This match saw top of the table Argentina take on Greece, who technically still had a chance of qualifying from Group B. Maradona, keen not to be outdone by Raymond Domenech’s mental antics earlier in the day made some changes to his team. El Diego submitted his team sheet without a single goalkeeper named, but FIFA informed him this was against regulations so he chose to drop tournament top scorer Gonzalo Higuain from the starting 11 instead. Greece came into this tie with no hope of actually winning the game, instead wheeling in their team bus and parking it in front of the goal they were to defend, hoping no-one would notice. Alas, kick off was delayed when the referee noticed the 30 metre long vehicle just before kick-off and ordered that it was removed from the playing surface.
The game started with both sides playing tentatively in the first 10 minutes. Greece clearly setting out their stall to defend and channel balls into striker Gorgios Samaras, who was already looking like a very isolated figure up front. Argentina looked happy enough to play the ball around and look for an opening in the Greek defence. Veron and Aguero both testing Alexandros Tzorvas in quick succession but the defence held firm, Samaras meanwhile executing a perfect slide tackle on the left corner flag, leaving his opponent limp and lifeless on the sideline.
After half an hour Greece were sticking to their game plan, they were happy to soak up the Argentine pressure and look to score on the break or from a set piece, where they were on average 7 inches taller than their South American counterparts. Although they were being dominated in terms of possession Greece were looking lively when Samaras got a chance to run at the hap-hazard centre back Martin Demechelis. Argentina meanwhile began to look more threatening in the attacking third, with ‘keeper Tzorvas looking more like a vampire than a footballer as he struggled to deal with crosses. Just before half time both Maxi Rodriguez and Lionel Messi drew good saves but failed to give their side a lead as the teams headed for the dressing room level at 0-0.
Within moments of the restart Samaras picked up where he’d left off in the first half, leaving Demichelis with his shorts round his ankles and smashed a fierce shot just past the far post. Argentina had been warned. Diego Milito, who had been anonymous for the previous hour almost headed his side in front but the ball in escaped him. Maradona continued to look frustrated and sought to change things bringing on Di Maria for Maxi Rodriguez, freshening up the left sided attacking threat, as Greece looked to sure up their defensive 8-1-1 formation. Messi looked to take out his frustration from a free kick and smashed the ball goalwards, imagining Kostas Katsouranis’ face on the ball and forcing Tzorvas into an impressive save. Following a couple of comical defensive errors that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a circus clown show, Argentina finally broke the deadlock. Centre back Demichelis pouncing on a rebound following a corner and lashed the ball into the top corner, Maradona celebrated like he had just been told the price of cocaine had plummeted.
Greece were now dead and buried and all they could do was continue to try and frustrate Argentina as the game drew to a close. Lionel Messi gave the commentators a legitimate opportunity to shout his name as he skinned three defenders and fired against the post, unfortunate not to find the back of the net. With only seconds remaining Messi forced another great save from Tzorvas and Martin “Saint” Palermo site footed home for a second. The stadium erupted and Maradona launched himself into the supporters, crowd surfing his way to full time, causing several people to receive medical attention for sprained wrists and almost crushing a small child when he finally came to rest in Row P.
Match Statistics (Powered by Optajoke)
87 – Mick McCarthy described Greece’s spoiling tactics as “professionalism” 87 times during the game. Pundit.
3 – A frustrated Lionel Messi dislocated his shoulder 3 times gesturing to the referee about his treatment from the Greek defence. Strop.
0 – The number of bets placed worldwide on Martin Demichelis to score first for Argentina. Punt.