Villaflor: Argentina’s coach talks about beauty

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Thursday, July 10, 2014


WHILE everyone else was feeling sorry for World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil after their 7-1 semifinal meltdown against Germany, an introspective Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella held a different view of the result.

“Seven-one is not a normal result between two world footballing powers, Sabella said. “But football can be like that. Sometimes things happen that you don’t expect, and that is why it is beautiful.”

Sabella made the statement at a press conference in Sao Paolo last Wednesday, and one can only imagine what went through his mind at that time, just hours before his La Albiceleste would clash against a formidable Dutch team. Surely it had nothing to do with beauty.

True enough, the second semifinal was far from being a joy to watch. Having learned the lessons of the previous day, the Argentines and the Dutch played with extreme caution. It was a chess match between two tactical geniuses – Sabella and Dutch counterpart Louis van Gaal – and you know how chess matches go.

At least Sabella’s side carried a more attacking mindset with a 4-3-3 formation as opposed to van Gaal’s highly defensive 5-3-2. Still, the players and the teams really didn’t take any chances, sacrificing creativity up front in favor of a no-frills defense. The result was – in the commentator’s words – “a barren 120 minutes” of football.

Long story short, Argentina won on penalties and advanced to the final against Germany, a renewed rivalry in which both sides split their two previous final encounters in 1986 and 1990.

More recently in the last World Cup, Joachim Loew’s Germany humbled Diego Maradona’s side, 4-0, in the quarterfinals. The core of that German team is still intact, while several Argentine players will play this Monday morning with a bad memory of that clinical drubbing.

On paper, you’d expect another bloodbath a la Brazil at the expense of the Albiceleste: Die Mannschaft has racked up an incredible 17 goals.

Compare this to Argentina’s paltry seven goals scored. Logic would tell you to put your money on Germany lifting its fourth World Cup title.

Argentina winning its third? Unlikely, the pundits would insist.

Yet this sport has a history of turning logic on its head and punditry along with it.

“Football is illogical,” Sabella did mention.

As long as it stays that way – illogical – the possibility of an upset remains, while the underdog’s quest, in this case Argentina’s, carries more meaning. And that’s the beauty of it.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 11, 2014.

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