54 seconds. That's more than enough time for football to make you fall in love. And the force came from Argentina. Jose Pekerman's vision, one which he patiently drilled into each one of his players' heads, unfolded at the Gelsenkirchen, as Serbia and Montenegro got dismantled and ripped to shreds at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. And it was as beautiful a sight to behold as any that has blossomed on a football field.
Maxi Rodriguez, straight out of a thriving group of pickpocketers, stole the ball from Mateja Kezman's feet in his defensive half. There started yet another one of those bob and weave tics La Aalbiceleste were growing famous for at the time.
Maxi glides away to the left wing and pulls the pressure on to him before easing it back into the path of Sorin who cuts inside to take the defenders out of relevance. Argentina then advances, going inch by inch, labouring ahead gently and patiently. All the starboys are taking part, crisscrossing each other and trying to confuse a narrow Serbian defence.
But as the ball then makes its way to the left flank and reaches Sorin, you'll start no notice the methodical manner in which the entire team has already gained about 20 yards and still have the space and the time to pull off an incisive delivery. But it will have to wait. Why? Because there are better ways to go about, that's why.
When Sorin plays the ball back into the centre, the midfielders start drawing the Serbs out, one by one and once the ball is recycled back to Sorin on the left, they desert their rabbit holes and dash into the wild to win the ball back, embittered. And then Argentina pulled the pin and exploded into magic.
Sorin slides the ball inside to Saviola, who has already shifted gears and cuts into the centre and does and a neat give and go with the inimitable Riquelme before pumping it to the edge of the area for Cambiasso.
Esteban Cambiasso gets a very difficult ball to trap. Now Cambiasso wasn't exactly the player you'd want such a ball to fall to. But sometimes the occasion yields a little kick that'll raise you for up for bigger things. Esteban Cambiasso climbs on to the ball and touches it into the path of Hernan Crespo.
On seeing the space afforded inside the area by the defender who got dragged away by the intelligent Crespo, Cambiasso gallops right into it. And Crespo and Cambiasso would then combine to give the finish the sheen it deserved.
The culmination was poetic, Crespo would backheel the ball deftly into the path of Cambiasso and the timing is impeccable. "Cuchu" would then leather it into the top corner. An emphatic finish. Straight into the highlight reel.
Argentina won the match 6-0. Though the result was nothing too spectacular for the big men who were far superior to their Serbian counterparts, the goal symbolized just how good that Argentinian team could become when they ease into their groove.
You're dead right, Argentina's passing masterclass gets a spot on our 40 Greatest Goals in World Cup history.Published 19 May 2018, 19:07 IST