In every footballer's career, there are dates that stick in the memory forever. Each player remembers his first game or his first goal, for example, and an international never forgets his first cap. But not many ever get to celebrate the kind of landmark that Javier Zanetti reached on Sunday 26 June 2005. Helping Argentina win their FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005 semi-final over Mexico, the veteran right-back was taking part in his 100th match for the Albiceleste.
The new centurion marked the event in the best possible way. Not only did his side claw their way through to a showpiece final with Brazil after a tense penalty shoot-out, but FIFA's Technical Study Group put the icing on the cake by naming him the Anheuser Busch Man of the Match. Outstanding for the full 120 minutes, Zanetti was not only a rock in defence; he provided constant support for the strikers, especially with his marauding runs down the right flank.
Zanetti treated the Hanover crowd to a display of immense stature, just as he has spoiled the Inter Milan faithful with his talents for a number of years. Back in Milan, his thrilling runs forward and never-say-die approach quickly won him the Inter captaincy, and he has long been an idol of the tifosi, who have affectionately baptised him Il trattore (The tractor) for his incomparable work-rate.
At 32 years of age, the full-back becomes the second most-capped player in the history of Argentinian football, behind former Inter star Diego Simeone (106 appearances). He is also the 112th player to join FIFA's exclusive century club, and the 13th South American to do so.
For his 101st game in the blue and white shirt, Javier Zanetti would no doubt love to add another page to his scrapbook as a winner of the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005.