1. Messi & Ten Others
The undisputed best player of the world wears number 10 for the albiceleste. Having Messi on your side is as intimidating as having a couple of dragons when you campaign to dominate a fictional universe. If there is any doubt about the decisiveness of this pocket-sized beast, here is exhibit number 1: 65th minute of the match against Bosnia.
Exhibit number 2: 90th minute of the match against Iran.
Exhibit number 3: 118th minute of the match against Switzerland.
He is not the one that does the scoring but it’s as if he is. That run and that pass, 12 after almost two hours of playing under the Brazilian sun… a dragon, I tell you.
2. Chiquito Romero
The narrative of the Argentina team has been “Messi & the others”. But some of the other ten players have been performing much better than many expected. 6′ 4″ goalkeeper Chiquito Romero, for example, has quieted critics pretty emphatically. After games where he was tested lightly, in the semis he stepped up big time: he stopped two of Holland’s penalties and with that he stepped into the shoes of another Argentine legend: Sergio Goicoechea. Goico stopped Italy’s final two penalty kicks in the semifinals of Italy 90.
Javier Mascherano, a bulldog who seems to complete every pass he attempts and to intercept all of the opponent’s passes, might be able to do anything. Just search Twitter for the #maschefacts hashtag, and you’ll find out. On the field he has been impressively effective. He left it all in the semis. He was knocked out after contesting a header, but a few minutes after doing that mummy thing with the arms, he was ordering the game on his side. And later, when sliding to a point-blank strike by Robben, this happened.
Some unforgettable words from Mascherano: “I spread out my anus in that last tackle, that’s why I felt so much pain”
— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 10, 2014
Sabella has not been a favorite of the sporting press in Argentina. Moreover, he had been demolished by most of the Argentine media as being a mere puppet to Messi’s whims, at least until the semis. Now, the critics are less vitriolic and more collected –it is hard to accuse a guy of managerial ineptitude when his team is about to play the World Cup Final. In any case, Sabella is a discreet kind of guy. He takes his job seriously, even if others don’t.
He is not given to the sideline exuberance and tactical insanity of El Piojo. However, Sabella is a gifted slapstickstitian in his own right.
Someone please make a Sabella Watching His Players Tumblr.
Everything seems to be lining up. This is the third time Argentina meets Germany in a World Cup final. The first was in Mexico, i.e. on Latin-American soil, where they won 3-1. Then, the second came in the next World Cup in Italy, i.e., the Old World, and Argentina pitifully lost thanks (at least in part) to a Mexican referee of Uruguayan origins. Now, being that Brazil is still part of Latin America, this should be Argentina’s cup.
They are historical rivals; watching these two play has been a geopolitical version of staring at two neighbors fighting. In every way possible, they have been jabbing at each other. Argentina has been trolling fans in Rio since before the Cup started. Brazilians have paraded Maradona’s coffin; Argentinians have done the same with Neymar’s vertebrae; Brazilians have cut Messi in half; and now, because of the Mineraço against Germany, Argentina has the upper hand.