Interview with Allyson Latta

Friday, July 20, 2007

When the Beautiful Game Turns Ugly

Local darbies have been breeding grounds of dirty play for decades; whether it's between London Premiership teams like Arsenal/Man U, the Scottish contingency, Celtic/Rangers, or on a grander scale, neighbouring nations - trouble awaits. Last night's match between Chile and Argentina was no exception and when the ref spilled more fuel on the fire everything exploded. It was no fun to watch these untamed players go after a win by attempting to break legs, ankles, take unnecessary dives, rolls, grab the ref, push each other about and have tantrums. The calmest most mature player on the pitch was Argentina's solid goal keeper Sergio Romero. Like colts these young men are only half-broken at this stage in their careers, a few more solid trainers on their backs and they might, just might, be reined in.

I've been told that the numerous times throughout the years that these countries have played against each other, Chile has only beaten Argentina three times. Whether this statistic relates to the full national team or the half-pints, there is something to be proved. Uruguay exhibited similar behaviour on and off the pitch with their loss to the U.S. but the geographical triangle of South American teams - Argentina at the top, Chile to the left and Uruguay to the right - are not only fighting on the pitch for football supremecy but to distinguish themselves one from the other, to create their own identities. Argentina have done that - hence the drive and rivalry brewing in Chile's boots. Chile have great players. Medina, for one, seemed disheartened, like all he wanted to do was play the game, do what he does best, get the ball in the net and his teammates, Suarez, Vidal, Sanchez, Godoy, to name a few were letting him down. On the other side, the Argentinians were no saints. Yacob was the timebomb we've come to know him as - but channelled his fire into the net with a beautiful goal in the 65th minute of the second half, and Moralez sealed the deal with a sneaky goal in the 93rd. But it's not so much how it ended but how they began, twelve minutes into the game, Di Maria scored a wicked goal that sailed past Chile's overly-dramatic goal keeper Cristopher Toselli and all tempers rose their ugly heads. I think the ref lost control of this game very early on and attempted to get it back the wrong way. FIfA's fair play banner was not gallantly swaying in the wind last night. And what happened off the field is not even worthy of discussion - it's stuff like that that gives football a bad name, and when it's off the pitch, it's not about the sport anymore.

In the end, the best team won. Now it's all about the South Americans against the Eastern Europeans - two different styles of play, mindsets, cultures, history, that all come to life on the pitch. If Argentina display their ability to play any kind of football be it controlled, unleashed, or both, they should put on a good show against the Czech Republic's strength, creativity and drive. I have a feeling, or I hope, this match, the final, will be a battle of skills not tempers.

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