James Rodriguez is a hypnotist. At this point in the match, he’s floating where ever he likes. He receives the ball a few yards from the touchline, just behind the midfield stripe. Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni, bends forward, shouting for someone to close him down.
James already snapped the picture. Now his head is down. His left foot sweeps through the ball. There’s a pop. A thump of kangaroo leather and synthetic plastic colliding. The ball blazes across the pitch, wind wrapped, minimum back spin. The Nike swoosh smiles up at the Salvador sky.
In the end the diagonal ball takes out 8 Argentinian players within two, three seconds. Yes, Roger Martinez still needed to produce a tight outside of the foot dribble, followed by a golazo to complete the move. But James’ diagonal ball was the instigator.
The diagonal ball is a basic, but lethal tactic. It hypnotizes defenses, turning defenders into ball watchers. But then the ball snaps it’s it fingers. The spell is broken, and your goalkeeper is picking the ball out of his own net.