The 37th annual Toulon Tournament got underway Wednesday, with a decent if not outstanding performance by Argentina in a 4-0 victory over Holland, which followed the competitions’s opening match, where the United Arab Emirates surprised Egypt with a 1-0 victory.
Egypt were expected to deal with the inexperienced Emiratis fairly easily, but they failed to do so and paid for a lax attitude and their profligacy in front of goal. They had plenty of chances, but the only goal of the game was a quite stupendous 40-yard strike by midfielder Mohamed Abdullah midway through the first half. With plenty of space ahead of him he spotted Egyptian goalkeeper Ali Mostafa slightly out of position, and combined with the glaring Southern French sun, had enough to cause problems. The ball crashed into the back of the net to stun everyone watching.
Egypt did have the better of the game in truth, but they also never really looked like scoring. They forced a brilliant goalline clearance early in the second half, but showed poor composure and discipline and paid againt a well-organised UAE team, who have given themselves a chance in this tournament with the win.
The evening match in Toulon was the one most people were awaiting, with powerhouse nations Holland and Argentina opening up against eachother. However, despite some fabulous talent on show, the match was a scrappy affair at times, with Argentina’s cutting edge seeing them home in comfortable fashion. They had the better of the early stages, and went close through Diego Buonanotte, before Holland came into the game more through Diego Biseswar and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, both making gains without reward.
Dutch captain Geert-Arend Roorda went close with a long-range effort before Argentina took the lead. A long ball over the top saw Franco Jara outmuscle Rens van Eijden, and as the Dutch defender claimed for a foul, Jara kept his composure to slot a finish high past Erwin Mulder. It gave Argentina room to relax, but the scrappy nature of the game meant Holland always had a chance. Van Wolfswinkel’s movement into the channels was impressive, whilst the useful Jeffrey Sarpong found himself with a decent chance of an equaliser, one which he spurned with a poor finish.
Erik Falkenburg had a good chance to equalise before the break but he put it wide, with Biseswar watching whilst offside awaiting a tap-in. The half-time break suited Argentina, as they were able to sort themselves out and take control of the game again. Hugo Nervo and captain Ever Banega used the ball well, whilst the ever lively Buonanotte continued to show impressive ball control. The crucial second goal came ten minutes after the restart and was down to some fine individual skill, and some poor goalkeeping.
Diego Perotti went on one of his runs down the right wing, and was allowed to measure a cross by Erik Pieters. Instead of crossing, however, Perotti measured a chip towards the far post, and as Mulder decided to leave the ball to go behind, he could only watch in agony as it dropped into the back of the net. As a moment of skill it was brilliance, but it was a goal which should never have happened from a defensive point of view.
With a comfortable lead and a flagging Dutch team, Argentina began to have some fun. Buonanotte’s clever feet and mind found himself space often, and it was his burst of acceleration which contributed to the third goal. He turned on the jets through the heart of the defence and was felled on the edge of the area. The contact was made outside, but the referee gave a penalty. Captain Banega stepped up and chipped his effort down the middle, just out of reach of Mulder, who spotted the danger just a second too late.
Buonanotte nearly made it four with a fantastic solo run which he nudged inches wide, and then when Pieters escaped a red card for one of a number of fouls two minutes from time, he forced a fine save from Mulder with a spectacular free kick. He did get his goal in stoppage time, embarrassing Pieters cutting in from the right before settling and sweeping into the bottom corner.
The Argentine dominance of the latter stages didn’t do the Dutch full justice, as they played and passed particularly well at times, and have enough to make the Semi Finals, but the cutting edge on the night went to the team which won 4-0, and looked very impressive at times – especially the tiny bundle of genius in Buonanotte.