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The world cup and I

To­day is the first day of the world cup. While I ful­ly ex­pect the verbe and savoir faire of Paulo Wan­chope to whip those ger­man an­i­ma­tron­ic fig­ures in­to sub­mis­sion 1 I start­ed think­ing...

The first cup I re­mem­ber is Ar­genti­na 1978. Which, of course, we won. Thanks maybe to a shady grain ship­ment to Pe­ru, maybe be­cause Cruyff re­fused to come to the coun­try, maybe be­cause we had the world's strong­est guy play­ing 2, maybe be­cause the host na­tion had won like 60% of the time so far, but we did win.

I saw Ar­genti­na-Hun­gary in a movie the­ater with the screen dec­o­rat­ed as a huge TV one day af­ter it was played. Since we lived un­der a bloody dic­ta­tor­ship, ev­ery­one had to standup while we saw the taped an­them-sing­ing, and there was a sort of des­per­ate manda­to­ry pa­tri­o­tism. But any­way, I was 7, it was fun.

Then came Spain 82. I was in school dur­ing most match­es, so I did­n't ac­tu­al­ly see al­most any of them. We had a rather nice team, with Maradona and Ra­mon Di­az, but we met Brazil, which had a mar­velous team. Then the fi­nal was the av­er­age ver­sus the de­press­ing, and the de­press­ing won. Italy won with goals by an ac­tu­al, proven game-­fix­er. And some­how noone re­mem­bers that.

Mex­i­co 86. The first cup where I saw ev­ery damn match. And of course, one of the most mem­o­rable cups ev­er, since, again, we won. And we had the best play­er in the cup by some mar­gin.

Of course, not ev­ery­thing could be flaw­less, and a deeply medi­ocre eng­lish team feels that they would have won ex­cept for the "Hand of God" goal. Well, here's the thing. If the eng­lish had won, it would have been in­jus­tice of such a mind-bend­ing size, ar­maged­don would have hap­pened right there, 21 years too ear­ly.

Not to men­tion that the bit­ter dudes sim­ply can't en­joy be­ing beat­en by the sec­ond goal 3.

Sure, we had to play on­ly Eng­land, Bel­gium and Box­car Willy 4 but then again, we have been on the "Group of Death" for 8 years in a row.

When you play in a park or school­ground, if there is a play­er that's in­cred­i­bly good (or ev­ery­one else is in­cred­i­bly bad) we say "with that gay, it's steal­ing". Well, in 86, with that guy, it was freak­ing armed rob­bery.

Italy 90. I have high blood pres­sure. I blame Italy 90. We start­ed by be­ing the first cham­pi­on ev­er to lose the open­ing match, against Cameroon, be­cause we did­n't play Canig­gia un­til minute 70. In the fol­low­ing ten min­utes, two Cameroon 5 play­ers got red­card­ed. If he had played from the start, we would have won by de­fault be­cause Cameroon would have end­ed with 5 play­ers on the field.

Maradona had his left an­kle the size of a grape­fruit, and the col­or of Mer­lot. He could bare­ly walk.

Our goalie was in­jured in the most grue­some ac­ci­dent I ev­er saw in a foot­ball field. On the slow mo­tion re­ply you can see his leg turn in­to a Z in a very wrong way.

Then we played Rus­sia where Maradona com­mit­ted a clear penal­ty and was­n't called 6

We seemed to ad­vance in ev­ery round by penalties, and were pret­ty much un­able to score at al­l.

In the match against Brazil, we were so over­matched it was kin­da fun­ny. And then we had two chances. One went in, the oth­er hit the cross­bar. Brazil had about 400 shots on goal, and we had the luck­i­est guy on earth on goal, so...

We played Italy. We had one chance to score. It went in. They tied.

We won on penalties, thanks to the most in­com­pe­tent penal­ty kick­er I ev­er saw 7. Ser­e­na, wher­ev­er you are, if you ev­er need a drink, I'll buy you one, round-­foot­ed-­won­der!

The fi­nal­s. We were with­out the on­ly guy that could score in the team. With­out our best de­fend­er. Our best play­er was so ban­daged he could­n't use shin­guard­s. Ev­ery­one was way too old. Batista was play­ing like Boris Karlof­f's Franken­stein. We had ran out of play­er­s, out of ideas, out of time.

And we lost. Be­cause of a penal­ty. Which was not a penal­ty (see the re­plays, re­al­ly).

There have on­ly been two play­ers eject­ed on a cup fi­nal ev­er. Guess who they were?

But you know what? The guys played like god damn li­on­s. If you are great, then you are sup­posed to win. We were not great. We were not even av­er­age. That team was a lot of se­nior cit­i­zen­s, one fast guy, a crip­pled won­der and duct tape. And they got to the fi­nal­s. It was as if a smart, poor fat guy with ac­ne and bad breath picks up Nicole Kid­man, but does­n't get to have sex with her. He is still to be ad­mired.

Then came the re­al heart­break. USA 94. That cup nev­er hap­pened. I refuse to think about it.

France 98... so so. We got to quar­ter fi­nal­s, which was about right. We could have gone fur­ther, but Or­te­ga is the dumb­est play­er in the uni­verse, and he de­cid­ed to head­butt a dutch in front of the ref­er­ee.

Japan-Ko­rea 2002. We were favourites. We were the best thing since sliced bread. Our coach was a mad ge­nius. A tor­tured soul. We had the last chance to play one of the most im­pla­ca­ble scor­ers of all time. We had a daz­zling mid­field. A sol­id de­fense. We had beat­en Brazil in Mara­cana a lit­tle ear­li­er. We were kick­ass.

We had a hard group. It was tight. We lost a close match to Eng­land. We had to play Swe­den and we had to win. But we did­n't.

I was liv­ing in Buenos Aires and did­n't have a TV, so I had to go to bars to see the match­es. Ar­genti­na-Swe­den was played at some un­god­ly hour, like 3AM, and I went down­town to see it.

Of course, we were one goal short. And we were out of the cup. I had nev­er seen Ar­genti­na fail to ex­it the group stage. And I was at 5AM in the street, in mid-win­ter, feel­ing re­al­ly, re­al­ly, re­al­ly bad. Which means that of the last three cup­s, two have been hor­ri­ble, one half-de­cen­t.

Since Maradona re­tired, that's our har­vest. This time... this time we had a de­cent team, coached by a nice guy. We have a proabable su­per­star, but he's too young and a lit­tle in­jured. We have a ter­ri­ble goalie, an ag­ing de­fense, a lot of above av­er­age for­ward­s... I say semis, or quar­ter­s. If we get any fur­ther, it will be in the Italy way, not the Mex­i­co way.

But dammit, I will be watch­ing.

1

Yeah right.

2

You can see Kem­pes drag­ging no less than three rather large dutch peo­ple hang­ing from his shirt. And he did­n't even slow down.

3

I ac­tu­al­ly pre­fer Maradon­a's Bel­gium goal.

4

Our side of the draw were all bum­s.

5

Ev­ery­one re­mem­bers this Ar­genti­na team as thugs. Cameroon was about 10 times as rough, and noone re­mem­bers be­cause they were the feel good sto­ry of the cup, with Mil­la be­ing 56 years old or some­thing. But if you at­tacked them, you end­ed bare­foot­ed, flip­ping in the air.

6

God plays de­fense, too.

7

Ex­cept Paler­mo, who missed three (3) penal­ties in the same match. Then again, he ac­tu­al­ly kicked two of them de­cent­ly.

Inorog / 2006-06-09 23:15:

> Then came the real heartbreak. USA
> 94. That cup never happened. I
> refuse to think about it.

Well, I _do_ think of it. Romania in semi-finals. Passing over, among others, Argentina...

Come on, Roberto, it's just soccer ;-)

Andras Mantia / 2006-06-10 22:14:

He-he, what's good for one is bad for the other. ;-) I just watched the first match of Argentina, and congratulations for them. I tend to be with the weaker or not-so-known teams, and in this case Ivory Coast played above my expectations. It was a good match, especially the first part and the end of the second part. I like when a team attacks and they not just try to realize a 0-0.
Otherwise I'm not a big football fan, especially I don't care about the internal (corrupt) championship.

Andras Mantia / 2006-06-10 22:14:

He-he, what's good for one is bad for the other. ;-) I just watched the first match of Argentina, and congratulations for them. I tend to be with the weaker or not-so-known teams, and in this case Ivory Coast played above my expectations. It was a good match, especially the first part and the end of the second part. I like when a team attacks and they not just try to realize a 0-0.
Otherwise I'm not a big football fan, especially I don't care about the internal (corrupt) championship.

Morty / 2006-06-11 02:56:

Sorry to hear you think 94 in USA was a heartbreak. Even if some part of me can agree, it really had it's moments.

Among other things one of the best matches in recent World Cup history. And in the same match what I think is probably the most beautiful goal in World Cup history, capturing the true soul of football. A classic performance not only with exceptional individual skill, but just as important teamwork too. I'm talking about the match between Romania and Argentina, and the 2-1 goal.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-06-11 03:21:

Morty: I don't remember. Nope. Not in my brain at all. Romania... nope, doesn't ring a bell. No siree!

Now seriously: losing to Romania was not the problem at all, it was what happened earlier.

We were unbeaten for 33 matches. Then we had the worst defeat in our history as home team, and had to play the australians.

Then we get back on track, and Diego gets sent off for a freaking dietary supplement that gave no competitive advantage... we were beaten long before the Rumania match.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-06-11 03:22:

Not that I think he shouldn't have been sent off, it's just that for one of the three best players in history, he sure managed to make the biggest screwup possible :-(

Morty / 2006-06-11 15:26:

>I don't remember. Nope. Not in my brain at all. Romania... nope, doesn't ring a bell. No siree!

:-)

>Now seriously: losing to Romania was not the problem at all, it was what happened earlier.

True, but that was also some part of the reason I mentioned it. Even with all the earlier problems they play their best game in that WC. It's the kind of loses where you still can keep your had up. You played a good game, but the opposition played slightly better.

I'd say it's way better than getting eliminated on least goals scored. In one part fair, because the teams inability to do so and general crappy performance. But also because one referee thinks that since the oppositions goalkeeper are 30cm lower than our forward, he deserves a free kick each time they are close to each other:-(


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