There were three moments that will forever remain with me when I think back to last night’s Argentina-Colombia game:
1) The atmosphere. It was classic South America. The constant beating of a big bass drum by an Argentina fan. The rhythm section of the Colombians. The ticker tape welcome for the teams. The heat. Even though the game kicked off at 8:50pm local time the temperature was still in the 90s. And yet a shiver ran down my spine when the crowd chanted “Argentina! Argentina! Argentina!” It took me back to 1978.
2) Argentina’s second goal. It was a thing of beauty. Mascherano won the ball in midfield, passed it to Messi, who fed Zanetti on the right wing. He ran forward, looked up at the edge of the box and didn’t so much cross the ball as chip it on to the head of the incoming Juan Roman Riquelme. It all seemed to happen in slow motion and they made it look so easy. When the ball hit the net I didn’t even jump up. I just sat back and marvelled at it. Beautiful stuff.
3) The political chants against Venezuela’s democratically elected President Hugo Chavez. It wasn’t the chants, per se. I had heard them before at the game here last week. This time, though, they were angrier and the authorities knew it. As the stadium rose to their feet and sing “This government is going to fall” officials first let off fireworks and send out appeals for the Mexican Wave on the electronic scoreboard. When that didn’t work they broadcast static on the PA system to drown out the protests. Argentina scored their fourth goal and that diverted attention back to the game but for a few moments the tension was palpable.