Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 4: Argentina 1, Nigeria 0

In his most underrated book, Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes: "I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women; suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically..."

While I don't share the passion for the sport that Hornby does, I recognize the quixotic alignment of factors that goes into developing an affinity. This is one reason why, as arbitrary as some sports allegiances are, they are very, very hard to change. It would be nice if I could just stop being an Orioles fan or a Wizards fan, but that's made up for the fact that I never much followed college basketball until I graduated from High School and Tommy Amaker, the star of the High School team went to some school called Duke.

I have vague recollections of the '78 World Cup (my family was living in Colombia at the time), but it was really Mexico '86 (or "ochenta seis" as the commercials said) that provided my seminal memories of the world's game. Eighty-six was, of course, Diego Maradona's zenith, and it was one of those situations where the neophyte didn't realize he was watching some of the best soccer of all time and figured every game would have something like Diego's runs through England and Belgium.

Maradona isa bit of a flake these days, and given Argentina's underachievement in qualifying, it was easy enough to hope that a usually dangerous Argentine side would be neutralized by their own internal chaos.

Hah. Instead the Blue and White looked like the proverbial pro team that underachieved during a regular season but could hit a switch in the playoffs. Somehow in the week leading up to the Cup, ESPN elevated Lionel Messi from one of the best players in the world to the consensus best, and he looked the part, running through Nigeria, though he missed several opportunities to finish.

There is usually at least one African side that overachieves at the World Cup, and I thought, based on underrating Argentina that Nigeria might be it, but they seemed flat here.

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