Argentina take third on penalties
Finland 2003’s all-South American third-place showdown between beaten semi-finalists Colombia and Argentina produced the first penalty shootout of the finals. After ending 90 minutes even at 1-1, the match - a festival of near misses and attack-minded football - went directly to spot kicks. Two saves from Oscar Ustari saw the Albiceleste take the bronze in Helsinki’s Töölö stadium to cap off a fine tournament.
Argentina hit out early with the keener verve in Finland 2003’s last clash of South American giants. Lucas D’ Alegre whipped in a bending cross from the right side, and the alert Diego Lagos rose at the far post to bang in his first goal of the finals (0-1, 4’).
Even before the tenth minute, the colourful, effervescent affair was gaining precious momentum. Colombia came within inches of equalising when Pablo Armero’s massive left-footed drive from 18 yards shaved Ustari’s far post.
The Colombians - moving the ball wonderfully in midfield - were showing some real style and playing their best football of the finals as the half wore on. After collecting a brilliant long ball from Fredy Guarin in minute 13, brilliant midfield creator Jose Otalvaro raced into the box, cut back and loosed a dipping shot that splattered off the crossbar.
In the 25th minute, Carlos Hidalgo continued the Colombian charge - nearly grabbing his fifth of the tournament with a rocket of a shot that nearly took off Ustari’s arm as he sprawled to keep it out.
But despite heavy pressure of the determined Colombians, Argentina should have extended their lead 30 minutes in when Lagos squared the ball to Hernan Peirone six yards from goal. With acres of time and space, the normally lethal finisher somehow flubbed his strike sadly wide.
And just minutes after the close call, Colombia’s bustling centre forward Adrian Gustavo saw his superb shot ping off the post as well.
The Colombians finally got their deserved equaliser. After Ramos was bundled over in the box, referee Eddy Maillet pointed to the spot, and Hidalgo stepped up to coolly slot the spot kick home for his fifth goal of the finals – drawing level with Spain’s Cesc as tournament topscorer. (1-1, 52’)
ith the score level, both sides hit out boldly in search of a winner. Otalvaro found Ramos racing behind the defence in the 67th minute. And after stretching to get a toe to the ball, Ramos again suffered the frustration of seeing his shot rebound off the near post after cleanly beating Ustari.
Otalvaro had a chance to finish off the match with ten minutes to go, but the afternoon of near misses continued as his snapshot slipped past the far post and harmlessly out of play.
Even with the massive attacks of both sides, neither could produce the crucial winner and the match went to penalties – the first shootout of Finland 2003.
After both sides successfully converted their first two penalties, Argentine Alejandro Faurlin stepped up and smashed the ball wildly out of the stadium. Two saves from Ustari (on Juan Gilberto Nunez and Victor Vargas set the groundwork for substitute Hassell to put the match away – saving Faulrin’s shame and calmly sealing the day 4-5.
olombia boss Eduardo Lara was brimming with pride, despite the loss.
“I am very proud of my team,” he said. “The finals have been a great success for Colombia …the people at home are very proud of us. And to lose on penalties is always a bit of a lottery.”
“Reaching third place in a World Championship is a great achievement,” said Argentine coach Hugo Tocalli. “We should have finished the game off in the first half – we had some great chances.”
Still, the coach gave a brief hint of disappointment in his post-match remarks.
“I am sure some of these players will go on to great things,” he said. “But the team could have achieved more here in Finland…and that’s what hurts a coach most.”