Sunday, August 17

La Albiceleste Defend

Getting into the National Stadium at Brasilia feels like getting into a college game. Argentine fans are a vocal and visible minority, and are being tolerated well. Streaming in through the barricades, they chant
        Olé, olé olé olé, Die-go, Die-go! (i.e. Maradona, their patron saint.)
to which the Brazilians (supporting Belgium today) roar
        Bel. Zi. Ca. Bel. Zi. Ca.

We seat ourselves, here to watch two teams trying not to lose.

Since the injury to Angel di María earlier in the World Cup (he is playing today, but barely), coach Sabella moved Argentina to 4-4-1-1, with Lionel Messi behind striker Gonzalo Higuaín. Ezequiel Lavezzi plays a supporting role from one wing, everyone else defends. Argentina’s fullbacks and midfielders stay back more than almost anyone else’s in the tournament. This is not beautiful, but effective. To beat a deep-seated defense the rival coach will add to the attackers, but that is precisely the trap Sabella wishes to set. Draw the enemy out, and suddenly Messi might be counterattacking in a sprint across an open midfield, or feeding the ball up to di María or Higuaín.

Vincent Kompany loses the ball to Mascherano; who passes on to Messi.  No. 10 dribbles past de Bruyne and Fellaini before finding di María, whose pass into the area is deflected off Vertonghen. That flick bass-ackwards Belgium’s defense who were zagging as the ball zigs, and Higuaín’s sweeping shot rockets from the edge of the area across Courtois and into the corner;  after the match he dedicates the winner to Alfredo di Stéfano, critical in Madrid after a heart attack.

Note for future world cup matches: you will definitely be able to get scalped tickets if the home team is not playing.  Just wait till the starting whistle, prices will collapse to 25% of face value within 5 minutes of kickoff.

The word olé itself, as a Spanish exclamation, is thought to be derived from the Arabic invocation of Allah, the oath والله (w-állah, “by Allah!”), from Andalusian times.

Olé, olé olé olé, Die-go, Die-go!


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