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Maradona learning the hard way

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Tim Vickery | 21:29 UK time, Sunday, 6 September 2009

As the Argentina squad drove sadly away from the stadium in Rosario on Saturday night there were no protests from the supporters who were still milling around. Despite the 3-1 defeat by Brazil there was applause and shouts of encouragement.

So much for the team bus, but what about the coach? Argentina's struggle to qualify for next year's World Cup will inevitably be personalised. It is not just Argentina who are stumbling, it is "Diego Maradona's Argentina". How much responsibility should the little man bear for his team's current plight?

When Maradona was appointed almost a year ago, I commented here that Argentina's qualification was by no means assured. The team was already in trouble after predecessor Alfio Basile's reign ended with a run of one win in seven matches despite fixtures easier than those Maradona has had to face. So the situation he inherited was far from comfortable.

diego.jpg
Diego Maradona tries to retrieve the ball during the match against Brazil

Soon afterwards, of course, came the spat with Juan Roman Riquelme which led to the playmaker withdrawing from international football. It is not an episode which shows either coach or player in their best light - but for all my appreciation of Riquelme's art, I don't see it as a huge factor in the current problems.

Firstly, Riquelme was the king of the side that was already struggling under Basile. Secondly, Riquelme's absence has allowed Juan Sebastian Veron more freedom to show what he can do.

Veron ran the game for the first 20 minutes in Rosario. Brazil can have problems against deep lying playmakers - think how Zinedine Zidane ripped them apart in the last World Cup - and this time Maradona seemed to have the balance of his midfield right.

In the previous home game, a streaky 1-0 win over Colombia, the balance was all wrong. The Veron-Messi axis is vital - but there must also be width to create space for the interpassing through the middle. Against Colombia there had been none - this time there was plenty, with Jesus Datolo on the left and, especially, Maxi Rodriguez providing thrust down the right.

This is where Brazil can be vulnerable. The side is set up to free Maicon's forward bursts from right-back. Elano is there to cover, and Gilberto Silva can drop in like a third centre back. But then, fellow midfielder Felipe Melo can be drawn across and left-back Andre Santos is left unprotected.

This was the space that Veron kept trying to create and hit - suck Brazil in and slip Rodriguez or Carlos Tevez behind the full-back.

It stretched Brazil and it could have worked. But, as so often in the last couple of years, there was a glaring lack of a centre-forward to get across in front of his marker and convert the crosses.

It is hard to blame Maradona for this. It can certainly be argued that he shows an excessive faith in Tevez, but unless Hernan Crespo can stage a last hurrah there is a dearth of quality target men. Diego Milito looks very ordinary at this level, which makes it curious that Gonzalo Higuain is still ignored.

But if Argentina could not win the game in Brazil's penalty area, they could lose it in their own. Brazil's strength and versatility from set pieces is well known. Maradona said that his men had worked hard on dealing with it in training.

Step one is not to be caught committing unnecessary fouls that provide Brazil with the opportunity. Step two is coping with the aerial ball and the movement of Brazil's phalanx of giants. The game was taken away from Argentina because neither was carried out adequately which, with the defence Maradona fielded, is hardly a surprise.

Nicolas Otamendi is a promising young centre-back. His Velez Sarsfield club partner Seba Dominguez is not. Slow and out of his depth, Dominguez was thrown to the lions.

His was not a good selection but then again Maradona is not over-burdened with alternatives. Experienced, quality centre-backs such as Walter Samuel and Gaby Milito are injury prone. Young pretenders like Ezequiel Garay and Juan Forlin have yet to turn promise into reality.

Here, Argentina are suffering from the absence of Roberto Ayala, the long term defensive lynchpin who called it a day after the 2007 Copa America. The history of international football shows again and again the difficulty of replacing outstanding players and Ayala was in that class for Argentina.

The tricky fixtures, deficiencies in both penalty areas - it is unfair to blame Maradona for all of this. But, from the safety of the press box, I would humbly suggest that he made a mess of his half-time substitution on Saturday.

Two-nil down, there was nothing wrong with the entry of Sergio Aguero, who probably should have started in place of Tevez. The problem was the player withdrawn.

After the match Maradona kept repeating that the team had been playing well, controlling the match until they failed to defend the first cross they faced.

veron.jpg
Seba Veron in action for Argentina against Brazil

His analysis would indicate that the central idea of the team was sound. But when he pulled off Rodriguez at the interval the idea was abandoned.

With a striker on for the right-sided midfielder, disorder reigned. Veron went right, too far from the centre to influence things, and now without his outball to Rodriguez. It left Argentina looking desperate, trying to force their way rather than playing their way through.

It also left them very open to Brazil's other great weapon - the counter-attack. Suddenly Kaka had space to work in. True, Argentina pulled one back. But it was no surprise when Kaka instantly set up Luis Fabiano for the clinching goal.

By opening up to Brazil's counter-attack, in the second half Argentina were not playing football. They were gambling on the lottery, with the odds against them.

Better, surely, to keep faith with the original shape of the side, keep passing and trust that the more the game goes on Brazil will tire of chasing after the ball and spaces will appear.

Maintaining the original shape at half-time would have taken a steady hand in a crisis - and Maradona, of course, is learning on the job. He needs to do it quickly - on Wednesday comes another difficult game away to Paraguay.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Can you shed any light on the career of Giovanni Hernández, currently playing at Atletico Junior? On a recent trip to Colombia I watched him play in the Colombian cup final and whilst they eventually lost comfortably to Once, Caldez, I thought his touch and the way he orchestrated the pace of the game was at times worthy of the Premiership if not a Champions League team. I spoke to some Colombians and they said he never made the trip across to Europe. Was he ever linked or are there 'issues' that prevented this?
Phil Jenkins

A) A lovely player, but an infuriating one. Perhaps the burden of being built up as the great successor to Valderrama proved too much for him, maybe he's simply not mentally strong enough to shine at the very highest level in a position made increasingly difficult by the physical development of the game.

He still figures for Colombia - and he was first capped when they had a look at him before the 1998 World Cup. He came off the bench against Ecuador - I was at Argentina-Brazil so didn't see the game. But the reports say that he helped tip the balance Colombia's way in their 2-0 win. A little frustrating cameo of what might have been.

Q) Would appreciate some info about Stoke's new 21-year-old Uruguayan holding-midfielder, Diego Arismendi. I hear he's won player of the year for his club two years on the trot, while he's also been given his first two international caps recently. However you are forever warning of the dangers of South Americans moving too early, so could this be the case with Arismendi? Mark Hughes

A) No, I think he'll be able to hold his own. Stoke have clearly gone for him in part because of his height - he's a gangling figure, strong, no frills, good in the air so I think he can fit in to Stoke's style of play.

He's also packed a great deal of experience into his 21 years - I've been following him since the South American Under-17s back in 2005, and every step up that he's taken has been accomplished comfortably. I remember him as a teenager taking a crunch penalty against Boca Juniors - so top marks for temperament.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting views from Tim Vickery. But as most of us said on here prior to the game, Argentina have massive defensive problems and so it proved. I thought though that luck was against them in terms of scoring as so often the ball hit a Brazilian defender or bounced of the goalkeeper where on another day it would have gone in. In the very first minute the ball rebounded of the goalies chest and bobbled over the goal-line for a corner. I rather guessed then that it was not going to be Argentina's day. They did dominate much of the game, but their defending was diobolical, particularly on the first two goals but we all knew that Heinze was hopeless in the air under pressure. Ferguson learned that to his peril when the player was at Old Trafford and he soon shipped him out.
    Tim is right when he says that the shape of the team was lost at half time. But this is what an inexperienced coach does and Maradonna panicked. Others have done it to. Holland (Van Basten no less) ended up with 4 strikers against Portugal in the World Cup and they got in each others way with 2-3 of them going for the same ball and knocking each other over, the shape of the team was lost and they went out of the W.C. Make substitutions but keep the system remains the best plan.
    Argentina will still make it okay because even if they finish 5th (hardly likely) they will surely overcome Costa Rica or Honduras from the CONCACAF section in the play-offs.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Tim,

    In your view, did the relocation to a different stadium for this match help, or hinder the Argentinians in hindsight?

    Thanks for the blog.

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent analysis Tim. It's not ALL Maradona's fault, but IMHO he's just the latest big name on a growing list called "great player, cr@p manager".

    Oh well, he won Argentina a World Cup single-handedly (no pun intended), I guess now it's time for him to lose one for them.


    ClubWorldRankings.com

  • Comment number 4.

    Good blog Tim,
    Just wondering whether he could have played Gonzalo Bergessio instead at front.

  • Comment number 5.

    ahh, the 20x20 hindsight. you're probably right, tim, that maradona should have kept the same shape after half time, but if he had left things alone & brazil had cantered to a 2-0 victory (or more!) then i have no doubt that commentators would be saying he should have changed things around at half time

    SAF does it (e.g. spurs)
    mourinho did it (whenever chelsea weren't winning at half time)

    sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't

  • Comment number 6.

    Tim, given Brazil's current strategy to play counter-attacking football and they are really good at it, what areas do you think they need to look into for the world cup next year?

  • Comment number 7.


    Some of Maradonas selections are bizarre- Palermo? Schiavi? Daniel Diaz is a good CB and surely was deserving of a pick.

    Im wondering if Walter Samuel and G Milito were injured. Samuel played in the Milan derby. Dimechelis not being there didnt help

    Im also wondering why Higuain- as you point out Tim, but also Zarate of Lazio dosent get picked- he can be inconsistent but when on form surely more of a threat than Tevez.

    Argentina could play a 4-2-3-1. Cambiasso getting back is vital, him and Masch in cental mid. The three behind the striker could be Messi, Aguero and Maxi I think. Milito up front- he's doing well in Serie A and deserves a run.

    Any team that plays Dominguez and Heinze is not going to win anything.

  • Comment number 8.

    I take it Julio "The Gardener" Cruz is way out of the reckoning by now? Surely Argentina will still qualify one way or another - do 5th place in South America still play off against Oceania? Didn't see the match, but it sounds like Argentina and Maradona would kill to have Bati-Gol back in his pomp!

  • Comment number 9.

    Giggs

    Tho in general you can be correct to criticise journalists, as they are a very hypocritical bunch, I don’t fell Tim justifies it here.

    If you read the article properly, you will see what Tim is talking, is Diego commenting about how they were good up until the first goal and maybe shape wise the first half. However he changes it at half time, but then says we were good till this point, with the team set as it was.

    I don’t read criticism from TV, it is, if you think a system is working you tinker round the edges, if it is not working you change the system. SAF and Jose Mourinho do it correctly and that is why they are among the best managers in the world. Maradona is still learning and whether he takes this on board and adapts is what will decide whether he makes it as a coach or not. Tho as others as said, he is actually working with quite a hard squad and on this viewing, they will not make an impact at all, if they qualify, in South Africa next year.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hey Tim
    Great column as per usual although for me it seems that you are a little apologetic because of who Maradonna is. I wonder whether, if this was another coach and he chose the team and formation Maradonna chose you owuld be so forgiving? Particularly following the 5 - 0 loss to Chile?
    You mention in your article that Samuel is always injured yet as this game was played he took part in a friendly in Italy, surely, when available you play you best players? Playing youngsters is for friendlies isnt it? As for Milito, well watching him destroy Milan the other day I would have thought that he would have been a better fit than a Tevez who seems to go blind whenever the goal is nearby!
    Argentina have a number of players who should have been there yet Maradonna chooses people like Heinze as well as these young people from Argentinian football.
    As for the tactics, please, a 4-4-2 with this side! I imagine that is what Steve McClaren would have come up with! Why not play a 4 -2-3-1 formation that would utilise the quality attacking players they have without damaging the defence. It would free up Mascherano to play a more natuaral protector role, give Messi, Tevez, Aguero etc a freer role behind Milito or Higuin. Argentina would run riot.
    It is one thing to be a great player and role model in the game but a totally different thing to be tactically astute and see the big picture as a truely great manager can. I dont believe that Maradonna is and I hope that Argentinas hope of a fairytale doesnt cost them a place in the World Cup next year.

  • Comment number 11.

    great analysis of the match, tim.

    just wondering, i've read somewhere that there's friction between sergio aguero and diego maradona because of the player's infidelities while his wife (maradona's daughter) was pregnant.

    is there any truth in this? because the selective few who carried the "rumours" aren't actually renown for their accuracy.

    was that why aguero didn't start the match?

    http://wdkf.co.uk/

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Maradona has lost it.. What an expensive experiment to try new defensive patnership against such a vital game in there world cup campaign.. I don't care if both CB have played alongside each other in club level but at international level and against a brilliant Brazil side it's too much of a gamble...you said Riquelme's absence is not a real problem but I personally think it's one of the there problems because no one was given the killer and final passes, there was no one controlling the pace of the game..Messi kept dropping deep to make runs and with Melo and Gilberto Silva sittin g in front of the Brilliant Lucio and Lusiao, there was a better chance of me catching a cold form someone in New Zealnad than Messi finding a way through...He was starve dof those pass exchange an d 1-2 he normally enjoys with riquelme. Before Cambiasso got injured, maradona chose to Ignore him and still Higuain, Walter Samuel was brilliant against Milan in the derby and better than Domininguez or so.. That tells you a lot about Maradona's ability as a manager.. He has used about 3 different goal keepers in the past 3month. Players need to know eacth other.

    Tim What do you think about?

    Abondanzieri
    LB Gabriel Heinze ( this position should still be up for grabs)
    LB Javier Zanetti
    CB Nicolas Ortamendi
    CB Walter Samuel
    DM Javier Mascherano
    CM Esterban Cambiasso
    Am Roman Riquelme
    RWF Lionel Messi
    LWF Sergio Aguero
    CF Milito/Higuain

    All in a 4-3-3 formation, this is a similar formation they played in the 2006 world cup where they were nothing short of brilliant.


  • Comment number 13.

    why didn't he play Lisandro Lopes as a target man surely he would have been a good foil for either Kun Aguero or Tevez to play off and with the quality of Maxi and Messi he would have given the Brazilians something to worry about. Diegi Milito is too slow for international football. i also cannot understand why Higuain doesn't get used as Tevez and Aguero are so workmanlike but sometimes you just need a goal scores which is what Higuain does best. I also think that despite how well Veron played he shouldn't be in the team the Real Madrid midfielder Gago should be there. Didn't Maradona say Mascherano to sit and Gago to knit. Also with central defence he should have played Demechelis or at leat moved Heinze into the middle to give them some experience. You can gamble on youth in Midfield and up top but at the back you cannot afford your defenders to freeze.

    If Argentina played 3-5-2 with the following players it gives Brazil something to worry about.
    Franco
    Otamendi- Demechelis- Heinze
    Zanetti- Mascherano
    Maxi Rodriguez - Gago - Messi
    Lopes - Kun Aguero

    you can easily adapt it to 4-4-2 by pushing Zanetti back and playing Maxi and Messi on the wings. It also gives a better balance between youth and experience and gives Messi and Maxi the chances to run riot and push back Gilberto Silva and the Brazilian full backs

    I think Maradona was afraid to take the game to Brazil which is what he should have done. He was a bit like Rafa Benitez in worrying too much about the opposition and not letting them worry about you.

  • Comment number 14.

    Is this joke of a man really the best qualified for the job? If so then Argentinean coaching is in a sorry state. Clearly there are better Argentinean coaches out there (just look at Bielsa at Chile). If not then they should have gone down the foreign coach route rather than give the job to Maradonna.

    As a player, arguably the greatest of all time, no doubt about it. But is there any evidence that he is tactically astute or a decent motivator of players? It’s the equivalent of England appointing Paul Gascoigne as manager.

    How a side that contains some of the best players in the world is struggling to qualify is nothing short of a scandal. I'm hoping they do qualify though, as with Maradonna in charge they are no threat whatsoever to England next summer.


  • Comment number 15.

    Maradona is tactically inept and that's something no one can argue against. As you mentioned, withdrawing Maxi from the right was a mistake, in my eyes it was outright stupidity and I cannot see how someone such as Carlos Bilardo didn't at least try to put him right before going ahead with the substitution. Playing no out and out centre forward was also a rediculous thing to do, especially against a big centre half partnership like Luisao and Lucio who aren't exactly "immobile" for their size as well. Even if they're not proven tactics dictate that you need a centre forward that can cause those centre backs problems. German Denis, even Gonzalo Bergessio would have been better than simply relying on Messi Magic!!! We all know Higuain isn't going to get a look in while player politics still rules strong in that squad and to my mind there's been no outburst of dislike towards those two if you don't fancy Milito.

    And I had to laugh at making sure they don't give away cheap fouls, THIS IS ARGENTINA WE'RE TALKING ABOUT!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Tim,
    What are your thoughts on Federico Fazio, 6ft 5 inch defender who plays on occaision for Sevilla, in my eyes he is lying in weight to come in and play along side Garay who in my mind Maradonna needs to give a chance to.

    Leaving Higuain out is a mistake as i see him in the same mould as Crespo/Batistuta, and has shown for the past 2 years how vital he is for Real.

    Mardonna insistance on playing Heinze, who he feels has the experience at this level, is a choice of arrogance, getting away with it on occaision but being exposed most of the time. The solution in my eyes in Fabian Monzon, he played superbly in the Olympics and showed the ability to get up and down like a seasoned pro, an alternative would be Insua of Liverpool, and surely Zanetti must call it a day, an outstanding servent he has been, i feel Zabaleta or Ansaldi would come in and reign that side for years.

    Your thoughts please.

  • Comment number 17.

    I have been living in Sao Paulo for the last 2 months and i was lucky enough to watch the game with some Brazilian friends on Saturday night. It was a very interesting evening. Minutes, no seconds after the shouts of "cade Elano?" he produced a fine free kick for the first goal. Brazil were lucky to score and it was certainly against the run of play.

    In the second half Argentina looked very tired and with 2 goals down it was difficult to see them getting back into the match. I was dissapointed with both teams to be honest. Argentina are a shadow of the side that played so well in Germany and Brazil look decent enough but not world beaters.

    My friends are all Corinthians fans and they all expect Ronaldo to make the trip to South Africa. I saw him play a few times before he got injured and he is still deadly in front of goal but his weight has to be an issue.

    I would love to see him at the next World Cup and the gossip in Brazil is that he has had stomach surgery recently to reduce the beer gut.

    Do you think Dunga will pick him if he is fit?

    And why do you think Brazilian footballers Ronaldo, Ronaldinho & Adriano have such problems keeping the wieght off.

  • Comment number 18.

    #13 jordity - so you're suggesting Messi and Maxi Rodgriguez as wing backs??

    And De Micehlis was injured.

  • Comment number 19.

    I reckon Argentina would be best served by playing a 4-3-3 a la Barcelona, with Veron, Cambiasso (when fit) and Mascherano as sitting midfielders and Aguero, Lisandro Lopez and Messi up top. Messi is more used to this formation which would help him, Argentina desperately need a target man upfront (where oh where is Higuain?) and in my opinion Tevez should be nowhere near the first team with Aguero around.

    All this of course does not address what is a pretty poor defence. If Heinze can walk into the team with all his deficiencies then Argentina have problems.

    But Argentina should cheer up. It could be worse - it could be 1993:

    http://www.just-football.com/2009/09/argentina-0-5-colombia-1993-classic.html

  • Comment number 20.

    #16 - I have often thought the same thing about Heinze, but really who else is there? At least Heinze can offer experience at the back, something Argentina looked desperately short of in defence vs Brazil.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'd have to disagree that changing the shape hindered Argentina in anyway. The damage was already done in team selection and formation long before kick off, as it has been throughout the qualifying campaign. Tim is spot on by lifting the lid on the elusion Riquelme would make any difference, Riquelme surrrounded by the same poor team selection equally struggled under Basile.
    I commented last week that i would commit a terrible sin and cheer for Brazil just to bring and end to this shambles of mismanagement. However i have to admit that Saturday night was Argentina's best performance under Diego, they deserved far more than a 3-1 defeat. Brazil are anything but stylish under Dunga and you can see why for all their success his team do not sit well with most Brazilians. Packed full of big, robust, defensive players they are a far cry from the 'beautiful game', there is no place for the attacking freedom of Dani Alvez, Pato or Diego in Dunga's Brazil. Even Kaka is reduced to functionality, reduced to placing dead balls onto the heads of the giants assembled within the team. Argentina attacked and gave all, Tevez & Messi were excellent (the latter could not of given more) even Veron rolled back the years, but they were undermined by two glaring gaps within the team - a definitive centre forward (HIGUAIN anyone!) and a centre back of quality & experience (Walter Samuel perhaps!)
    Messi, Iniesta, Henry & Xavi performed best buzzing around Samuel Eto'o, so why is it proving so hard for Argentine managers to place Messi,Tevez,Aguero & Veron buzzing around Higuain! Equally when you have two protecters in Samuel (defense)& Cambiasso (midfield) who are good enough for Mourinho, they are considered inadequate for an Argentina lacking defensive players of quality!

  • Comment number 22.

    I think you're being kind to Maradona here, the biggest mistake he made was sending the players out with a clear mandate to hack Kaka down whenever on the ball, the fact Mascherano was carrying the yellow is the only reason he didn't make a challenge on Kaka in the build up to the vital third goal. A lack of foresight led to the game being killed off in the long-run (especially when you consider the number of free-kicks given away around the area). All three goals stemmed from this idiotic tactic.

    Anyway it was a great game for me, a neutral, except for the inept commentary on Sky.

  • Comment number 23.

    Comment 16 Messidinho, I disagree with you on that..Robinho did not have a sniff against Zanetti. A 36 yr old Zanetti is still a better right back than Zabaleta who cannot even gain a spot ahead of Micah Richards at Man City.

  • Comment number 24.

    True, Argentina may not have all the players to WIN the WC. But they have more than enough quality to walk these qualifiers.

    Think of England under McLaren. And look at them now. The same set of players (more or less) improve enormously with the right gaffer.

    The fact is, Maradona is not up to this job. (Neither was Basile).






















  • Comment number 25.

    Argentina have been in decline for over a decade now. South American football clubs in general are being left behind by the football factories of Europe. Messi was fortunate to move to Europe when he was 13yrs old and leave behind the chaotic Argentine league. Is it in the expectancy of their best youngsters being swept off to Europe that they fail to develop them adequately at home? Only 3 of their Olympic squad weren't from European teams, and Riquelme hardly counts as Argentine developed.

    It is difficult to see where the investment will come from. Anyone who watches the Argentine league regularly will be aware of it's drawbacks. Some great skill and goals but a greater amount of fouls and theatrics and the most substandard refereeing performances I have ever witnessed. It's addict level football, watched alone in darkened rooms in the early hours of the morning, it's certainly not football for the masses.

    Maybe the national team failing to qualify for the next WC could be seen as a chance for some serious introspection and an opportunity to rethink the way things are done in Argentina. The greater likelihood though is accusations, recriminations and sackings without anything of substance changing much. Lets hope not, the football world needs it's nemeses and anti-heroes or it will become as dull as Maradonna's detractors.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Tim, firstly thank you very much for answering my question about Arismendi. I'm looking forward to seeing him make his latest step up - played a reserves match last week and, according to fans that went, he looked very good and even bombed down the right to put in a fantastic cross for one of the goals. If forgot to ask - is he good on the ball?

    Secondly, if push comes to shove, do you think we will have a World Cup without Argentina? If so, what would be the effects on both Argentinian football and the nation in general? Surely this would mean they'd go into national mourning.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Tim

    I'm very interested to hear your opinions on the constant exclusion of Cambiasso from this side?
    In light of what I understand to be poor form from Mascherano, should he perhaps not have described his side as "ten + Mascherano"? What are your opinions on stripping Zanetti of the captaincy?

    The last thing I'd bring up is Samuel - albeit not playing great at the moment for Inter, but surely still worth an inclusion, now that he's technically fit?

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim,

    I enjoy reading your articles, I agree to some of your opinion.

    Firstly, I am completely with you that Maradona took over the team, when it was not in good shape. Additionally, the round of fixtures were tougher for him than for Basile. He surely is learning as well.

    A couple of points though.

    1. The centre-back pairing (in the game against Brazil) had a combined experience of 1 international cap. Was it the right time to try it especially when Samuel is at-least playing (and by all accounts playing well ) for Inter. There is also Gonzalo Rodriguez of Villareal. Additionally, Garay has more exposure at the top flight than the 2 who started. Then there is the curious case of starting with Heinze, Brazil have even openly told in the past (in Copa America-07 I think )that they will exploit his weakness. And they did it every time. I guess at the very least a different player could have been tried.

    2. How about starting Tevez. His contribution so far: 1 goal (a tap in against Venezuela) in 11 qualifier games with 2 sending offs.

    3. Finally, you maybe right about the target-man issue but it is also true that neither Diego Milito nor Lisandro nor Cavenaghi (you forgot about him) nor Higuain have been given sufficient chances either in the qualifiers or in the friendlies. In fact, one can argue that very rarely a target-man has even started (since WC-06) to be judged fairly. It also somehow defeats the purpose of using width (Maxi Rodriguez and Datolo) without any target-man.


    I know very well it is easy to sit in the comforts of my home and pass opinion about the situation. But somehow I clearly get the feeling that Maradona does not seem to have a concrete plan in mind.


    my 2 cents.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim a good post as always looking at how much Argentina have struggled. Just a quick couple of things though. You mention Ezequiel Garay in the blog. As far as i know he would be available to play so why oh why was Dominguez played. You picked him out on the World Football phone in as probably not good enough and picking two centre halves from Argentinian football meant that it was always going to be a big ask wheras Garay has a couple of years of experience in the Spanish league( where he has a reputation as one of the top centre halves and would have experience of facing Fabiano).
    On another issue does anyone know what Dunga has against Pato. I would not expect him to be in front of Fabiano but he is easily as good as Nilmar. Dunga seems to have some sort of problem with him being thought of as the Wonderkid.

  • Comment number 30.

    Great article Tim.

    I feel this game just goes to show tactically inept Maradona is - as you've indicated, his decision to shunt Veron out wide in the second half was terrible, and I feel his failure to recognise Argentina's patent need for a true no. 10. Yes, they lacked width, although the fullbacks rarely received the ball once advanced into the final third - Maradona came out with this rubbihs a few days ago about Messi 'needing to become a man', as if expecting the young lad to win the game singlehandedly for Argentina. Grossly unfair on a player who was playing out of his comfort zone and whose heavenly powers do not extend as far as being able to perform Riquelme's role to perfection. Messi perpetually tried to ignite something within the final third, yet didn't seem to know exactly how to go about it - he also did not have the luxury of Xavi and Iniesta to combine with.

    What I feel Argentina severely lacked, was Riquelme, or a number ten capable of bringing the tactical awareness, passing ability and sharp mind of Riquelme - to the table. For me, it was Argentina's inability to progress the ball swiftly enough throughout the final third which was there undoing - had Riquelme been present, he would have been able to stretch the Brazil defence by bringing the fullbacks into play and then quickly igniting - as you suggested was Maradona's plan for Veron - an interchange into space through the middle. However, Veron was deployed too deep, and bar his short passing game in the initial stages of the match, he certainly never looked like a man who could stretch the Brazil defence - of the two or three balls into space out wide he attempted from deep, I can't recall him having any success. I suppose, had he been deployed further ahead, he may have had more success in doing this.

    Had a no. 10 figure been deployed, with Messi just ahead, with an out-an-out striker holding the line, I think Argentina would have had much more success. The presence of a no. 10 would draw out one of Brazil's holding players, while a surging run from Maxi would displace the other, allowing Messi to roam within the now increased space between the defence and defensive midfield.

    I would like to ask, do you know why Walter Samuel doesn't make it into the Argentina side? He'd surely bring the experience and control which the Argentine defence so desperately needs.

    I seriously hope that Maradona learns from this and understands the need for a true no. 10 in his team. Otherwise, his reign as Argentina coach may be short lived.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dear Tim,
    A great fan of your analysis, by far one of the best for BBC. I remain puzzled at the ommission of Higuain who is a poacher as well as a physical threat. While I dont think that Riquelme would have been crucial, I believe Cambiasso is.

    One thing I dont understand is how Heinze can be so volatile in form during a single game? He is either brilliant or shockingly average. It seems that when he gets angry, which happens quite a bit, he losses the plot. Any alternatives for his position for Maradona?

    Finally, I think Tevez has not matured yet for the international stage but a continuing partnership with Veron (one of the most intelligent players around) and Mesi will certainly help.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 32.

    Whatever has happened to Pablo Aimar?

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Tim,

    Rafa always said when he engineered comebacks that you don't have to throw all your weapons immediately after losing a crucial match in the first half, and when he needed power in attack he usually introduced 'wingers' and 'midfielders' (at the 60th + 70th minute) instead of strikers who would create chaos in the opponents box rather than creating goal chances and scoring them.

    Maradona in my opinion should have packed the midfield and droped 'Tevez' or played him as a 'winger' instead of a 'striker' and if i were Maradona i would be worried if expected him to score goals because he is a 'headless chicken'.

    a 4-5-1 formation with Milito or Aguero as a spearhead, Messi on the right and Tevez on the left would have damaged Brazil(although Brazil's goals came from set pieces) in such crucial matches you have to be very patient & when your opportunity comes you should take it, but Argentina had plenty and wasted them.

    What's your opinion of the Brazil team? they look Italish! got the result and qualified, ok, but where is the Brazilian magic?

    - I respect Pele, Maradona's rival, because he saved his self the flushes and refused managing the National team on many occasions, and preserved his status as a national icon.

    If Argentina don't qualify, won't they blame their 'God' Maradona and won't he lose his status as the country's idol that was apparent when the croud chanted Dunga's name in the stands!

  • Comment number 34.

    Whatever happened to Maxi Lopez? I thought he was a big physical striker. I remember he signed for Barcelona from River Plate then was sent out on loan and I've never heard of him since.

  • Comment number 35.

    It just goes to show that great players very often dont make great managers. Being a great individual on the pitch is very different from being a great manager off it, Roy Keane is learning this the hard way also. It involves a totally different mindset its like asking someone who has never played chess before to play a game against a grand master, sure they might enjoy some luck and success in the beginning in what is commonly known as a honey moon period, but once the the novelty has worn off they get found out for the (without wanting to sound to harsh) fraud that they are, i dont mean that in a malicious way but that is essentially what they are, novices pretending to be masters.

  • Comment number 36.

    I was very interested to see if the change of stadium would benefit the Argentineans. This will be a bitter pill for Maradona to swallow, (no intended pun on drug use), with the level of hatred he has for Brazil.

    Unfortunately I think his inexperience at managerial level is a major factor to Argentina's struggle in this campaign. He could well go down as another example of great players becoming fairly average coaches.

    http://sportales.com/soccer/keane-to-impress/

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    maradona {the hand of looser}

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    the amount of talent Argentina has had over the past decade is ridiculous, along with Holland they must be the biggest chokers in international football. I mean a team that has featured Messi, Riquelme, Veron, Aguero, Crespo, Gago etc...most teams would die for these names.

    What I dont like about Argentinian football, they always make Veron or Riquelme the scapegoats all the time. Veron was quality in the match, I wish Manchester United had held onto him!

    In other news, Heinze is still a moaning disgrace...and Adriano has proved that he is worthy of South American Diving Champion of The Year for the umpteenth year running!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    @37: Argentina have no love for football you think eh? Have you watched England in the past 19 years? Seen the perpetual use of the long ball game England have persisted with? Seen the dire football England have produced for the last 19 years? You reckon England have love for football?

    Stop spouting rubbish.

  • Comment number 42.

    #33 and others suggesting Tevez, Aguero or Messi playing out wide in a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1...however you want to call it.

    The problem with playing such players out wide is that they arn't exactly wide players. They all have a tendancy to drift inside. This is a problem as it means that the centre of the park is packed. Argentina are at their best when they play with width, open up the midfield and allow their midfielders a bit of time and space to play brilliant 1-2 football all over the place.

    To allow for this you can't have both of your "wide" players playing the same role of cutting into the middle. Messi is probably the best around at starting out wide, receiving the ball and playing it into midfield then cutting in through the centre to receive and play it through to the attack. When you have someone on the other side trying to do the exact same thing it would end up being counter productive with them both stepping on each others feet and being frustrated at not getting the ball...then when they DO get the ball there isn't any space as the opponents defence isn't stretched...just packed right through the middle of the park without any gaps.

    The team needs balance...you can't just pack it with all the stars.

    TheGo

  • Comment number 43.

    Haven't read all the blogs, so forgive me if I'm reiterating. I remember some years ago Scotland playing Brazil in the world cup. Leading one-nil. Playing really well. Brazil contrived to win a very dubious free kick just before half-time, just outside the box. Better than a penalty. Scored. The whole game changed. Against Argentina, the first two goals came from fouls that Brazil were looking for. I'm not saying that they weren't (though one at least was debatable), but I'm surprised that the Argentine defenders weren't a bit more savvy. Of course,if you don't tackle Kaka in that position you're done anyway...

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree with 42 - you need true wingers, not forwards shunted wide to accomodate a target man.

    However, I do not see width as an isue - many a time did the fullbacks advance into the final third for Argentina, only for them not to receive the ball. This is why - I feel - that a Riquelme figure is vital. Argentina then have an outlet via which the ball can be channelled - Riquelme has the tactical intelligence and sharpness of mind to ping th ball out wide, to take the ball back, then knock it over to the other side, thus stretching the defence. Messi was not able to do this - he's a great player, but is not a playmaker. Riquelme would have freed up Messi to roam in between the defensive midfielders and defence of Brazil - Riquelme's quick feet and sharp passing, and a surging run from Maxi would draw Gilberto and Melo away from their position in front of the defence, allowing for Messi to exploit this space.

    I feel Argentina should line up as follows:

    -------------------------Keeper

    ------------------CB-------------CB------------------


    ------------------------Mascherano-------------------

    --Fullback-----------------------Cambiasso------Fullback
    --------------------Maxi--------------------------------

    -------------------------Riquelme-----------------------

    ------------------Messi--------------------------------

    ------------------------------Crespo--------------------

    What you now have is Masche and Cambi allowing the fullbacks to rampage forward and provide width, while a target man in the area in the form of Crespo gives the fulbacks a good crossing option. Riquelme drifts within the final third, using his shapr passing range to stretch the defence, Maxi roams forward, giving Messi more space in between the lines.

  • Comment number 45.

    You mention that there are no real alternatives in the squad in terms of defence. Well even if Samuel is injured (which I don't believe he currently is) you still have Pareja and Gonzalo Rodriguez who have both been performing excellently in Spain. Pareja was called up for the game, while Gonzalo bizarrely continues to be overlooked.

    Up front Higuain & Lisandro should be obvious picks for the squad, but the former has yet to even be capper, and the latter despite banging in goals left right and centre doesn't even make the final matchday squad.

    Romero who has performed excellently well at junior level for the Argentina side, and also well for Alkmaar.

    The only real excuse Maradona has with his selection is the FB position which is an obviously longstanding area of weakness. Other than that Maradona has a wealth of options that would embarrass most other international managers, but if you're not using those options then you're asking for trouble.

    As for his continued faith in Heinze, Tevez, only Maradona can answer that.

    -------------Romero
    Zanetti--Samuel--Gonzalo--Papa/Angeleri
    -----------Mascherano-Cambiasso
    -------------Riquelme/Lucho
    Messi-------Higuain/Lisandro-----Aguero

    Not even mentioning players like Pareja, Gago, Banega, Zarate, Lavezzi, Tevez, Milito.

    Not rocket science.

  • Comment number 46.


    As Mr Keegan would say, "I'd luv it if they didn't make the world cup, luv it"

  • Comment number 47.

    Hasn't Higuain recently indicated that he might switch his allegiance to France if he doesn't get called up by Maradona soon? Can't say I'd blame him really; while the jury was out for me when he first signed for Real Madrid, he's certainly proven his goalscoring ability there in the last couple of seasons.

  • Comment number 48.

    Hmmm... So many people are dismissive about Tevez...

    I have a different view. Argentina perhaps can do well with an inspiring skipper, but unfortunately, Mascherano is not. Zanetti is inspiring, but a skipper is always better to be chosen from a player with "central role" i.e. a central defender, a central midfielder or a central forward. Mascherano is okay but asking him to inspire under this tremendous pressure situation of Argentina is simply too much for him. Heinze is regarded by most people as unreliable thus excluded. Veron has a "history" of his own for the past World Cup that some local Argentina fans may not like him much, thus excluded as well. Then who is the most suitable one to be skipper? Perhaps to most people surprises - Tevez.

    Why Tevez? 1st, he had been a skipper b4 with Brazilian Club Corinthians and you know how he inspired them to a title and earned himself the best player in Brazilian league and South America Best Player of the year for the THIRD time. 2nd, find me a player in Argentina team who can handle the pressure the best. The young ones like Messi, Aguero and the uncalled Higuian you can exclude them having the ability to handle present pressure, simply because - they are still very young. If you look carefully, you have to admit that, Tevez is the one who can handle pressure situation better than anyone else in the team, perhaps due to his never-say-die attitude (or some people called it "headless chicken"). Though the 2 red cards he received once were questionable, but it was long time ago, not worth mentioning again.

    Tevez with all these qualities: handle the pressure the best, very experienced with a lot of big trophies won (with World Cup experience as well), having been a skipper and very inspiring by having a scoring ratio of approximately 1 goal on every 2 games with Corinthians (Unless you think Brazilian league is easy league, you simply can't dismiss this fact.). He can be prolific sometimes, not to mention scoring 8 goals in the Olympic game be4.

    But why Tevez wasn't chosen to be the skipper? I bet Maradona knew he should have been the most suitable man to be the skipper yet Maradona couldn't choose him simply because of Messi. Maradona can't afford to drop Messi. If Tevez were named the skipper it would be both Tevez and Messi always the 1st choice strikers thus limit Maradona's options of selecting others, especially he has to "take care of" his son-in-law Aguero sometimes.

    ALMOST ALL people always include Messi in the team, as if he is too important to rule out. I have a different view. Messi is the best in the world in terms of individual skill, but football is not about individual skill alone. In terms of "all-round football", Tevez is the best, not Messi, though you may not think "all-round football" is important to the team. My point is, Messi is the best in individual skill doesn't mean he can win you matches all the time. Experience and all-round wise, Messi still has things to learn as he is still very young. Because of that, you can't include him in the team all the time simply because he has the best skill in the world. Sometimes you have to have the guts to leave him on the bench (you can play him in 2nd half) for tactical change. But I guess almost no one think of that, even if I am not a coach. People may laugh at you if you leave Messi out even if it could be a right call for tactical effect.

    Talk about Tevez couldn't score much with Argentina, in fact if you look carefully, ALL the strikers including Messi, Aguero, Milito have problems scoring too, then you know it has something to do with the services behind the strikers, not entirely the strikers' fault. Some people just wanted to pick a scapegoat they simply have to pick Tevez. I remember the famous 26 pass-goal scored by Argentina against Serbia in World Cup but I found something amiss with present Argentina team - lack of smooth, fast and excellent short passes. Besides the frail defense needing patch-up, these fast and decisive short passes which made Argentina fearsome to others should be rediscovered as well, if they want to survive. If Argentina can pass very well, their movements and response are fast and spontaneous, with excellent skills by some players, who need tall strikers?

  • Comment number 49.

    Tim

    Everyone including yourself appears to be concentrating on Argentina's weaknessess rather than Brazil's strengths. Everyone is still keen to categorise Dunga's team as functional and that's it.

    Following the Brasil team, Dunga appears to have made huge strides as a manager - even the Brazilian media are starting to admit it. Their return to the top of the FIFA rankings is no coincidence. In the last year they have decimated Portugal, made easy work of Italy on 2 occasions, put in an awesome attacking display against USA (2nd half) and now beaten Argentina away.

    Despite what a few people have said above, they looked in total control against Argentina despite not having the majority of the possession (very unusual for a Brazil side). Dunga looks to have created a very good "team" (rather than a collection of individuals) and they look as if they are going to be very, very hard to beat come next year.

  • Comment number 50.

    Great blog, as always a great read Tim.

    Dominguez is simply not good enough, and as many others have said surely Samuel could have done a job in such a big game? Rodriguez would be an ideal clear choice surely if age or fitness was the concern? I think this decision alone was the most crucial factor at the weekend and Argentina looked good before they lost the first goal.

    People need to keep things in perspective - this is a very difficult Brazil team to beat right now and Argentina played pretty well at times. For all the criticism, Dunga has created a team that does not look like losing goals - at all - and has the perfect players to play on the break. Any team in world football, including Spain, will struggle to break them down.

    Maradona needs to re-think things against the top sides, playing so centrally is too easy for teams that can defend well.

  • Comment number 51.

    You can watch the highlights here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NErUQ3ubaUY

  • Comment number 52.

    Maradona - still ruining football!

  • Comment number 53.


    Cant Gago play the midfield play maker role ?

    A 4-3-3 (not 4-2-3-1) would get the best out of Messi as people rightly say- he is at his best drifting in from wide. Barca played Ronaldinho and Messi- both of whom drifted in, as indeed does Henry. And they won Champ Leagues with that tactic, so it works.

    They dont really drift into midfield because theyre not strictly wingers. They drift into the box so the midfield dosent necessarily get crowded in a 4-3-3. PLus with say Cambiasso, Mascherano and Gago/Veron youve got men who can dominate a midfield.

    Maxi Rodriguez, or indeed Lavezzi could be the other wide attacking mid. That could work.

    And Milito up front.

  • Comment number 54.

  • Comment number 55.

    17. At 10:43am on 07 Sep 2009, paodequeijo wrote:...............

    I am sorry ...but during your 2 months in Sao Paulo you must have been putting away too much cachaça, if you or any of your friends think that porky Ronaldo has a chance of making it to SA. The only reason he is having such a good season with Corinthians is because he only ever plays in ´BIG´games...never plays the whole game and spends what time he is on the pitch in a forward...almost goal hanging position . ..no one dares to tackle him because of who he is.. he looks good because the rest are average at most.Though Corinthians seem to play more as a team when he is not playing

    He was good ..once ..now he has come back to play in Brasil because no one in Europe wants him and here he is God.

    The reason they cannot keep the weight off is because noone will say NO to them . . they all love a plate of Fejoada or Salgados ...




    Brasil will have enough problems winning the World Cup without having him along.

  • Comment number 56.

    Tim, at the end of the day Argentina need to qualify so I don't see why he can't throw in a good experienced defender like Samuel. He is under no illusions that he needs to play him in South Africa or indeed any of his future selections. Argentina needed experience and needed someone to come in and do a job for this match, they don't need an inexperienced central defender with his sub-par club partner holding his hand. Its as if Maradona wants to start moulding a team but has scarcely the time to do it in important games such as this. That team would have worked well had this been a friendly, but against Brazil at home in a WCQ it is not the time to play experiments with tactics and team selections.

    Maradona puts far too much emphasis on the passion and emotion, of the motivational effort that he instills into his players. Choosing the two centrebacks, he choose out of the ability that they could be motivated to do the job rather than have the technical experience to do so. It was also the reasoning behind choosing Rosario. Putting this vague notion of 'morale' and 'support' beyond the actual tactics of the team. Its almost as if he wants to will the team to success. Now this is fine for a team that has poorer players and needs that extra yardage - but for Argentina with all their talent, its just laughable not laudable. Had he a smaller talent pool and perhaps a poorer set of players, Maradona would probably do a good job somewhere. I think as Argentina coach he is out of depth in terms of selections and overall tactics.

    Two wide players, but ineffectual if there are no target-men on the field. Again, he called up Palermo. Why not use him? He would have gave them a bit more presence up top and allowed Messi and Tevez some extra space. Okay at 36 he is neither young nor bursting with energy - but he would have done a job and done a job to get Argentina into the World Cup. I don't see the point in calling up these type of players unless you are going to utilise them. Think of the Heskey scenario, not exactly a goal machine for England but does a job for the team and helps Wayne Rooney to bang in the goals.

    You also have spared the blushes of Gabriel Heinze who is completely out of his depth at this level now. He should be let nowhere near the national team after the disaster in Bolivia. I hope to god Maradona sees sense and looks long and hard at Insua at Liverpool.

    In my eyes Maradona was the main culprit of this farce. He calls up 30+ year old domestically based players and hardly uses them and then completely hands the game to Brazil on a plate with his useless tactics and team selection. I can understand you don't want to be too vitriolic against the man, but you must admit Argentina are completely misfiring in the big games as a result of putting 'passion' ahead of 'points'. I think Maradona can obviously motivate the players but I think he is struggling to work with the tactical dimensions and balance that someone like Dunga has perfected so well with Brazil.

  • Comment number 57.

    It's all great analysis, but ultimately if Argentina don't make it to South Africa on the back of Maradona, then some kind of justice has been done. Karma lads, karma.

    I won't be crying for them.

  • Comment number 58.

    Is anyone really surprised by Argentina's situation? Yes they were already struggling, but no-one expected the disaster area that is Maradona to turn things around did they? If they did they were living in a dream world.

    There was absolutely zero previous evidence to suggest he was up to this job. Even those who point to his personal problems in the past would still have to concede he was a completely unknown quantity coming in, and should never have been placed above the coach that had done so well with the Olympic team.

    For what it's worth I think they'll still limp into the World Cup, but it wont be to the credit of Diego. Very sad to see my favourite ever player embarrassing himself as a manager.

  • Comment number 59.

    "It stretched Brazil and it could have worked. But, as so often in the last couple of years, there was a glaring lack of a centre-forward to get across in front of his marker and convert the crosses."

    But that was exactly what Brazil wanted Argentina to do. They opened space to Argentina's crossing because short players such as Tevez and Messi could never beat giants like Luisão and Lúcio to the header.

    And the first goal shows pretty clear Argentina's problems: there's a crossing in the area, and they leave the tallest player on the pitch unmarked.

    #17

    "And why do you think Brazilian footballers Ronaldo, Ronaldinho & Adriano have such problems keeping the wieght off."

    Isn't it obvious? They all lack professionalism, and are often more worried in what party they will go next than training. In Ronaldinho's case, all the time.

    #34

    "Whatever happened to Maxi Lopez? I thought he was a big physical striker. I remember he signed for Barcelona from River Plate then was sent out on loan and I've never heard of him since."

    He's in Brazil, playing for Gremio, and rather well I'd say, though certainly not enough to get a call up, specially if the likes of Higuain are not making the list.

  • Comment number 60.

    I seem to remember that before the 2002 world cup Brazil had there worst qualifying ever, went through a few coaches and almost didn't qualify. When the finals came around they were considered underdogs (as much as brazil can ever be) and the players pulled together after a tough campaign. If Argentina can qualify then there is a good chance that this could happen and they could make a real go of it.

    Tim. In my opinion Argentina are a team in transition - the have yet to fully replace one generation and the next generation has not quite performed yet. However, the main problem with this is the 'middle generation' - the team 26-30 year olds have not quite stepped up to the plate and helped.

    This situation hasn't been helped by a number of Argentinian players who have been lacking in form or playing in a 'lower league'. However, this summer a number of players have made major moves and can now play better standard of football and also more first team football - this could be their time to step up.

    A number of these players are older but if they are capable of performing then why not.

    Hernan Crespo has moved to Genoa - if given first team football he is more than capable of performing.

    Julio Cruz has moved to Lazio and scored 2 in their first game.

    Rodrigo Palacio has moved to Genoa and we can see him at a european level.

    Javier Saviola has moved to portugal to play with aimar we may finally see the best of them.

    Napoli have heavily strengthened their team and may finally have the service for Lavezzi to make that major step up.

    Higuin, Gago and Garay now have major competition for places as Madrid and this may cause them to majorly up their level of performances.

    Walter Samuel has come back from a major injury and if capable of putting in the same level of performances and staying injury free then he could return as could Gabi Milito and Gonzalo Rodriguez.

    Diego Milito has now got his chance at a major club and if he performs at domestic and european level then why not give him a chance.

    Also Nicolas Burdisso has moved on loan to Roma and if he gets first team football there then he must certianly be considered for a squad place at least.

    This is only a few of the players i have chosen to mention. If a number of them can put their injury problems behind them, get regular football or prove themselves at a higher level then the immediate future does not look so gloomy for Argentina.

    I have a question for Tim - what is the opinion of Thiago Motta in Brazil? He put in some great performances for Genoa last season and now has made a big money move to Inter. If he can perform as well this season and put his injury troubles behind him then surely he must be a certainty for a squad place at least. He might be a longer term replacement for Gilberto Silva or even Elano/Ramires in midfield.

    Also does Dunga view Diego as a replacement for Kaka or would he consider playing them in the same team?

  • Comment number 61.

    nice article, you know your stuff
    brazil s 3rd goal was very nice

  • Comment number 62.

    Tim, as per usual, a very well written article. You always seem to hammer the nail on its head. You've summed up all of Argentina's postives and negatives in one column, and I agree with every point you make.

    Argentina is currently relying on sporadic, organic, individual brilliance since the end of the 2007 Copa America until the last WC Qualifier against Ecuador. I do however, coincied with you in that Maradona is slowly beginning to bring an element of (some) organisation to the side.

    While I believe that in Argentina's last two matches (against Russia & Brasil respectively) there has been a significant improvement in the Albiceleste play collectively, as a unit that was clearly visible Saturday night in Rosario in the opening 25 mins before the first goal (as you pointed out), such a performance can only really be attributed to the natural class and vivacity that players of the quality and calibre of Veron, Messi, Maxi Rodriguez and Mascherano possess, rather than Maradona's preparation.

    Fortunately though, Maradona seemed to field a starting lineup that boasted some structure, (hence the patches of understanding between them)that seemed to upset the Brazilian balance as you noted.

    But what was lacking on this occassion wasn't so much "a team" (like critics have relentlessly claimed in the past) but more so "a coach". The manager's 'midas touch' was not present when it needed to be and this proves a coach's real metal when it comes to making tough decisions. SO here it was where Maradona failed this time round, he could not impose his coaching hand and displayed all the vital signs of a novice tactician.

    As you pointed out Tim, no substitutions should have been made at half time. He should have taken an Errolesque approach and "died with his boots on" as they say in Argentina, basically to have stuck to his guns, kept faith in his players and above all in his system/formula for that game.

    As much as I'm a fan of his and admire his passion, flair, explosiveness, and his gritty never-say-die attitude, I too feel Carlitos Tevez is not worthy for a start in Argentina colours, and hasn't been for quite some time. I feel that MAURO ZARATE, GONZALO HIGUAIN & FERNANDO CAVENAGHI should all be called in to replace Tevez, Lavezzi and Milito respectively. They are all firing in their respective clubs and are continually ignored by Diego.

    Also how is it that a player of Jose Ernesto Sosa's (of Bayern Munich) talent is not even considered for a squad call up!? If there's trouble in the defense why not call up Gonzalo Rodriguez of Villareal? He's only 24 still and has loads of experience in Europe.

    It's encouraging to finally see many people lauding and praising Veron, giving him the recognition he deserves. It's about time (I realise you have always been a fan Tim) that people reconised this.

    I've also witnessed many criticising Heinze could someone tell me what player there is that is a versatile as Heinze - who can play left midfield, left wing back or left central defence - and above all has as much experience as him? Argentina's problem lies further upfield on the same side where we lack the truly, natural "wide" players who love to attack but equally defend such as the likes of Kily Gonzalez and particularly Sorin.

    Far too many of the new guys that have been tried out in this position tend to cut inside far too much and don't offer that added security of defensive assistance. Whic is why one name springs to mind and that is 22-year-old red-headed fellow by the name of CHRISTIAN ANSALDI who plays for Russia's Rubin Kazan (in this years Champions League). I think he played a game for Argentina's Under-23 last year in a 5 - 0 victory over Guatemala's senior team. What are your views on him Tim? Do you think he has what it takes to fill the boots of Sorin or least offer some much needed reassurance and restore parity to a troubled Argentina outfit? I for one most certainly do.

  • Comment number 63.

    #25 dmrichkt


    Aside from disagreeing with most of your post, I've feel it is necessary to point out that you wrote the following;

    "Riquelme hardly counts as Argentine developed".

    Surely you're having a laugh! He played at Boca Juniors until he was 24 after debuting at 17. That's 7 years in Argentine football - QUALITY AMONGST QUALITY.

    Did he develop his footballing talent in China? If that doesn't count as "Argentine developed" then I don't know what does. If you're implying that he learnt how to "mature" or "develop" into a complete player in Europe then you are wrong.

    All Europe ever had to offer Riquelme was discipline and dollar signs. It was more a case of Riquelme learning what HE could offer EUROPE - sheer class, and South American skill.

    Enough said.

  • Comment number 64.

    @48: I appreciate that Tevez is being used a scapegoat by certain people - however, in my view, you go too far. The best player in the world in terms of 'all round football'? Come on mate, get real. Granted, he works for the team, will perpetually provide 100% effort and guarantees a spectacular goal once every 20 games. However, he is little more. Too often is he marginalised by strong, narrow defences and too often is his lack of technique, speed and sharp thought process exposed by world class midfielders/defenders. His end product often leaves spectators aghast at how such a touted player can perform as such. He'll come up with the odd moment of sheer excellence, yet apart from that, Tevez is little more than graft, nimble feet, a sharp shot and movement. Certainly not the best 'all round footballer' in the world.

    Had Argentina played a Crespo figure, who could hold the ball more effectively for that second longer, and a player whose movement was more in tune with the way Argentina play - as opposed to Tevez, who simply runs around ad-hoc, seemingly unaware of the positional restrictions his role as the main frontman present - then Argentina may well have found more success in their passing game.

    You could have Crespo holding the front line, while Messi roams in behind. Riquelme as the no. 10, swiftly moving the ball about, stretching defences by bringing the fullbacks into play in the final third on the flanks, who can then look for Crespo in the area with a cross, or give it back to Riquelme who knocks it into the space, for Crespo - who is a much better finisher and understands the tactical nuances of the striker much better than Tevez - to score.

    Tevez isn't all just 'headless chicken' but he certainly is not among the world's elite in terms of frontmen.

  • Comment number 65.

    What did Maradona ever offer Argentine as a manager? He could perhaps provide his strong experience on drugs and alcohol abuse and cheating, but in terms of leading Argentina to World Cup glory, his tank is empty.
    Argentina has only itself to blame for its current dilemna.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Tim,

    'Veron ran the game for the first 20 minutes in Rosario. Brazil can have problems against deep lying playmakers - think how Zinedine Zidane ripped them apart in the last World Cup - and this time Maradona seemed to have the balance of his midfield right.'

    Usually good article but i am not sure about this bit (see above). As a fellow Brazilian pointed out above (49), there's too much emphasis on Argentina's failures than Brazil's success, it seems like you are letting Diego off the hook, i'm afraid.

    From the start of the match, Argentina huffed and puffed, going nowwhere in midfield, Veron looked tired, heavy, and i don't remember him running the midfield at all. Poor Messi was lone figure in that Argentinean midfield, the boy tried hard, but again, when he plays for Barca he has Xavi and Iniesta supporting him. Tactically, actually it looked to me there's no tactics from the Argies, it seemed to me that Diego told them go and play with your hearts, with the help of god and our supporters we'll beat Brazil! Very poor indeed. Veron is not a Zidane, and besides this currently Brazilian team, play as a team, not the prima donas of 2006 WC's team (with a few exceptions).

    Brazilians on the other hand followed Dunga's plan to perfection, i'm not saying it was attractive, it was effective, and Kaka just demonstrated how good he really is, a perfect pass to Luis Fabiano, i have not seen a pass like that in the Argentinean side in the whole match.

    In my view, Robinho and Gilberto Silva need to make room for other players, perhaps Pato and Sandro (or Hernanes, pity he is injured at the moment). Robinho for me is a waste of space, i can understand that he does not need to track back, but he's rate of creativity in the match was close to zero! He is injured for the next match against Chile, and that would be a good opportunity for Dunga to use Pato.

    As for Argentina, they will struggle against Paraguay, it would be a pity if they don't qualify, but i can't see them getting results in Asuncion or Montevideo!

    cheers

  • Comment number 67.


    Provided that every player were fit, not injured or suspended & Riquelme still chose to not play for Argentina if the first WC 2010 match were to be played tomorrow, I would lineup in a 2-3-2-2-1 system. This would be the starting team that I would field.


    ---------------ANDUJAR[1]--------------------

    ------DEMICHELIS[2]-------HEINZE[6]*---------

    ZANETTI[4]-------------------------ANSALDI[3]

    -------------MASCHERANO[8]-------------------

    -------VERON[11]----------BOLATTI[5]---------

    ---MESSI[10]------------------DI MARIA[7]***-

    ---------------HIGUAIN[9]--------------------



    *So long as he is fit, Demichelis should always start. He is a stalwart in defence. Offers experience and pure class. Unmoveable. But if injured, a quick replacement of similar experience should be used; either Samuel or Burdisso.

    **Would only start provided Gabriel Milito IS NOT fit, otherwise he instead would get the nod. Gonzalo Rodriguez of Villareal will be the 3rd option.

    *** Would only just pip Jesus Datolo for the position. 3rd in the pecking order would be Jonas Gutierrez.

    POSSIBLE SUBSTITUES:

    Carrizo

    Romero

    Angeleri for Zanetti

    Papa for Ansaldi

    Gago OR Cambiasso for Bolatti

    Jose Ernesto Sosa OR Lucho Gonzalez for Veron

    Maxi Rodriguez for Messi: (yes that's right he's not irreplaceable because Messi tends to drift in and out of games for Argentina and as someone mentioned earlier on this blog he tries to do too much on his own sometimes).

    Cavenaghi for Higuain.

    UNUSED SUBS:

    Fabricio Coloccini
    Nicolas Otamendi
    Pablo Zabaleta

    Andres D'Alessandro (always a good back up option)
    Javier Pastore (only 19 must look for future replacements for Riquelme [31] and Veron[34])

    (The following 3 strikers would be ideal in partnering Messi upfront in a 4-4-2 system);

    Mauro Zarate
    Sergio Agüero
    Lisandro Lopez

    Please no more Cata Diaz, Tevez, Lavezzi, or Milito!

  • Comment number 68.

    Nice analysis tim.

    now as i think of it, maradona again exposed his frailties as coach. he knew brasil would setup to play on the counter, but i did not see any planning to nullify that. this new anti joga bonito brasil (as much as it pains me to say) is very effective on set pieces, yet maradona put out a small line up. leaving diego milito on the bench was the biggest gaffe for me. i'm sorry it seems like there is no line of professionalism that should be between manager and player, and in argentina's best interst (i know he loves his country) maradona should go. this was argentina's only 2nd home loss in eliminatorias history! its just not working. since ecuador also lost, argentina still in 4th but there still a bit of time to salvage the situation hope to see argentina next year in copa do mundo. i refuse to believe its just a case of player selection there is a clear lack of game plan in maradona's approach. or even if there is one, as the first half showed, he messes up by half time if argentina is not winning.\

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    Sadly Maradona is out of his depth. Argentina need a manager, someone disciplined, intelligent and experienced. A real manager, not an ex-footballer who cheated, lied, took drugs and lost the plot with a gun. In my opinion he is the best footballer i have ever seen - fatally flawed but it is still sad that younger fans may remember him most for failing to qualify.

    Remember George Best was almost as good as Maradona but would you want him as manager?

  • Comment number 71.

    Am resident in Colombia now and so have more than a passing interest in Colombia and South American football, and just want to point out that a questioner above asked about Giovanny Hernandez, well it's actually another Giovanny that you should be watching out for, Giovanny Moreno, big strapping lad who set up the second goal against Ecuador with a lovely bit of skill see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN6gm73ICXk

  • Comment number 72.

    i dont maradona did much wrong. his only weakness is liking certain players too much. u can like so-and-so, but if they dont fit he game plan they must be benched. i also feel he has a soft spot for players from boca juniors. as a boca fan(atic), i have no diea why he would call up palermo. i would go far as saying lucas viatri would have been a better call up despite his limited experience. also, i would start licha lopez anyday, and move messi somewhere where he would create. veron is amazing, but unless masche can perform like "mascherano and 10 more", its dangerous playing with seba's old legs in the middle. maxi rodriguez is the most un-argentinian player i have ever seen. im not convinced by his input to the team. would rather play messi out right. defensively, diego makes the mistake of trusting local inexperienced players a tad too much. why not play the olympic hero pareja with the reliable coloccini? and plz, IF andujar is to be dropped, romero should be in goal. he lacks a touch of maturity, but would add so much charisma. i dont understand aguero's weak performances on the int'l stage, stressing once again the need for licha to start with tevez. tevez and messi playing freely would be too good for seba's passes...i think, i hope haha

  • Comment number 73.

    Gorgo -mj are you actually advocating leaving Messi out of the team?
    Ridiculous suggestion. It's a bit like people wanting Gerrard left out of Liverpool when they have a few bad games.

    Why was Maradona given the job, people ask? It is the mentality of the Country I'm afraid. Much in the same way as back in the 1970's they joyously welcomed General Peron's politically inexperienced wife as President, after he died. This lead to corruption, left wing activists and sadly eneded in tears with a Military Coup which resulted in thousands of people disappearing. It is the Argentine way. But even if they finish 5th in the table I'm sure Argentina will be too good for Costa Rica or Mexico who currently lie 4th and 3rd in the CONCACAF section. The 4th team there plays the 5th team in South America.

  • Comment number 74.

    One point i wanted to uickly pick up (apologoes for lack of time - travel to montevideo for the uruguay-colombia game)
    The match report here and in some other places yesterday was saying that the argentine crowd were cheering for dunga at the end of the game. Perhaps all eminating from a news agency writer- but not true. it wasn´t 'Dunga' they were chanting - it was ´bruja' - veron´s nickname.

  • Comment number 75.

    Why were they chanting that Tim? Veron was certainly not at his best - did they feel annoyed at how Maradona deployed him out wide in the second half? Or was it in response to jeering of Veron from some sections of the crowd?

  • Comment number 76.

    I agree with most of the positive comments,specially with mohtechnix: it seems every body is concerned with Argentina's situation,Maradona must be sucked before its too late,He is not a man for this position, he do no even whom to select and to drop, I do not aknoledge a person who left,CF Milito/Higuain,CM Esterban Cambiasso even before his injury, CB Walter Samuel. Imagine a world cup without Argentina and Portugal, who are strugling to qualify .

  • Comment number 77.

    Interesting article Tim. Argentina's present situation has been a problem since the Copa in 07. Messi is the best player they have but he isnt being used correctly/not getting good support/not performing. The defense wouldnt be a problem if midfield and attack did better. the 442 formation leaves the defence open to these problems (although against Brazil it was two set pieces for the first two goals).

    iv no problem with the selection but i definetly query the tactics/formation it hasnt been right for a long time now - long before Maradona was appointed. do they have the players to play a Barcelona 433? you cant stick Aguero wide in this formation can you?

    A proper number 9 is needed against Paraguay - Lisandro or (gulp) Palermo please. good point by Tim in that Milito just does not look good enough at this level. Tevez out doesnt cut it either. best used as a sub. and i want to stick Heinze in at centre back - better than Burdisso and Coloccini combined. tough on Dominguez cant judge him after one game.

    Hope Diego can get it right!

    p.s Veron is a joy to watch i understand why the fans were chanting his name o and wheres Mascherano gone??? couldnt influence the game AGAIN - not a captain.

  • Comment number 78.

    Veron was the only bright spot for my beloved Argentina, why can't Riquelme play with Veron? Where is Hiquain when the team needs a scorer.

  • Comment number 79.

    to Sportello45

    I dont know if anyone else has mentioned it above, but

    Maradona was never a good role model....Good player, yes....

  • Comment number 80.

    # 70

    You are completely right,

    I dare say any nation that appointed George Best as manager would struggle.

  • Comment number 81.

    Some guy up at the top has the nerve to say "and Riquelme hardly counts as Argentine developed"

    He left Argentina (Boca) at the age of 27 (maybe 28). He is completely Argentine developed.

    This is not having a go, but do some basic research before posting....

    "the football factories of Europe" yet another gem....LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLO



  • Comment number 82.

    If you're staying in Montevideo check out Terracotta in Pocitos for some awesome meat (and not too far from the stadium either.

    Hoping it's a good game but it really is a make or break game. I can only hope that they drop Abreu as the guy just isn't cut out for it anymore...

  • Comment number 83.

    i for one want argentina at wc, we need all the best teams there that includes portugal aswell. i want us to play argentina in the querters and hopefully beat them, and portugal are a good side they just haven't got a decent striker to kill teams off. as i say we need all the worlds best players there, i hope to see a messi vs ronaldo showdown and we wont to see competitve games no offense to chile, paraguey, ecuedor or serbia but there hardly world champion metarial.

  • Comment number 84.

    81 - He left as a 23 year old(2002 to Barcelona). So maybe YOU should do some basic research before.

    Although I have to say that a 23 year old is Argentina developed.

  • Comment number 85.

    Very good observation Tim but what you are not seeing is that Argentina was playing at home. Brazil always have problems against Argentina in Argentina. My point is were this match played on neutral grounds Brazil will have adopted a more positive attitude. Brazil have beaten them with Ayala, Samuel, Cambiasso Riquelme. The fact is Brazil is better than them

  • Comment number 86.

    Argentina's last 4 Qualifiers: 3 losses (Bolívia, Equador, Brasil)and 1 win (Colômbia), with a goal difference of -9 (2 GF, 11 GA). Hardly edifying results and not so sure there was any real improvement against Russia or Brasil.

    Not quite sure where the optimism comes from.

  • Comment number 87.


    This Argentine side is yet to peak. They have plenty of talent. Getting a few more points should not be difficult for the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez et al. Best wishes in the encounters to come.




    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 88.

    87 - I don't think they have much time left to peak! There are only 3 matches left, they play away in Paraguay, home against Peru and a decider against Uruguay in Montevideo. I can see them getting a maximum of 4 points, lose in Asuncion, win against Peru and a draw against Uruguay.

  • Comment number 89.

    maradona is an idiot plain and simple, he got the best players in the world but his tactics are mind boggling, he thinks players from the continent can compete against their european counterparts , i mean where on earth is zarate,walter samuel , why not play gago,get rid of tevez the headless chicken who in my opinion offers nothing concrete to the team, an why oh why is gabriel "the passenger" heinze still in the starting 11. But my main concern is gonzalo HIGUAIN, a player of such exceptional talent can not be overlooked we all know very well what his capable of doing, a person not choosing some1 like higuain for the squad has no right to be a manager, that too of a team with such incredible potential!

  • Comment number 90.

    Veron's nickname is "bruja"? Doesn't that mean "witch"?! How did that come about?

    I love the little nicknames that South American players often get given. One of my favourites is Pablo Aimar's: payaso (clown).

  • Comment number 91.

    42&44 please watch Henry(not a winger) and Messi play for barcelona and then write about having to use "proper" wide players! People who know Argentina and the players available to play for the country are suggesting Barca's 4-3-3 for good reason! Messi will play in his natural position, Higuain is ideal as the mobile centre forward, Tevez can play the role he excelled in the WC06 cutting in from the left, aguero can play his natural position behind Higuain, Cambiasso & Mascherano are natural protectors, Walter Samuel & Garay can be the centre pairing and you can toss a coin for the fullbacks & goalie. But basically if you pick the countries best players the formation to opt for is pre-determined.

    90# veron earned the nickname from some of his challenges in his early career.

  • Comment number 92.

    #91 Barcelona is the exception, not the rule. Also they were afforded the ability to play more central due to a certain mr. Dani Alves who is known more for his wide attacking play than for his defending, which is so-so. The width was still provided for the team...however Argentina just don't have the players to do this, not to Alves standard anyway. Hell...even though Alves' defending is sometimes suspect he is still classed as one of the better right backs in the world. This is because of what he adds up the field and the freedom he allows Messi to creep into the center. I'm also not convinced that Argentina have the midfielders to cover their fb's running up the pitch. Just not really the right type of players in my opinion.

    TheGo

  • Comment number 93.

    92, fair point on the Alvez reference, Argentina dont have a player of such attacking ability/width amongst their fullback options. Having said that,barcelona have played 4-3-3 long before Alvez arrived, players such as Oleger & Puyol (who provided not a glimse of the attacking width of Alvez) operated in full back slots. No country can have the right player for each position but looking at argentinas best 11 players they fall more naturally (if not perfect)into a 4-3-3.
    Around a decade ago River Plate produced a "dream team" that got dubbed -"the machine" a name given to great River sides, it was made up of a front 4- Aimar,Saviola,Ortega & Angel, the latter was the centre from which the other 3 worked off. None were an out & out winger but their rapid movement & interplay made them ..well a machine! lol. I look at Argentina's plight today and i see 3 talented little players and one talented strong centre forward (HIGUAIN!! just incase Maradona is reading this blog!)& i think as a manager you might aswell go with it.

  • Comment number 94.

    Argentina could model team on system Holland use which was so effective at Euro 08.

    Dutch play with 4-2-3-1, and have a similar squad make up, lack of talented defenders, lots of AMs/WFs. They protect the weakest part of team by playing less glamourous players such as De Zeeuw, Engelaar, De Jong (Masch, Gago, Banega, Cambiasso) in front of back four, freeing up players such as Robben, Van Persie, Van Der Vaart, Sneijder, Kuyt to make up the "3". Ths is not a traditional 2 wngers and number 10, but 3 attacking midfielders (Sneijder often plays to right though he is far from a winger) which makes them hard to mark as it draws out full backs and poss Centre back allowing space behind. These players are also capable of interchanging roles, causing further difficulties for defenders.

    Depending on form/opponents, any combination of Riquelme, Seba(though maybe now better suited to one of deeper roles), Messi, Di Maria, Maxi, Datolo, Lavezzi, Lucho or even Buenanotte, as well as possible use of Aguero as centre of 3 should surely spread fear? This usually requires attacking full backs, but Gio and Heitinga don't necessarily bomb on.

    CF doesnt need to be wonderful player in this system, a bit of presence is all that is really required, and to be fair, with Maxi Aguero Messi flitting about, a Milito, Higuain or Cavenaghi would still contribute just by being near the box. Best use of Tevez i feel would be this position, energy to press back line and when he comes towards the ball, Aguero can go beyond. However, if he doesn't fit in then he is a great option from the bench, play what works!


    Sometimes it isn't about including all of your big name players in the starting line up, but employing the most effective players in their correct position. If "star" players (eg Tevez) have to start from bench for the good of the team at the expense of less attractive but functional players, this creates more competition for places and options when big players have off days or different option required for certain opposition, which is why you take 23 to WC. and not

    Short of Spain, no-one has qaulity player in every single position, so making the unit work for Argentina is most important thing. look at Brazil!

  • Comment number 95.

    " Veron's nickname is "bruja"? Doesn't that mean "witch"?! How did that come about?"

    Actually, is "Brujita" (little witch). His father, Juan Verón, was La Bruja (hence, him called La Brujita". I suppose that they were trying to say La Bruja because he was magical or something like that.

    Though, here in Brazil, someone called A Bruxa (portuguese for The Witch) wouldn't have a moment of peace ever, and the nickname certainly would be considered offensive.

  • Comment number 96.

    It will be a huge tragedy for world football if Argentina do not qualify for the world cup. Not because they are Argentina but because they possess the best footballer on the planet. Lionel Messi will be regarded in the same breath as his gaffer Maradona before once his career is over and it would be a shame if the people of the world are denied seeing him. He is so good the world cup will lose that extra bit of speciality and there will be whispers of but messi is not playing.
    So for the sake of the South Africa World Cup it is imperitave that Argentina win their next few games, and i have a funny feeling it will be messi who will turn on the magic... Just like legends do!

  • Comment number 97.

    Veron's father was called La Bruja (the Witch) on account of his hooked nose.

    AArrrrrrr! I?ve now read that the crowd were chanting Dunga on 3 different reports now (BBC, Guardian and Independent) - as Tim says they were actually chanting, 'Ole, ole, ole,ole Bruja, Bruja...' It's ludicrous to even contemplate that a passionate home Argentina crowd would be singing the name of the Brazilian coach!

    I thought Veron played well in the 1st half, operating in the centre, but it was wrong to play him right midfield 2nd half.

    Unfortunately, it looks like Maradona is going to start Veron on right again tommorow.

    There was so much wrong with Argentina's tactics/ formation, but, in a nutshell, the team lacked balance, particularly when they tried to attack - Messi comes to deep to start as the main striker, and with Tevez pulling out wide and dropping back aswell, there was no outlet up-front whenever Veron and Mascherano had the ball in midfield in 1st half.

  • Comment number 98.

    Great post Tim, my lack of knowledge on the Argentina lead me to believe it was entirely Maradona's fault. It seems this is not completely the case. It still bothers me when teams get managers based more on "celebrity" than experience which is probably why I have been pointing the finger solely on Diego. It looks quite likely Argentina and Portugal may not qualify for the WC - would be a massive shame and very very odd at that.

    http://www.footballfilter.com

  • Comment number 99.

    The fact remains that Argentina have not won a major international tournament since 93, despite arguably having 2 of their finest generations of players. So, with that in mind, could it be that Argentina’s problems are a little bit more fundamental and deep-seated than just finding a successor to Crespo and Ayala or appointing a more experienced coach?

    You’ve often wrote Tim of your displeasure that Brazil have abandoned their traditional style in search of developing more powerful athletes, to the point where the Brazilian ball player has all but died out. By contrast, you’ve praised Argentina for bucking the trend of the world game and sticking to their own traditions, putting technique and passing skills ahead of physical development. However, as you yourself often comment, football is a game of balance and where it can certainly be argued Brazil have lost their’s by packing out their teams with powerful giants; surely it can also be argued that Argentina have gone too far in the opposite direction and are now at a physical disadvantage which is becoming a real achilles heel in their quest for silverware.

    Also, people often use Spain and Barcelona as an example that Argentina’s approach can still deliver success. However, I feel when people make this kind of comparisons they fail to recognize that Spain and Barcelona’s passing game is far more fluid than Argentina’s - based around a dutch style 1 and 2 touch - where’s Argentina’s players like to indulge themselves more on the ball, meaning their passing is far more languid and as a result is easier to defend against. Plus, Spain and Barca have a far better balance between gifted technicians and powerful athletes.

    So, I really do think its time for Argentina to have a bit of a rethink and modernize their approach, because at the moment they look like an old fashioned styled team oblivious to the fact that the game has moved on and left them behind.

  • Comment number 100.

    Agree with much of this except of course Barcelona dont have to face a team of the incredible physical power of Dungas Brasil a bit like Germany with Catenaccio added to real skill and technique.Spain will of course not win the World cup they havent the huevos for that.It is coming to the stage where perhaps the best thing for Argentina now is to fail to qualify as if we do with Maradona it will be an even bigger disaster next year and lets be honest Messi must be the most overrated overhyped player in history.For me hes a slightly taller Diego Buonanotte who at least gives 2 or 3 decent passes a game.Hes a selfish overindulged player who yet again failed completely tonight against ahard working but hardly brillaint defense.Lets be honest Palermo was a bigger threat to the Paraguas.If we dont go to South Africa we will have to totally reappraise our futbol at the level of the seleccion and finally admit we cant save World futbol on our own and return for a period at leat of Zubeldia,bilardo etc and play Brasil and Italy at their game.So let the World be ready the beautiful Argentina is over one way or another Estudiantes is back

 

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