Tuesday June 22nd, 2010

Three quick thoughts after Argentina's 2-0 victory over Greece in Group B on Tuesday:

1. Did Greece not get updates from South Korea/Nigeria? Even after South Korea went ahead 2-1 in the second half, meaning Greece would need to score twice against Argentina to advance, the Greeks continued to play far too defensively. It was as if they were settling for the draw, for a moral victory. It is possible that Greece didn't know where it stood, but a more plausible explanation is that Greece simply didn't know how to play attacking football against a side like Argentina. Or perhaps Otto Rehhagel really is as overly defensive-minded as his critics think he is.

2. Neither Diego Milito nor Sergio Agüero did anything to deserve a start against Mexico. Milito and Aguero are good enough to start for almost any team in the world, but in Argentina's opening two games Gonzalo Higuaín and Carlos Tévez got the call. A stunning game by either Milito or Agüero might have led Argentina boss Diego Maradona to consider giving them a run out against Mexico in the second round, but Milito was pedestrian and Agüero missed the two good chances he got. Higuaín and Tévez seem likely to start against El Tri in the round of 16.

3. Argentina succeeded in avoided injuries. Watching Lionel Messi get knocked around in the 75th minute made me wonder why Maradona still had him in the game. A change was made five minutes later, but it was Milito who was pulled, not Messi. Maradona is an unconventional manager, but this was an instance when he needed to be less of a fan, needed to stop admiring Messi's brilliance and get him out of the game. Greece was overly physical, especially in the first half, and an injury to Messi or another stalwart would have been devastating.

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