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angels with dirty faces

Two years ago, the great Jonathan Wilson published a book, Angels with Dirty Faces: How Argentinian Soccer Defined a Nation and Changed the Game Forever. He knows Argentine soccer. So his words regarding today's pitiful showing against Croatia carry some weight.

"Shambolic, frenzied, anarchic – and Argentina crisis has Messi at its heart"

It was in 1913 that Racing became the first non-Anglo side to win the Argentinian league title. For much of the century that has followed, Argentinian football has defined itself in opposition to the English, distancing itself from its British heritage. And yet, under pressure, in their frenzied desperation on Thursday, Argentina resembled nobody so much as England.

This was shambolic. Too many players tried to do too much themselves. There was altogether too much running, too much frenzy, too many fouls conceded as they desperately tried to regain possession, too little thought. By the end, as Ivan Rakitic casually rolled in a sarcastic third for Croatia, Argentina were gone, any semblance of defensive structure blown to the winds.

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