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Argentina and Brazil move into quarters

Here’s a breakdown of the Arg vs Australia & Brazil vs South Korea Round of 16 clashes



Aus versus the Wizard

Spectators and fans raised their eyebrows as Argentina began their Round of 16 clashes against Australia with a big change in their line-up. Coach Scaloni had chosen Sevilla man Papu Gomez ahead of an injured Angel Di Maria for the midfield.

Australia too had some surprises up its sleeves. The ‘Socceroos’ (Australia National team) lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. The focus on having a compact defense was obvious, since this was the formation that had frustrated the Blue and White in their opening group game.

The game began with Argentine dominance. Akin to the Polish clash, Argentina made swift passes and rotated the ball flank to flank. With the high press game working well, ‘La Albiceleste’ (Argentina national team) had an unbelievable 12 second ball recovery rate.  

Australia however were in no mood to be awed with ‘Latino magia’ (Latino American magic) as they played a highly physical contest with the South American champions. Their strategy worked well until the Australian midfield began shouldering Messi during the throw-in in the 34th minute, shouting loud expletives. The seven time Ballon d’Or winner, who is used to opposition players trying to get into his skin, chose to get on with the play and replied with his feet as only he can do.

A long pass to Mac Allister followed by a quick one two with Nicolas Otamendi, then spotting the gap and then sliding in a perfectly measured shot into the left corner of the goal, that also nutmegged the defender as Australian goalie Mat Ryan, helplessly looked on

 In the second half, Julian Alvarez got possession from a defensive blunder by Mat Ryan and put the ball in the back of the net to give Argentina a two goal lead. Aditi Chauhan, Indian national team goalkeeper and commentator perfectly summarised the Argentine game style in two words: “Rhythmic football.”

The Socceroos however were far from done as a power shot from Craig Goodwin caught Enzo Fernandes off guard resulting in a heavy deflection and an own goal.

Brazil versus South Korea — 4 goals in 36 minutes

A goal in seven minutes, two in 13, three in 29, and four in 36. This isn’t a geometric progression example in a Math class. This is the Brazilian way of playing futbol.

Brazil and South Korea have met seven times previously, with all the fixtures being international friendlies. But this is their first ever meeting at a competitive tournament and it could not have been better.

Remember Portugal vs South Korea? The Korean Tigers snatched victory from the jaws of elimination, as their captain and Tottenham Hotspur FC superstar Son Heung-min supplied a crazy nutmeg assist to Hwang Hee-chan who came running from behind at a lightning pace to outrun the Portuguese defender and outscore them in the extra time. 

Seeing him wrap himself in the flag of his country amidst a jubilant home crowd was a delight for every Asian. It was a moment of pride as the South Korean side pierced their way through a closed door into the Round of 16.

But the Brazilian Samba seemed to operate at a faster pace than the Korean Tiger’s sprawl as they conceded a goal within the first seven minutes of the game. Raphinha made a lethal cross which despite being missed by Neymar Jr but made its way smoothly to an unmarked Vinicius Jr who with all his composure selected a sweet spot in the back of the net.

Richarlison was fouled on the edge of the Korean ‘D’ which led to a penalty. The man for whose return the world was waiting, stepped up to take the spot kick. With his trademark stutter and look at the goalie, Neymar Jr slid the ball to the right side of Kim Seung-gyu (South Korean goalkeeper) who chose to stay at the center.

 However, the ‘Joga Bonito’ (beautiful play) moment came from the wonder boy Richarlison, who controlled the rebound from a Casemiro lob in on his head, juggling it a few times to the irritation of the Korean No 6, then a quick pass to Marquinhos followed by a sharp through ball from Captain Thiago Silva, the No 9 ended the move with the third goal. Paqueta made the scoreline four-nil for Brazil within the first half as he squared in a wonderful lob from Vinicius Jr.

Brazil seemed to be dancing away their woes on the pitch. Confidence in the ‘Selecao’ team had upsurged as their No 10 returned from an ankle injury.

However, Korea returned a goal as Paik Seung-ho’s delightful half-volley goal in the 76th minute was a strong reminder that South Koreans won’t yield to a dismal defeat. His strike beating Liverpool’s Alisson Becker was a beautiful moment of Korean mettle.

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]