When the tears spilled down the pained faces of the young Czech players after yesterday's final against the almighty Argentina - my heart broke. Before I knew it tears soaked my face. The Czechs put up a good fight and played strong, clean football. In the first half Argentina exhibited shades of their histrionic play against Chile but quickly realized it wasn't going to work against the controlled and steely will of their European opponents, not to mention the ref and the entire FIFA organization, the cops, you know, and in the second half played the skillful game they are lethal at and renowned for.
The ecstasy that must have surged through the Czech's veins when Martin Fenin walloped the ball past Romero in the 60th minute of second half play was quickly shut down when Sergio Aguero took advantage of sailing past the Czech defenders, who were momentarily resting on their laurels, and swooped the ball past Petr into the back of the net. Aguero caught the fans, and practically everyone else on the bloody pitch off guard. That's the Argentinians for you. Shockingly, and not, even Aguero's goal was superseded in the 86th minute when Mauro Zarate stealthily sliced the ball, sending it soaring like a meteorite, an apparition, right through the goal keeper. I almost died. I think a lot of people on and off the pitch must have dropped their jaws and almost died. To my extra surprise, in response to the winning goal former goalkeeper and CBC broadcaster Craig Forrest made a comment that went something like this, Petr has just let down his country, all those watching from home, his mother, his grandmother, his sister, the entire nation. I have to ask you, Craig, would you have been able to save that comet, that bullet, that shooting star? I don't think so and I think Petr's mum, his grandmother, his sister and his country recognize there was no shame in preventing that goal from getting into the net - like I said before -that's the Argentinians for you.
Although I didn't see the third place game, I was happy to hear that Chile, despite missing many of their key weapons, played a respectable game of football and ended the tournament on a good note - afterall they were not the only culprits in the debacle on and off the pitch in the game against the equally guilty Argentinians, the officiating and on and on. And Austria, the solid football side they are, also missing a couple of their important defenders, did so well in their final game, in the entire tournament.
I'm sad it's all over. The final was bittersweet to me. Deep down, due to my personal issues with the Argentinian side, my English roots, all that, I desperately wanted the Czech Republic's U-20 side to win. They were a pleasure to watch, a great example of a solid European side - they were charming. If this is the sign of what's to come in that country's national team, in all the participating countries teams in this U-20 World Cup, the next World Cup's emerging national squads are going to give the power houses a real go of it. How exciting - bring on the new breed!