And though they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, here I am, describing Riquelme's goal versus Brazil to you...
...just for the sheer emotion of recounting what I feel was THE
perfect goal scored versus Brazil in my lifetime. Manu Petit's goal
pales in comparison in impact, technique, and import. This was the
Let me set the stage for you:
It's minute 16:34 of the First-Half.
Seconds before, Crespo fell JUST as he was getting the ball, free and clear to do with Dida as he wished (again). He was offside, but the chances were mounting, and mounting for Argentina. Again.
Then...Roque Junior got the ball from Dida's boot up the field. He
slotted the ball up to Kaká, who triangulated the pass to Emerson,
neatly slicing the Argentinian midfield. "Ooh! This looks promising".
Emerson looked up and saw Adriano in an one-on-one with Ayala...always a favourable matchup.
So in a brisk pass, the ball arrived, but Adriano fell as if a redwood
cut down by an industrial power saw without a Birkenstock-wearing tree-hugger to protect him: it was a bad flop, people.
El Pato Abbondanzieri then pointed right (favouring that Saviola,
Lucho Gonzalez right-wing play which had been smoking-hot all night long), and the ball arrived in between Conejo Saviola, rebounding on Roberto Carlos' foot out of play -- the same Roberto Carlos who had been nutmegged pathetically at least twice so far by the very same Saviola, his fellow vertically-challenged colleague.
That's when this happened. It was minute 17:11.
Throw-in Lucho, to Coloccini with his Michael Bolton hair. Coloccini
to Mascherano, who returns the favour. Coloccini insists Mascherano take it, Juan presses, Coloccini receives the ball back and arcs it to Ayala over Juan. Ayala sees an opening in which Sorin is running into, and the ball passes midfield for the first time in the sequence, and that's when Riquelme gets the ball at last.
Sorin is everywhere, those luscious black curls of his flying, always
doing his best to stick to his old mates, the Brazilians.
And he knows how to play them, boy, he really does.
With his body squared to the exact centre, 30 yards away from goal, he sees Kily Gonzalez moving up the left wing. Without hesitating, he springs him open. Kily crosses the ball up-and-over Cafu, with that Cafu-like raised hands in front of him when he runs (like a poodle), watching the ball sail over him and most of the Brazil defence.
And yet, there it goes!
The ball might've landed on Crespo's head, if the latter had not yet AGAIN slipped and fallen just as it did -- prompting the GolTV Argentinian presenter to say, "otra vez se patina, que pasa Hernan, que pasa con los zapatos" (there he goes, skating again. What's the matter, Hernan -- what's up with dem footie boots?).
Roberto Carlos gets the leftovers, and without letting it drop to the pitch, he chests the ball, and tries to hoof it out. Anywhere. Just anywhere, but not to Riquelme, please...
...but since Roberto Carlos didn't let the ball even bounce in the
area (that pesky goleador Crespo was too close, and he had already scored a goal...better just boot it anywhere!), he mis-hits it, on the front of his boot.
Riquelme is there. Riquelme is everywhere. And from here on in, it's Riquelme's show.
He gets that poorly hoofed ball from Roberto Carlos, and again without it bouncing on the pitch (four plays, ball never touched the pitch once), volleys it backward with his heel, sidestepping Ronaldinho Gaucho as it loops over his Jherri-curls, unto Mascherano's foot.
GolTV: "Ay, que lujo, que lujo de Riquelme". What luxury...
It's minute 17:44.
And my mouth is hanging open at the audacity, the skill and the
self-confidence of doing what he just did, in a plain attacking mode for Argentina.
One miscue, one bad pass, and the sequence is over. Brazil get the ball back, maybe for a counter with Ronaldinho lurking near Riquelme -- those two brilliant men of La Liga at the height of their respective powers.
But no. Mascherano gets this ball, this ball placed on his foot as if
on a silver platter by Riquelme, shoots it up to the right-wing which Lucho Gonzalez has been owning all evening, and he doesn't hesitate. He gives the ball back to Riquelme. Por que no.
Riquelme has his back fully turned to goal. Roque Junior is so close, he can probably count the hairs on Riquelme's neck. He's so close, he feels he has read the play well, and all he needs is to touch the ball from behind Riquelme's legs, and poof, up goes the attacking chance in a puff of smoke.
Hey! I can see Ronaldinho, I'll get that ball to him. Nossa, I can feel that counter coming, you wait. You will see, Argentinos! Your shouts will be stifled once I make this quick play.
So Riquelme keeps his back to Roque Junior, and instead of turning to the right, inside-outs him to the left, as he just moves the ball a few inches in front, creating the smallest, the merest, the tiniest of spaces for him to swing around.
It's minute 17:46.
Roque Junior has been beaten worse than a rug on Marv Albert's head.
Those few inches of the Monumental pitch are all Riquelme needs. One step, two steps, three steps, look up, Dida not out all that much, shall I, will I, dare I...do this against Brazil in a World Cup qualifier...SI! LO HAGO!
It's minute 17:47.
Riquelme has just split open the Brazil defence, passed two Argentina forwards, and what seems like millimetres only of space, accommodates the ball with his left-less-powerful foot, and explodes a 20 yarder into goal...Dida on his knees as if in church.
"Lucho para Riquelme, Riquelme lo dejó en el camino a Roque Junior, lo va a pegar de zurda!, RiquelMEEE!, ah que golazo, GOLLLLLLLLLLLL............golAZOOOOOOO, Juan Roman Riquelme!!!"
And why not. Dida just saw a miraculous goal.
UPDATE: And proof is always in the pudding.
First, the goal GOLTV call.
And the video.