Saturday, 23 August 2008

Bronze standard football

After 31 minutes it's a rather strange Olympic football final. The pitch is not great, the atmosphere is muted and the pace is slow, with a flashes of skill mitigated by silly mistakes and a general directionlessness to the play. It's like watching an under 21s international friendly. As might be expected with Riquelme (from Boca Juniors), Mascherano (of Liverpool), Aguero (Independiente) and Messi (Barcelona) in their line-up, Argentina are dominating and Nigeria struggling to use their main asset - pace.

The referee, who has only had one other game in the tournament so far, is having a poor game. He failed to give Argentina a fairly secure penalty in the third minute, failed to play an important throw-in advantage by being off the pace at a crucial moment, failed to book a Nigeria defender for a cynical edge-of-the-area tackle and thinks ten yards is nearer 15. Ouch. And now he's allowed a short 'drinks break'! Don't know if I'll last this one out.

Incidentally, football has been included in every summer Olympiad except 1896 and 1932 as a men's competition sport. The women's game was added to the official programme in 1996. But the seriousness (or otherwise) with which the major European powers treat the tournament is testified by the fact that Italy went out to Belgium. Not a gold standard.

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