Argentina 6, Serbia-Montenegro 0
By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer
June 16, 2006
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) -- Two-time champion Argentina is starting to sense something special.
Jubilant cries of "Ole, Ole" and "AR-gen-tina, AR-gen-tina" were deafening Friday in FC Schalke's closed-roof stadium, where Argentina routed Serbia-Montenegro 6-0 -- the most lopsided game so far in the World Cup.
"This was an incredible performance," said midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, who scored two first-half goals. Substitute Esteban Cambiasso added another in the first half, with Hernan Crespo and youngsters Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi finishing it off late in the game when Serbia was a man short.
Argentina, which opened the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast, reached the round of 16 with the victory and the Netherlands' 2-1 win against the Ivorians. The Argentines play the Dutch on Wednesday for first place in the Group C.
The loss eliminated the Serbs.
Diego Maradona brought Argentina its last World Cup title in 1986. Now Argentina's chief cheerleader, Maradona was on his feet Friday, swirling the sky-blue and white Argentine jersey above his head and chiming in as one chant was screamed over and over:
"We're going to leave as champions, just like in '86."
Sure, Serbia was undermanned -- key defender Nemanja Vidic was out with a knee injury -- and the team was short-handed the last 25 minutes after Mateja Kezman was sent off. And there was open feuding on the club. Still, this is a team that gave up only one goal in 10 World Cup qualifiers and finished ahead of Spain in its group.
"It's shocking," Serbia-Montenegro coach Ilija Petkovic said of the loss, the worst for the Balkan nation since the former Yugoslavia fell 6-1 to Uruguay in the semifinals of the first World Cup in 1930.
Argentina didn't just score goals Friday, it created several masterpieces.
"When everyone does it together, it's like that," Tevez said.
Tevez, only 22 and a coming star with the 18-year-old Messi, praised the teamwork -- the deft passes and perfectly timed shots. With only four players back from the 2002 team -- humiliated in a first-round ouster -- this side is young and a pure product of coach Jose Pekerman.
Seventeen of the 23-man team played for Pekerman when he coached Argentina to three World Youth championships: 1995, '97 and 2001.
Pekerman, a 56-year-old who looks and talks like a college professor, seemed intentionally low-key.
"We can't take this game as the final measure," he said.
Argentina got a perfect start with Rodriguez scoring in the sixth minute. He finished off his shot at the end of perfect passes down the left side from captain Juan Pablo Sorin and Javier Saviola.
Argentina made it 2-0 in the 31st, a classic goal by Cambiasso, who entered in the 17th minute for injured Luis Gonzalez. Argentina held possession with a string of two dozen passes. At the finish, Saviola found Cambiasso, who passed to Hernan Crespo, who back-heeled the ball for Cambiasso's left-footed finish.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Cambiasso said. "The moment I came in, one of the first balls I touch is a goal.
"We're really working well as a group," he added. "This team is solid and we are very confident. We know we haven't achieved anything yet. We have to stay relaxed on the path we want to take, because it's a long road and it's hardly just begun."
Rodriguez's second involved more grit than guile.
Saviola stole the ball in the right corner, then took a shot breaking for the net. Serb keeper Dragoslav Jevric made a sprawling save. The ball rebounded off the goalpost to his right, with Rodriguez slipping the shot home in the 41st.
To celebrate, he did a flying somersault.
With Serbia down to 10 men after Kezman was sent off in the 65th for a harsh tackle on Javier Mascherano, Crespo broke through in the 78th off a pass from Messi. It was the 18-year-old Messi's first action of the tournament and he punctuated it with the final goal in the 88th.
Tevez scored in the 84th, curling the ball into a wide open net as the Serb defense remained leaky.
On a clear, sunny day, the game was played under a closed roof at FC Schalke's stadium -- a move to give TV a shadow-free field.