Argentina made clear their intention to take the World Cup from neighbours Brazil as they destroyed Serbia and Montenegro 6-0 in Gelsenkirchen yesterday afternoon.
The two-time winners gave a masterclass in passing and movement, with the highlight being a goal which should be mentioned in the same reverent tones as Brazil’s fourth in the 1970 final against Italy. After 23 passes with Serbia unable to get near the ball, Hernan Crespo flicked a sublime backheel to Esteban Cambiasso who netted Argentina’s second.
Two goals from Maxi Rodriguez either side of Cambiasso’s wonder goal made it 3-0 before the break. Crespo put his own name on the scoresheet in the second half after former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman was dismissed for a late tackle. Serbia’s humilation was complete when substitutes Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi added goals five and six for Jose Pekerman’s side; Serbia had undoubtedly been poor but the manner in which Argentina controlled the game cannot be underestimated. Diego Maradona watched his countrymen cruise into the second phase, with Argentina now favourites to lift the World Cup in Berlin on July 9 if they maintain their current form.
In Group C’s other game, Holland sent Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast side home as they edged past the African side 2-1 in Stuttgart. Goals from Premiership pair Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy put the Dutch in command of the game before Bakari Kone drove home from 25 yards to ensure a tense finish. Despite a great deal of pressure late in the second half, Drogba’s men failed to find an opening as the Dutch held on to set themselves up a group decider with Argentina next Wednesday.
Arjen Robben picked up a questionable booking for diving but was named FIFA Man of the Match, his second award of the tournament. Drogba will miss his team’s final group game against Serbia and Montenegro through suspension after picking up two yellow cards in the tournament.
Today sees more Chelsea players in action as the Czech Republic look to take command of Group E (for a few hours at least) when they face Ghana in Cologne. Petr Cech will be hopeful of keeping his second clean sheet of the tournament; unless the Ghanaians show more composure in front of goal than they did against Italy, the Chelsea keeper should be in for a quiet afternoon. Michael Essien will start for the African World Cup debutants. Elsewhere in the group, Italy take on the U.S.A. in Kaiserslauten this evening.
In Group D, Portugal can book their place in the last sixteen if they beat Iran in Frankfurt this afternoon. Ricardo Carvalho and former Chelsea midfielder Maniche will start for Scolari’s men, for whom Barcelona’s Deco should return having recovered from an ankle injury.