Argentina 4 Spain 1: Champions Stunned!

In a bid to win the job as Argentina's manager on a full time basis, Sergio Batista recalled a number of rejects from Diego Maradona's era, but kept the same potent front line, and smashed Spain in front of a jubilant crowd at River Plate's El Monumental.

With a balanced midfield centered around captain Javier Mascherano and bolstered by the recalls of Ever Banega and Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina controlled the opening 45 minutes and took an emphatic 3-0 lead. Lionel Messi had opened the scoring for Argentina with a piece of magic. The Barcelona ace ran 78 meters with the ball before playing a quick one-two with Carlos Tevez, whose delicious return pass put Messi clear on goal. After failing to score in South Africa, Messi looked at his Barcelona-best as he calmly chipped the on running Pepe Reina before kissing the Argentina badge on his shirt, as if reminding Spain that he had turned down a chance to play for them.

Just eight minutes later, Argentina were two goals up with Tevez again at the heart of the action. The former Boca Juniors and Corinthians man claimed his second assist in the opening 15 minutes by slipping a through ball to Gonzalo Higuain, who rounded Reina and slotted home from a tight angle in his return to River Plate's stadium where he famously scored two goals against Boca Juniors in a 3-1 River victory. Although Spain got back into the game and David Villa struck the post with a free kick and later a long range effort, Tevez put the game out of reach thanks to a comical error by Reina. The Liverpool goalkeeper who has  been listed as an elite keeper for years, had already committed one of the worst errors of the season for Liverpool against Arsenal, out did himself by slipping while trying to field a back pass which allowed Tevez to swoop in and make the score 3-0 at the break.

The second half began where the first on ended with Argentina threatening the Spain goal. After suffering his second embarrassment in a matter of weeks, Reina was pulled at halftime and Victor Valdes staked his claim as Spain's number two keeper by making a brilliant diving save from Higuain's drive after some slick build up play from Banega and Cambiasso freed the Real Madrid hitman on the edge of the area. With a three goal lead however, Argentina began to sit back, giving the initiative to Spain, but the World Cup winners were futile in front of goal with substitute Fernando Llorente missing a free header with the goal at his disposal.

Argentina nearly had a fourth when the brilliance of Messi played in substitute Angel Di Maria who beat Valdes with a cultured finish, but the goal was ruled out for off-sides. Argentina keeper Sergio Romero made a couple of good saves down the stretch, but he could do nothing to keep out Llorente's consolation goal five minutes from time, before Santi Cazorla saw his effort cleared off the line. In the end, Argentina had the last laugh as substitute Andres D'Alessandro played in Gabriel Heinze whose perfect cross was met by a bullet header from Sergio "El Kun" Aguero to finish the match. Although Argentina sat back far too much in the second half, the first half was a clinic against Spain who, as was the case in South Africa, held the ball but lacked a certain cutting edge.

With arguably the best squad in football, Argentina can continue building for next summer's Copa America with Messi, Higuain, and Tevez, three fixtures under Maradona, remaining the key men. However, it is the players excluded by the ex-coach who can push Argentina forward to win trophies, especially midfielder Ever Banega who offers the perfect combination of solidity and play-making ability. Sadly Argentina can only think what could have been in South Africa if they had a strong midfield and a solidified defense.

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