While Lionel Messi & Argentina had a sublime night by taking Uruguay apart, Cristiano Ronaldo & Portugal produced another bad performance, resulting in their first loss of the world cup qualifiers.
If his previous three goals for Argentina in the South American group weren’t enough, this 3-0 win over Uruguay was another stamp at a different Lionel Messi, accepting and adapting to his role with the national team, playing almost as well as he does for Barcelona. On Friday night, there really was no difference.
Uruguay just came to defend, to get in the way. While Argentina did struggle to find great chances in the first half, except for one fantastic Messi dribble that ended with hitting the crossbar. He and Angel Di Maria saved their best for the second half.
Uruguay came out a bit more aggressive, a bit too much, in the second half. Opening up their formation was enough for the best player in the world to sniff out a weakness and begin with the dissection job. The first goal began with Messi on the left, leaving the ball to the fantastic Angel Di Maria (Who has a brilliant understanding with Messi). Messi switched to the middle and followed through with a run to the box, met by a clever Di Maria pass. Messi slid at the precise moment, and opened the scoring.
The next goal was scored by Aguero, but was more Messi – Di Maria magic. Messi chipped the ball into the box between two defenders, Di Maria needed only one touch to find Sergio Aguero in the penalty box for the second goal. The third was Lionel Messi pulling off something he might have learned from Ronaldinho or maybe Steven Gerrard, both known to use the low free kick in the past. The wind up tells of a high kick, but the result is a very accurate ball beneath the jumping wall.
Messi doesn’t play the front man for Argentina, but Di Maria’s emergence into a world class play maker when he does venture into the middle creates a lot more freedom for Messi to lay off the ball handling and frees him up for more dangerous movement and roaming into areas he feels a bit more comfortable with, and a lot more finishing opportunities. There’s a big difference with home & away ability for the side in the campaign, but there’s no complaining this time about how much Messi is giving the team, scoring five goals so far.
Way far away in Russia, it wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo’s finest night, or Portugal’s. A team that has yet to impress anyone in the campaign but still picked up six points couldn’t really keep up with that kind of act in Russia, against a very strong and effective Fabio Capello team. Portugal had nothing to sell and worse, Ronaldo had no one to play with. Nani was the same as he is for Manchester United this season, meaning bad, leaving Portugal with a slow and predictable attack, and Russia having a much easier time focusing on one player.
Besides one dangerous effort at Akinfeev, the most memorable Ronaldo highlight was a pathetic attempt at getting Aleksandr Anyukov sent off, clutching his face on the ground after tangling up with the Russian defender. One match is no indication as to who is better, but Russia now have the lead in a rather easy group.