Vamos Argentina!

A Kiwieye view of Argentinas 2002 World Cup Campaign.

Game 1 - Pool match Vs Nigeria



Heading out of the city with my girlfriend late Saturday afternoon the low grey skies match the dull apartment blocks as the motorway sweeps past windows, balconies with battered plants, and washing hung hopefully out to dry. The blanket of cloud brings a gloomy air to the concrete landscape, suffocating the city like Argentines are being suffocated by an endless barrage of bad news and emergency measures.

We head west towards a town called Lobos, 100km from Buenos Aires. Lobos is the birthplace of 3-time populist President Juan Domingo Peron and this weekend is celebrating its Bicentenary. There will be traditional celebrations as well as open-air markets, and a fireworks display; it feels like a pretty good place to witness the start of Argentina’s World Cup campaign.

As we drive through flooded fields the cloud gets lower, the mist thicker, and light rain is falling, visibility is almost zero. Its hard to know what’s out there, all we can do is keep going. This must be what many Argentines feel right now, they don’t know where they are, are uncertain what the future holds, and are desperately trying to stay on course - but where too?

Its dark when we arrive in Lobos but we still have a few hours to kill until the 2.30am kick-off. We walk the streets looking for a good place to watch the game; we find a bar that offers an “all for $2 pesos crisis special” as well as a big screen to watch the game. Its pretty packed inside, mainly teenagers and students, the big screen offers a fuzzy image and when it gets worse a chorus of jeers and whistles breaks out. Bar staff in an attempt to improve things install another TV, luckily for us its close by.

Nigeria are a feared and respected opponent, Argentina struggled to beat them 2-1 in the 1994 finals and lost to them in the 1996 Olympic games final. Expectation is high but nobody wants to burden the team, fans concur that the only thing that matters is a win.

The game starts well for Argentina with Juan Sebastian Veron putting precise balls through for Ariel Ortega to dazzle the Nigerians with his dizzy runs, the mid field looks strong and the defence solid. Nigeria breaks out a couple of times but is thwarted by good work from rookie goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero. At halftime its 0-0 and everyone applauds the effort.

Argentina is quickly on attack in the second half, they look focused, and decisive, 5 clear chances are created before Veron fires in a curving corner and from a very sharp angle Gabriel Batistuta heads in his 10th “Batigol” in World Cup matches. The bar erupts in celebration, papers are thrown, neighbours hugged, and drinks downed. It’s the crowning moment of Argentina’s perfect pressure, you could feel the goal coming, it was just a question of who and when. After the goal Argentina eases off a little, substitutions are made, chances are created but not finished and the game ends 1-0. Celebrations, singing, dancing, and shouting break out again, Argentina is on its way, a positive and solid first step. Plenty to work on and plenty to be happy about.

Outside everyone congregates at Lobos’ central plaza, cars drive round and round tooting their horns, everyone is jumping and shouting, young and old, flags are waved, its noisy and fun. The weather has caused the cancellation of the fireworks and traditional celebrations but it doesn’t matter much, there is plenty to celebrate.

Its the second of June, and the third time that Argentina has started its World Cup with a win on this day, the 2 previous occasions were 1978 and 1986, and Argentina was crowned champion on both occasions. 36 Million Argentines are hoping the trend will continue.

Argentina now look forward confidently to their next game against traditional rival England. In the plaza at Lobos they are shouting and jumping “Whoever doesn’t jump is English”

Some of the clouds have been blown away, and we catch glimpses of the stars. A positive first step forward tonight on the long and important road to victory.




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