the Samba-style footy everyone loves. Almost.

On the other end, Argentina had fielded 3 men behind lone striker Sergio Agüero, namely the always reliable Riquelme and Messi (on fire today, once again) and the little pixie from the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, Ángel Di María (just recently signed on by Benfica). The Argentine winger was virtually everywhere on the field, almost causing Breno to an early own goal (min. 5) and then later setting up Agüero in perfect position to strike. The Atletico Madrid forward however, was quite evidently impressed by his “father-in-law’s” presence in the stands (he is dating Giannina Maradona), because his good dribble on Alex Silva was followed by a shot wide of the mark. No worries for Argentina though, “El Kun” would unwind in great style later in the game…

AURIVERDE STRIKERS NEEDED – Once again, Brazil was quite handicapped by the absence of a real striker up front (poor Rafael Sobis was trying his best to carry the weight of the attack by himself), and this rendered the good work of Rafinha and Marcelo down the wings, as well as that of Ronaldinho (almost playing the pass-without-moving “relay-man”) rather futile. In turn, the devastating runs of Messi were keeping the Brazilian defense very much on their toes, all the while the strong, physical work of Gago and Zabaleta were being met play-by-play by the (also strong) Anderson and Lucas Leiva.

However, Brazil were progressively forced to backtrack, so much so that in minute 52, a small step on the gas pedal was enough for Argentina to take the lead (and within minutes, to quickly transform it into a 2-goal advantage). Both tallies were the result of some good work by Di Maria, who first armed a powerful shot from the left side (deflected by Agüero’s torso into the net), then set up Lionel Messi for another devastating horizontal run, finalized by Zabaleta’s right-side cross to a wide-open “El Kun” (min. 58). 1-0 and 2-0 Argentina in the span of 6 minutes.

In addition of paying for their lack of initiative, Brazil were also dealing with considerable bad luck because just after the first goal, the bottom part of the Albiceleste post got hit by a Sobis long-range effort, shortly followed by a Ronaldinho free-kick. On the developments of the latter play Alexandre Pato (on for Sobis) finally found the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

BRAZIL SEES RED – The match effectively came to an end in minute 76, from the spot-kick, after a foul in the box by Breno on Agüero. Juan Román Riquelme did the honors, putting Argentina 3-0 up and virtually sealing the game for his team. Before the full-time whistle however, there was still time for Lucas and Thiago Neves to get sent to an early shower, as they earned a red for “use of excessive force” on Javier Mascherano.

Despite their two-man advantage however Argentina put on the brakes, probably out of pity for their now-defunct opponents. No doubt Brazil will very soon rise from their ashes but in the meantime, the Olympics remain the only tournament still escaping them. As for Argentina, they will have the opportunity on Saturday for an Atlanta ’96 re-match: indeed, Nigeria are the only thing left between them and a gold medal.


Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (Argentine Football Association) ARGENTINA-BRAZIL
[Match Highlights]
Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (Brazilian Football Confederation)
GOALSCORERS: 52′, 58′ Agüero (A), 76′ Riquelme (A)
ARGENTINA (4-2-3-1): Romero – Zabaleta, Garay, Pareja, Monzon – Gago, Mascherano – Di Maria, Riquelme (90′ Sosa), Messi – Agüero. (bench: Navarro, Fazio, Banega, Lavezzi, Acosta). Coach: Batista.
BRAZIL (4-3-1-2): Renan – Rafinha, Alex Silva, Breno, Marcelo – Hernanes (61′ Thiago Neves), Lucas, Anderson – Diego (77′ Jo) – Sobis (61′ Pato), Ronaldinho. (bench: Diego Alves, Thiago Silva, Ramires, Ilsinho). Coach: Dunga.


Italy 2-3 Belgium: Azzurrini Say Goodbye to Beijing… (OLYMPICS 2008)

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Italy 2-3 Belgium: the Azzurrini’s Olympic adventure ends in the Quarter-Finals. And it’s such a shame too, because the gold medal (which talent-wise was well within the Azzurrini’s reach, also because Brazil/Argentina were on the opposite side of the table) will remain a mirage for Casiraghi’s boys. Dominating most of the game against a tough, organized Belgian side (who played over 60 minutes with 10 men due to Vermaelen’s early red card), the Italians could not make full use of their numerical advantage, conceding three goals in a single game (after conceding none in the group stage) and forcing Giuseppe Rossi & friends to an early departure from the tournament.

And so, after the Women’s foil team and Men’s Water Polo, Italy gets another disappointment from Beijing today, partly due to their own demerits (too many mistakes in defense, wrong attitude on the field) and partly because of controversial reffing decisions (South Korea 2002 would perhaps too risky a comparison, but let’s just say Belgium’s first goal did not cross the line and that Italy were denied two clear penalty shots in the 2nd half). I won’t play the conspiracy theory card, but surely one expected better from an Olympic tournament…

(From Gazzetta): BEIJING (China), 16 August 2008 – After getting a glimpse of gold (or at least, the possibility of playing for it), Italy failed before they had the chance to try. The Azzurrini were sent packing in the quarter-finals, despite having two penalties awarded to them and almost one hour of one-man advantage. Belgium proved to be the feared squad the Italians had anticipated: strong, intelligent and with talented players rising above the rest (in particular Moussa Dembélé, who scored two goals, and Kevin Mirallas). As much as Belgium played well though, Italy allowed their opponents too much freedom at the wrong time. And when the dagger struck, it was an ice-cold shower for the Italians… a real blow. Based on what we saw in 90 minutes of play though, it can’t be considered a scandal.

To say the least, Italy’s first half had nothing in common with the performance we saw in their first two matches, when the team had played a free albeit organised game, giving room to showcase their talent but always maintaining a good tactical balance. Today during the first 45 minutes, this proved their main falling point (alongside a serious lack of lucidity): the Azzurri were too nervous, made too many mistakes, had too many players away from their positions, and all this despite the positive turn the match had taken in minute 17.

BELGIAN RED CARD - Except for one player (Motta for De Silvestri at right-back), Casiraghi had selected the same line-up he used vs. Honduras. The rest remained the same: Viviano in goal; defensive line formed by Bocchetti & Criscito in the center, De Ceglie on the left; Cigarini in midfield with Montolivo and Nocerino on the flanks; and in front Acquafresca supported by Rossi and Giovinco. Speaking of, the Juventus player had the chance to open the score just after 6 minutes of play, but his close-range effort on a good Montolivo cross ended on the outside of the goal mesh. Eleven minutes later, the possible turning point: through on goal, Robert Acquafresca was restrained and knocked down by Vermaelen right in front of the Belgian goalkeeper. The clear goalscoring opportunity meant penalty for Italian and a red card for Belgium. Joe Red stepped up for the spot-shot, and the Azzurrini were in the lead. 1-0 Italy.

EARLY MISTAKE – Belgium were thus reduced to play with 10 men for over an hour, but right after their lead (and for a good 20 minutes after that) Italy could not benefit from the numerical superiority. The equalizing goal they conceded just 7 minutes later did not help either. Moussa Dembélé headed in a corner-kick straight at Cigarini, and although the ball had not fully crossed the line (see image below and KwSport sequence here) the linesman raised his flag to signal a goal. Hard to tell, right? In these cases, advantage is given to the defensive team… but 1-1 nevertheless.

Eventually a few minutes before the break, Italy regrouped and finally got within the Belgium danger-zone. In minute 43, Giovinco had the chance to return Italy’s lead (exploiting an error by the Belgian defence) but the Bianconero’s diagonal shot was too wide. Close, but no cigar. Actually, the ones smoking it would be the Belgians, deep into stoppage time: Kevin Mirallas received with his back to the net, and with no interference from Bocchetti managed to turn and put the ball past Viviano. 2-1 Belgium.

There was plenty of time left for an Italian comeback, but first half cold shower had left Casiraghi’s team frigid and uninspired. Despite a clear domination in ball possession, the Azzurrini didn’t get back in the game until minute 73, when Argentine referee Baldassi finally called a foul inside the Belgian box (De Roover & Vanden Borre “sandwich” on De Ceglie). Just before that, two very suspicious trips on Rossi and Abate had been virtually ignored (actually, Rossi received a yellow card for diving). Joe Red stepped up again and scored his second P.K. of the night. 2-2.

Still playing 11 on 10, the Azzurini were definitely expected to push for victory at this point but once more, Belgium managed to pull the chair out from under them. On a well-executed (or poorly defended by the Azzurri, whichever you prefer) counter-attack, Dembelé overtook four Italian players and finished with a strong left-footer inside Viviano’s net. 3-2 Belgium. Italian morale down the drain. To add insult to injury, Viviano lost his cool after the goal and was shown a red card for chasing and tugging Mirallas (who had… inadvertently…(?) thrown the ball in his face).

During the last fifteen minutes of play (including stoppage time) the Italians were eagerly trying to even the score, but now that numerical superiority was over, Belgium’s iron curtain was more efficient than ever. The Italian dream was thus (and much earlier than expected) over. On the upside, Serie A teams will be glad to get their players back. Magra consolazione, as they say…


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ITALY-BELGIUM
[Match Highlights]
Belgium FA (KBVB/URBSFA: Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond, Union Royale Belge des Societés de Football Association)
GOALSCORERS: 18’ pen., 74’ pen. Rossi (I), 24’, 79’ Dembele (B), 45’ Mirallas (B)
ITALY (4-3-2-1): Viviano – Motta (80’ Consigli), Bocchetti, Criscito, De Ceglie – Montolivo, Cigarini (61’ Abate, 83’ Candreva), Nocerino – G.Rossi, Giovinco – Acquafresca. (bench: Dessena, Coda, De Silvestri, Russotto). Coach: Casiraghi
BELGIUM (4-2-3-1): Bailly (68’ Ma-Kalambay) – De Roover, Simaeys, Vermaelen, Pocognoli – Haroun, Vertonghen – De Mul (94’ Mulemo), Dembele, Martens (65’ Vanden Borre) – Mirallas. (bench: De Winter, Odidja-Ofoe, Ciman, Fellain). Coach: De Sart.