Football: Argentina's bright future

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The Independent Online
France 0

Argentina 2

TWO second-half goals by a classy Argentina side were enough to secure a 2-0 victory in the final of the 26th international Under-21 tournament in Toulon.

Argentina also showed that they are quick learners, as they reversed a 3-0 defeat by the host country, France, in a group match earlier in the week.

For the French, it was a bitter disappointment to produce their worst display at such a crucial time. They were a pale shadow of the side who had been so impressive in the tournament up until the final.

But that is to take nothing away from Argentina, who displayed commendable ability in closing down the French and then showed superior skills in being able to keep the ball and use it.

In a dull first half Argentina always appeared to have the edge with their short, sharp passing game complementing incisive precision football in and around the French penalty area.

As the game wore on, the first goal became increasingly crucial and it was the South Americans who scored early in the second half. The French goalkeeper, Michael Landreau, appeared to be under no pressure as he prepared to clear the ball but he waited too long and was harried into an error. His attempted kick was blocked by Francisco Guerrero and the ball fell kindly to the striker, who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net.

Argentina put the game beyond any doubt when they scored a second shortly afterwards, and again there was a slice of misfortune about the goal. From a right-wing corner kick, a shot by the defender Walter Samuel took a wicked deflection and went into the net.

The two goals may have had a certain amount of fortune about them, but there was no doubt Argentina were worthy victors. As an attacking force, France rarely penetrated a resolute Argentine defence and their keeper, Albano Bizarri, had a comfortable night in goal.

France threw men forward in an effort to reduce the arrears, but it was Argentina who looked more likely to increase their lead. Luciano Galetti almost scored a third goal when he breached the host country's defence, but he was ruled offside by the linesman. Next, Guan Riquelme, from all of 50 yards, tried an audacious chip which just went wide with the home keeper off his line.

Riquelme's outstanding contributions for Argentina during the whole tournament earned the young man from Boca Juniors the player of the tournament award.

Towards the end, Argentina attempted to kill the game and just kept the ball, frustrating the French in the process.

Argentina have shown that they have a marvellous crop of youngsters ready to progress into the senior team. Being the world champions at their age group, they were under pressure to win this tournament and they now go back home with a few more friends and their reputation enhanced. To come halfway around the world and to outplay the host nation and give such a polished performance is no mean feat.

With the World Cup just a month away, all eyes will now be on Argentina's senior squad to see if they can reproduce the same sort of style.