Saturday, July 01, 2006

Argentina: Style in defeat...

Running late for a dinner appointment, I switched off yesterday's Argentina-Germany match right after the last penalty kick. Apparently, I missed the best part:
The World Cup erupted at the Olympiastadion here last night in scenes that mixed violence and delirium. As Germany began celebrating the 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Argentina which takes them into the semi-finals, a mass brawl broke out among the players in the centre circle. The drama continued afterwards when the Argentina coach Jose Pekerman said that he would be standing down from his position.

But it is the fighting that is set to be investigated by Fifa. There were counter-accusations about what initiated the trading of punches but Michael Ballack, the Germany captain, gave the most detailed explanation. He said that as each of Germany's four penalty-takers walked to the box they were abused by Argentina's players waiting on the half-way line.

"The first provocation came from Argentina," said Ballack. "They were shouting at our players as they were going to the penalty spot. They shouted something in Spanish and we didn't understand what they were saying. But they were definitely trying to influence our strikers.

"After Tim Borowski scored [to make it 4-2] he put his finger to his lips to tell them to shut up. They were a bit mad at that. After that I didn't see much but I saw one or two lying on the ground. I didn't see what happened."

Germany's coach Jürgen Klinsmann also tried to say he did not see anything despite being in the middle of it all. Klinsmann had been seen trying to separate Torsten Frings and Argentina's Fabricio Coloccini as they squared up. Maxi Rodriguez was seen to catch Bastian Schweinsteiger with a punch to the back of the head. There were further confrontations involving Gabriel Heinze and Germany's general manager Oliver Bierhoff, and Frings and the Argentina captain Juan Pablo Sorin.

Punches were thrown, though it is believed that Germany's centre-half Per Mertesacker was felled by a kick from the Argentinian squad member Leandro Cufré, who was shown a red card after the melee. Bierhoff said he intervened when he saw Mertesacker go down. "It's regrettable what happened after that. It seems that supporters have learned how to behave at these big games but maybe the sportsmen haven't"


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