Monday, September 21, 2009

Argentina's nightmare

For any fan of Argentina (including myself) the current struggle of the national team to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa is something that is becoming a nerve-wrecking problem. After the latest defeats to Brazil and Paraguay, Argentina is now only on fifth place in the South American qualification group, just 1 point behind Ecuador on fourth place, and one point ahead of both Uruguay and Venezuela. Although Argentina, with its history and quality players, should be considered a team to qualify directly to the World Cup, fifth place would still give them a play-off match against the fourth placed in the CONCACAF region (which looks to be Costa Rica).
The Argentinean coach, Diego Maradona, was the greatest player ever, but he has fallen in stature for many fans (including myself) for what seems to be his inexperienced approach to the national team that he otherwise gave so much. International stars such as Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Agüero, simply do not perform on the Argentine team, that in their latest defeat against Paraguay looked without confidence in their own abilities.
Besides the stars, some of Maradona's choices have been awkward: the defense looks very weak with some ageing debutants from Velez Sarsfield, while the use of the many small players in attack is not supplemented by some more physical players such as could be Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain or Lyon's Lissandro López. The inclusion of the 35 year old Martin Palermo (famous for having missed three penalties in one match in 1999), from Boca Juniors, who had been away from the national team for nine years, also seems odd considering the many other quality strikers available for Argentina.
However, not everything can be blamed on Maradona, and many seem to forget that Maradona took over a team in november 2008, that was already in crisis under the previous coach (and now Boca Juniors manager), Alfio Basile, who resigned amid some mysterious controversies after a defeat to Chile, and some disappointing results against Peru and Paraguay.
Maradona, the world legend of Argentinean football, was supposed to lead the team to the world cup, in spite of his lack of coaching experience. Argentina is now paying dearly for this, and is under pressure before the last two matches against Perú and Uruguay; Argentina may not qualify, and this would surely be a loss to the entire footballing world.
I really hope they will though.


Anonymous said...

Erik, although I also would like Argentina to qualify. The situation that Argentina might not qualify really underlines the beauty of football: even if you have some of the best players in the world for most positions on the pitch - you cannot be sure to win! It is a team sport, one player (like Maradona in his days) can make a huge difference - but if the team don't preform - well you loose.

As the standings are now we might miss Messi, C. Ronaldo, and Ibrahimovic in South Africa - yet the football to be played will still be exciting - thats a difference to e.g. tennis, where a tournament without Federer and Nadal, would not really be considered as a meeting among the best.


El Erik said...

I completely agree Jim, in particular that it is the beauty of football: football is like life itself, no matter how good you are, you need others, and others are going to make you better.
I heard on BBC, how Tim "El legendino" Vickery said that Messi didn't have "friends" on the Argentinean team to make him good. I also believe this was valid for Mr. Maradona in his time, so therefore, it may be a bit surprising that Mr. Maradona does not seem to consider this in his tactical schemes!
I must admit that I disagree in the expectations about the world cup: the last world cups have been poor in terms of quality football, and I have little expectation about this one. However, this has nothing to do with the presence of stars: neither Portugal, Argentina or Sweden (with their lone star) has played much worth watching in the WC qualifiers, so maybe they will not be missed by people hoping to see quality FOOTBALL (Rather than quality PLAYERS)

Anonymous said...

Erik, what I mean is that whoever will win the WC next year, they will be the "right" champions - no matter their style of football (of course given a fair game outside the pitch)

El Erik said...

I agree on that: every world cup has had the right winner, although as you can see from my weekly comment on the greatest world cup matches there is always discussion about it!
Perhaps the beauty of football is to keep discussing what one thinks should have happened ;)