Match schedule an advantage for Germany, says Sabella
Argentina’s manager heaps praise on Mascherano as Van Gaal criticises playoff
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero of Argentina saves the penalty of Dutch defender Ron Vlaar. Photograph: Marcelo Sayao / EPA
Alejandro Sabella believes the timing of the respective World Cup semi-finals puts his side at a distinct disadvantage as they pick themselves up after last night’s penalty shoot-out defeat of the Dutch and start to prepare for Sunday’s title decider against three-times champions Germany.
The South Americans have had to play a day later and a half an hour longer than their rivals and Sabella admitted he would have liked more time for his players to recover before what will essentially be a repeat of the 1990 final, when Andreas Brehme’s late penalty gave the then West Germans a dramatic victory in Rome.
“Germany are always a very difficult hurdle to overcome,” said the coach. “It’ll be difficult playing them, and it’s an additional hurdle that they’ve had the extra day and, indeed, could rein themselves in for the second half last night. We’ve had to expend every drop of energy just to play in the World Cup final. So that is an advantage for them.
“The Germans,” he continued, “have always shown physical might, tactical powers, mental force and have always had the players with a certain South American touch... ‘[Felix’] Magath, ‘[Lothar] Matthaeus, [Franz] Beckenbauer. Obviously now they have the option of naturalising foreigners and that has added to their style.
“They know what team-work is. They have been planning for a long time. They know about organisation. The match will be extremely difficult and they haven’t played extra-time when we’ve played two. In 1998 we beat England in extra-time and lost against Holland in the heat of Marseille, and it harmed us. We have to recover and work to make sure we are ready.”
Sergio Romero was named man of the match, presumably on the basis of his two penalty shoot-out saves, for the goalkeeper had precious little else to do. The 59-year-old coach wasn’t arguing but he did pay tribute to the man who had really been his side’s best player over the 120 minutes, Javier Mascherano.
“Mascherano is a symbol,” he said. “An emblem. Reaching the semi-finals took a huge weight from his shoulders. He’s the only player in Argentina with a double Olympic medal to his name. He is an outstanding player, someone who Rafael Benitez and Pep Guardiola have taken on. He’s a huge influence on our squad.”
Louis Van Gaal, predictably, was deeply disappointed for his players and the soon to be Manchester United coach insisted that the sense of devastation had been heightened by the fact, he believed, that his side had been at least as good as their opponents and that it had ultimately been decided by spot kicks which, surprisingly, he suggested involved an element of luck.
“It’s been a remarkable tournament for us,” he said, “because when we came here nobody expected anything of this team and it’s the most terrible scenario to lose by penalties. At the very least we were equal to our opponents if not the better side so that’s a big, big disappointment.
“But it is important that you score the first penalty and I asked two players to take the first kick [he later declined to name them] before I ended up with [Ron] Vlaar who I thought was the best player on the field so I thought he would have a great deal of confidence. But it just goes to show, when push comes to shove it’s not easy to score a goal in penalties.
As regards last night’s game, he admitted that the Dutch had not been at their best despite having defended well. “We didn’t concede any chances, which says something about our organisation, but we didn’t create many either which also says something about our play. We didn’t lose the game but then the penalty shoot-out is always a matter of luck and,” he sort of joked, “of course I taught Romero how to stop penalties [the keeper was at Alkmaar when Van Gaal coached there] so that hurts.”
He too bemoaned the fact that his side would have a day less to prepare for their last game, Saturday’s third place play-off against Brazil, but his bigger problem was with the fact that the game is to be played at all.
“I think that this match should never be played,” he said. “I’ve been saying it for 10 years but we will have to just play it. It’s unfair because we also have one day less to recover than our opponents so that’s not fair play but the worst thing is that the chances are you lose twice in a row and so after a tournament in which you’ve played so marvellously well, you would go home as a loser because you’ve lost the last two matches.
“This has nothing to do with sport as far as I’m concerned. You shouldn’t make players play for third place because there’s only one prize that matters and that is becoming world champions.”