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A surprise draw

Spain, the top-ranked national team in the world, faced Finland, which is... 83rd?, and all they got was a lousy point. This match was almost a caricature of the sort of upset that Spain (and Barcelona) risk when playing less skilled teams who park the bus in front of goal. With something upwards of 80% possession, Spain's forwards could not break through the wall of ten tall Finns to score, and their long range shots were mostly off-target. Only Sergio Ramos, wearing the captain's armband in his 100th match with the national team, was able to put Spain on the scoresheet by heading in a corner kick in the 49th minute.

The Ramos celebrates his goal

But once one up, the Spaniards couldn't secure the win with a second goal. Del Bosque used all three substitutions, and Alvaro Negredo did provide some extra height, energy, and determination as a 9, but he failed to make the most of his chances. And then heartbreak: in the only Finnish shot on target, Teemu Pukki put it past Victor Valdes at the end of a fast counterattack to tie the match with ten minutes to go. The Spaniards became more and more desperate, with little David Silva booked for a fight after trying to kick the ball out from under the Finnish keeper, but to no avail. Final score: Spain 1- Finland 1.

Spain will face France on Tuesday and must win in order to secure automatic qualification for World Cup 2014 as leader of their group. With leftback Jordi Alba now injured, David Silva suspended, and Xavi Hernandez still questionable as he recovers from a hamstring injury, it won't be easy.

A deserved win

Argentina, on the other hand, enjoyed a much more open match at home against Venezuela. They are looking better and better, with excellent ball control and possession play approaching that of Spain, but more directness in attack. Leo Messi partnered beautifully with Gonzalo Higuain, setting him up for two goals and scoring a powerful penalty shot of his own between them. And Argentina didn't falter in defense either, with Javier Mascherano in particular playing with the fierceness of Puyol to regain the ball whenever Venezuela attempted to mount an attack. Final score: Argentina 3 - Venezuela 0.

Argentina are at the top of their group and will face Bolivia on Tuesday.

Javier Mascherano, Pocho Lavezzi, and Leo Messi after the match

Hope for the future

La Rojita, the Spain U-21 team, played Norway in a friendly. With six Barcelona players, including Cristian Tello, who scored two goals in the first 16 minutes, they secured a 5-2 win.The U-21 championships will be played in Israel in June.

Barca bbs Marc Muniesa, Cristian Tello, and Marc Bartra


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
"Argentina are at the top of their group and will face Bolivia on Tuesday."

There is only one "group".
Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:22 pm (UTC)
Um... I don't see how I implied that there were more groups within South America.
Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe that's my English as 2nd language understanding then, but we never call the WC qualifiers a group here, since there aren't any other groups. For us it implies other groups with only top spots going on, sorry.
Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
But isn't it the case that only the teams in the top spots in the South American group will go on to the WC? (Except for Brazil qualifying automatically as hosts of course.)
Mar. 23rd, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, top 4 plus 5th onto a playoff match, but what we mean by groups here is when there are several and top 2 advances to the next stage, like in the WC and most qualifiers. I had just never heard the Conmebol qualifier called a group before - we just say Argentina is on top of the "tabela" or the "classificação/clasificación". Sorry again for the linguistic mix-up.
Mar. 23rd, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
You're right, and most articles I've been reading say that they're at the top of the table or top of the standings. So I probably should have just said that.

It would be more fun to talk about the match itself!
Mar. 23rd, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
Oh you're right, but I'm super busy with my dissertation and mostly had it only in the background of my studying :(
Mar. 23rd, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
As you know, I enjoyed watching Argentina beat Venezuala to a pulp. Even though that was what the Venezualans were trying to do to the other team! God, those falls looked painful.
Mar. 23rd, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
I hate it when players use physical intimidation and violence to try to compensate for insufficient skills. No wonder Messi got so mad even though they were winning. That sort of thing happens to the small Spain and Barcelona players, too.
Mar. 23rd, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
It makes me even happier that Argentina won. The only American sport I can think of that can operate that way consistently is ice hockey.

Messi is a great team captain, he keeps the whole team together. Although it was funny to see him get pissed (as I said, like an angry toddler).
Mar. 24th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
I do think that he makes a good captain on the pitch - he is the natural playmaker, so he can direct the offense (at least) very well. Dealing with the press in that capacity is not so much his forte, although he's getting better.

I have seen some pretty funny incidents - for example, when he gets tripped in the penalty box and then just sits there on his butt looking up as if he can't believe that play is still going on and he isn't getting his penalty shot.

Oh, also, there is this hilarious example of him defending David Villa from mean Madrid players (although obviously edited by a Madrid fan to hide the fact that David was stomped on with cleats while he was on the ground - YOWCH). He bounces right off Sergio Ramos and keeps on coming.

Edited at 2013-03-24 12:05 am (UTC)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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