There have been and still are many bad things said about Diego Armando Maradona. The latest was from Pelé, who in a strange and unnecessary spat of gossip spoke very badly about the controversial Argentinean coach, who has also been heavily criticised for his (apparent lack of) tactical skills, arrogance, inexperience and former drug addiction (funny how people who live in countries where recreational drugs are very normal, and where addiction to any drug is often considered a disease, has no qualm about raising a man's previous addiction as a definite proof of his character - no wonder people are treated badly in those societies! I have no doubt Mr. Maradona has a bigger Heart than any of the people who criticize him about this!).
Notwithstanding that I wholeheartedly support Argentina, I am also delighted to see Mr. Maradona being vindicated after the first two matches, which have both been won. Against Nigeria, Argentina should have won more than 1-0, but against South Corea today, the Argentinean 4-1 victory was not one goal too small. And today, Maradona even chose to spare his midfield general Juán Sebastián Verón, and played with Messi a bit more behind the strikers, where Gonzalo Higuaín with three goals showed his skills for being at the right place at the right time. Angel Di Maria was ever-present on the Argentinean left side, while Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Gabriel Heinze fought with a spirit that can take Argentina far. They commit mistakes, surely (Demichelis...), but they are all confident enough to see it as part of the game.
And perhaps Maradona's greatest achievement is that after many wonderful players that have never really hit it off on the Argentinean national team, Maradona has consolidated a team of more than stars, but also friends, who obviously feel comfortable with one another and about their skills. Maradona, himself the star above them all knows his own controversial image, and like another great coach, José Mourinho, uses his charisma to take the attention and pressure away from the Argentinean super-stars. Nobody is interested in hearing what Messi, Verón, Tevez or Higuaín has to say: everyone wants to hear Maradona! Instead, the players can focus only on football, while Maradona does and will take all the attention and blame.
Finally, I was originally fearing that Maradona would be more "Bilardista" in his style, but in truth, he has used the fact well that he has an awesome attacking power by concentrating there. The four central defenders still look too slow and shaky (and may still be Argentina's bitter downfall against the defensive counter-attacking style of the tournament so far), but their experience is unquestionable, and that seems to be Maradona's creed: experience in defence and creativity in attack.
There is still a long way to go, indeed, and Maradona's Argentina could still fall apart. But what has been seen in the first two matches is surely a delight to Argentina and Maradona fans like myself, but should also be good to watch for fans of good football in general.
Pele debuto con un pibe
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