Argentina have set up a quarter-final meeting with old foes Brazil after edging Serbia 2-1 in a tense last 16 encounter at Bangkok’s Huamark Stadium. The Europeans dominated much of the match but an Albiceleste side weakened by injuries and suspensions advanced by virtue of making the most of the few chances they did create.
In a game in which defences were dominant, it always looked like needing something special to break the deadlock, and Leandro Cuzzolino provided it with 11 minutes played. Danger appeared minimal when he gathered possession wide on the left, but with the Serbia defence backing off, Argentina’s No7 hammered an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
Serbia reacted well to falling behind and surged forward but six minutes later, and completely against the run of play, they found themselves two goals behind. Worse still, the goal was a due to a horrible error by Miodrag Aksentijevic, who allowed a cross-cum-shot from Maximiliano Rescia to slip through his legs and trickle over the line.
The European debutants continued to probe for a way back into the match in the second half, and with three minutes remaining they pulled a goal back when Slobodan Rajcevic shot home from the edge of the box. However, a second yellow card for Slobodan Jancic late in the match effectively ended any hopes the Serbians had of pushing for a late equaliser.
“We conceded two very easy goals and that set the pattern for the match. We had to work very hard to come back after that and we didn’t enjoy much luck. We had lot of shots on goal, most of the possession, but Argentina defended very well. All the same, it’s been a great experience for us and I’m realistic enough to appreciated that we have already been successful in qualifying for this tournament and then finishing first in our group. We were very close to taking the next step but this time it wasn’t to be,” Aca Kovacevic, Serbia coach.
“My players deserve the congratulations for this victory. It was the kind of game in which we could not afford any mistakes, and I was very happy with the standard of our defending. We also took our chances well when they came along. We were missing three important players but the players realised they had no option but to cope. Now we face Brazil, and we’re going to play for a win,” Fernando Larranaga, Argentina coach.