ARGENTINA 4-1 SPAIN, Buenos Aires, 07/09/10
Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Aguera (Argentina); Llorente (Spain)
Spain are no longer the best team in the world. Argentina impressively won this entertaining match 4-1 to take the UFWC title and become Unofficial Football World Champions.
The match had been arranged to commemorate Argentinian independence from Spain. And, 200 years later, this latest band of Spanish conquistadors were sent packing by an impressive Argentinian side.
Argentina’s caretaker coach Sergio Batista has restored Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti to the international side, with the pair having been ignored by Diego Maradona for the World Cup campaign. Against Spain, Batista went with a front three of Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi. All three scored.
Spain’s Vincente Del Bosque dropped Fernando Torres, and played David Villa as a lone striker, supported by Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Andres Iniesta. Xavi was left on the bench alongside Torres. Crucially, Del Bosque also left Iker Casillas on the bench, playing Pepe Reina in goal. It would be a match to forget for the Liverpool keeper.
Argentina coach Sergio Batista revealed before kick-off that he had forbidden Lionel Messi from dropping back into his own half, ordering him to concentrate on attacking Spain. And, after just 10 minutes, Messi led a counter-attack from the halfway line, exchanged passes with Tevez, and chipped the ball over Reina into the Spanish net.
Gonzalo Higuain made it 2-0 to Argentina four minutes later, racing onto a Tevez through ball to score from a tight angle.
Amazingly, on 34 minutes it was 3-0, with Reina slipping when dealing with a backpass, and Tevez nipping in to capitalise on a horrible goalkeeping error.
Spain actually played some decent football, and David Villa twice hit the woodwork from long range, but Argentina’s clinical attacking play had prevailed, and it was 3-0 at half-time.
Del Bosque made two changes during the break, taking off Silva and – surprisingly – Villa, and bringing on Fernando Llorente and Jesus Navas. Shortly into the second half, Reina was replaced by Victor Valdes. Xavi came on for Fabregas soon after.
Argentina waited until the 60th minute to make a change – with Tevez replaced by Angel Di Maria. And Di Maria put the ball in the net with his first touch, rifling home from a Messi through ball – only to be (correctly) flagged offside.
Both sides made further substitutions as the game drew to a close, with Kun Aguero coming on for Argentina, and Pedro and Santi Cazorla for Spain. Cazorla had a couple of half chances for Spain, forcing two good saves from Argentina keeper Sergio Romero.
Spain finally got some reward for a much improved second half performance with six minutes left to play, when a neat move was finished off by Llorente. Cazorla then had a shot cleared off the line.
But it was Argentina who scored the next goal, with Aguero heading home a Garbiel Heinze cross.
The match ended 4-1 – an open and enjoyable game, in which both sides played their part, but Spain paid the price for failing to keep a lid on Argentina’s forward line in the first half.
So Argentina are the new UFWC champions. This was the country’s 51st title match victory. Argentina’s next match is a friendly in Japan on 8 October, and that’s followed by a clash with Brazil in November. We’ll be tracking the progress of the new champions right here over the coming weeks.