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More Than a Nil-Nil Draw

And so it had to be that the most anticipated match of the first round, the only game the experts might have ventured to call a preamble to the final, ended in a drab 0-0 draw. For those looking for flair and goals and lots of running and excitement, Argentina versus the Netherlands was a disappointment indeed. But for those looking to get an inkling of what Argentina and the Netherlands are all about, this proved to be an impressive exhibition of depth and sound defensive tactics. Argentina Coach Jose Pekerman finally let loose Leo Messi and Carlos Tevez from the start last night, and each proved to be a definite handful for the Dutch defense when allowed to turn and find space. That said, they didn't quite work as a pair: individually each was able to bother the Dutch back four, especially when Riquelme came in for support, but there was little in the way of combination play between the front strikers, who's playing styles are perhaps a bit too similar to play alongside one another. Take nothing away from the Dutch defense, who all night long denied Riquelme the opportunity to find the killer pass. In attack the Netherlands never looked like scoring, as Argentina's replacement back-line (save for the excellent Roberto Ayala) defended doggedly, remaining sharp throughout. No goals, but no errors, either. Just glimpses of what's still to come.

Read the whole story at The New York Times »

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