Friday, July 13, 2007

Clash Of The Titans

Well, I couldn't have got my semi-final predictions much more wrong, could I? Having confidently tipped Mexico to give Argentina a hard time and Brazil to cruise past Uruguay, the exact opposite happened. Argentina brushed Mexico aside like a mildly irritating wasp whilst Brazil, who continue to make a mockery of everyone's expectations of them, were the recipients of a massive slice of luck pie in beating Uruguay after a lengthy penalty shoot-out.

The Brazil-Uruguay was hardly a glittering showcase for Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Brazil had just taken the lead through Maicon when the lights went out - or, to be precise, one of the floodlights went out. Cue, then, a lengthy delay while the players stood around looking vaguely idiotic (in that way that footballers do when they're dressed in their complete football kit, but aren't actually playing football), before someone decided that, actually, it wasn't that bad and that they could just get on with things with one dark corner of the pitch. Brazil lost their momentum with the enforced delay, though it took until Uruguay until just before half-time to level things up through Diego Forlan (who has shown flashes of the sort of form in this tournament that persuaded Alex Ferguson to splash out £10m on him a few years back). The lead only lasted a few seconds, though - Julio Baptista reclaimed the lead for Brazil right on half-time.

The second half was a dull, limp affair, enlivened only when Abreu brought the scores level with twenty minutes to play. With no extra-time being played, it was straight to penalties, and Brazil took an early lead when Diego Forlan showed the sort of form that persuaded Alex Ferguson to offload him on the cheap to Villareal and shoot straight at the goalkeeper. When Alonso hit the post for Brazil, though, Uruguay were back in it, and they were given a golden chance to knock them out with the first kick of sudden death, when Fernando missed for Brazil. However, Pablo Garcia hit the post for Uruguay and, after Brazil had converted their next effort, Lugano's shot was saved and Brazil were through. Uruguay can hardly say that they didn't have their chances, though.

Now, just how good are Argentina at the moment? Probably better than they were at the World Cup last year, judging by the way that they brushed aside a Mexico side that are definitely stronger than last year. Actually, it wasn't quite as simple as that - Argentina started cagily before cruising to a 3-0 win, but not until they'd ridden their luck somewhat - but they still look pretty awesome, and they're doing this without Hernan Crespo (injured) and Maxi Rodrigues (injured). At the moment, I'd have to rate this Argentina team as better than the teams that won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. That's how good I think they are. I still think that they should have won the World Cup last year. You I'd be highly surprised if they don't beat Brazil in the final on Sunday.

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