Australia v Argentina by Thomas Esamie

Argentina 2 - Australia 0

1988 - Australia 4 - Argentina 1
1992 - Argentina 2 - Australia 0
1993 - Australia 1 - Argentina 1
1993 - Argentina 1 - Australia 0

and now the fifth meeting of these two countries on the 30th of June 1995 in the new Quilmes Stadium in Buenos Aires. The sides lined up as follows

OZ : Kalac, Ivanovic, Tobin, Horvat, van Blerk, Polak, Wade, Zelic, Lazaridis Corica, Markovski.

ARG: Cristante, Zanetti, Ayala, Caceres, Chamot, Simeone, Astrada, Gallardo, Berti, Batistuta, Balbo.

For those you too impatient to bother with my rantings the score was

Argentina 2 - 0 Australia
(Abel Balbo 7)
(Gabriel 'Batigol' Batistuta 91)

Well the stadium was full (~25000) and they were just as vociferous as I remember them. Argentina, as expected, came out with all guns blazing with a point to prove ahead of the Copa America and a standard to uphold after the 6-0 shellacking of Slovakia...or was it Slovenia. Well one of the two.

Argentina seem to have found some solid midfield cohesion where, instead of everyone passing to the Nose of God, they had options all over the place and controlled posession. It was strange then that the goal from Abel Balbo should come from a clearance by Cristaldo the goalkeeper. The ball bounced beyond a duelling pair of midfielders and Balbo, ever the oppertunist, swivelled on his left foot while twisting to strike the ball chest high with his right foot and send it over the somewhat stranded Kalac and into the goal via the underside of the crossbar. It was all rather sudden and decidedly English of the Argentines to score in this manner and I dare say the Australians did not expect it.

Argentina with the goal to their credit continued to attack but sometime after the 20th minute the Australians got a grip on the match and began to take things up to the Argies and towards the end of the half were having by far the better of play. The turning point of the match came in the 33rd minute when a penalty was awarded to the Australians after Batistuta decided he wasn't tall enough to stop a corner from getting to the head of an Australian player so he used his hand to clear it away. The penalty was awarded, which was a nice surprise, but no card was shown (at least none that I saw, nor the TV producer, nor the commentator). Anyway Paul Wade steps up to take the shot, Cristante stands rooted to the spot and the shot hits the goalies left post. A good Aussie penalty just like Alex Tobin's effort against Colombia. Still there is a follow up and Ned Zelic puts the ball into the net but Markovski was ruled to have encroached on the area before the shot was taken and the goal was disallowed. Neato!

Australia continued some good form but did not seriously threaten the Argentine goal and much of this was to be expected. Australia did not play one recognised striker, well maybe Jonesy but that's it. In addition there was *1* full time professional footballer, Ned Zelic, on the field for Australia and it showed. Ned was superb and copped an enourmous number of fouls for his trouble. While some of his Australian based teammates are also full time players they don't actually _play_ full time and there's a big difference between mixing it with part-timers and full time pros. Still this is beside the point and Australia had done phenomenally well to hold out the Argentines after the 7th minute goal threatened to open the floodgates.

After the interval Argentina must have got a bit of a geeing up from te coach (not to mention some of the unappreciative crowd who seemed a little dissatisfied about being only 1 goal up). On balance I would say the Argentines deserved the win, but only narrowly even though they had the bulk of scoring chances. Kalac performed very well in the Australian goal with a point blank save and a free kick palmed away from goal the highlights of his game. After 16 minutes of the second half the Argentines got a penalty of their own when Kalac was ruled to have brought down a player (I think it was Balbo) in attempting to clean up a through ball. I've seen these things let go in other games, the replay showed that Kalac did get the ball but then again he did also get the forward, the player concerned made sure of that. Then two amazing things happened. Young Gallardo took the penalty ahead of more likely contenders like Batistuta and Blabo himself, and Gallardo then sent the shot high over the crossbar Baggio style.

This in itself is perhaps less interesting than the fact that _every_ time Gallardo touched the ball after that event the _entire_ crowd would boo and whistle. It was amazing, I was watching a bright young, somewhat inexperienced, star slowly crumble under the pressure of the home crowd and become an inept second rate footballer. So much so that he was replaced by another young star from the Argentine U20 squad (Daniel?) Ortega. For the Australians the tireless Markovski was replaced by Spiteri, Wade by Marth and Polak by Muscat all in a 12 minute interval 11 minutes into the second half. None of these changes did anything significant, in particular I question the bringing on of Andrew Marth. Sure Wadey is no great player but Stabber is really no better and surely we had some young fellow wecould have blooded rather than sticking in one old fogey for another.

Argentina got their second goal late in the game and it bore some striking similarities to the game in Buenos Aires some 19 months earlier, although this time Batistuta was actually aiming to shoot at goal. However Tobin did get a touch of the ball and had he not done so it would probably not have gone in since Kalac had it covered. It was a rather disappointing end to a fine match in which Argentina showed they are far better off without Maradona and have some fine talent to stretch their time at the top for a few more years yet.

For Australia Ned Zelic was by far the best player and for Argentina Zanetti and Ortega when he was on were quite outstanding, but since the general level of Argentina's players was higher it was harder to tell :-). Australia are now likely to play another South American side in October, namely Brazil. Depending on what sort of a side we can cobble together I think we're a good chance of winning. Meanwhile New Zealand are enjoying an odyssey around the Americas themselves with a 2-2 draw with Uruguay. This is somewhat disconcerting for two reasons.

1. How are the Kiwis (who really suck) able to get these games and
2. How did they pull out such a decent result.

My conclusion is that the Kiwis are out to get us and that Uruguay are not going to win the Copa America.

Oh and before I forget the Australian Institute of Sport side played against the Argentine U17 side and came out with a 2-2 draw. Maybe we should have used some of their strikers in the main game.

Written by Thomas Esamie