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Positive Argentines Win Thrilling Open to 'Group of Death'

With no Leo Messi, no Carlos Tevez, and about a minute's worth of Pablo Aimar, Argentina was able to produce a solid win over a very tough Ivory Coast anyway. Two very good first-half goals from the supply-line of Juan Roman Riquelme put the favorites comfortably ahead at halftime, a lead Argentina looked certain to maintain until Chelsea striker Didier Drogba scored a deserved-goal with 10 minutes to spare. Riquelme and goal-scorer Javier Saviola, the man who's presumably keeping Messi et al out of the first team, were the standout performers for the Argentines, who became lazy in the last 15 minutes of the game, giving possession away cheaply in midfield. All in all, The Times said Argentina deserved its victory against the Ivory Coast, runner-up at this year's Africa Nations Cup. Of course, Argentina famously crashed out of the 2002 tournament in Japan and Korea after winning its first match against Nigeria but managing only a point from its final two matches  not enough to progress to the last sixteen. Now it has the upper hand in the Group of Death, where it still has to play Serbia & Montenegro and the Netherlands. For Ivory Coast, these games carry a broader significance: progression to the next round might further the possibility of peace in a nation that's been divided by civil war since 2002. Yesterday they took two steps back, and will need to do a better job finishing their chances against the Netherlands on Friday.

Read the whole story at The New York Times »

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