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Maradona earns World Cup reprieve

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Tim Vickery | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

How will Diego Maradona fare as Argentina's coach in next year's World Cup?

The light punishment he received from Fifa at the weekend means that now there is nothing to stop Maradona sitting on the bench and standing on the touchline in South Africa.

The initial impediment, of course, was that Argentina might not qualify. It was tense, they left it late but got there in the end, securing their place with a last round 1-0 win away to Uruguay.

Then, in the post-match press conference, came the other possible impediment. Maradona has never been equipped for a career in the diplomatic corps. There is little filter between what he feels and what he says, and with qualification in the bag it all came out; all the stress of a difficult few months, all the hurt at the criticism that had come his way - all externalised in a foul mouthed diatribe aimed at the press.

When Fifa announced that it would be taking disciplinary action, the possibility existed that Maradona´s World Cup would be over before it had begun. One potential punishment was a five-game ban, to be served in official competitive matches.

This would have rendered Maradona unable to be on the touchline or in the dressing- room until the semi-finals of the World Cup. He almost certainly would have had to be replaced. What would be the point of having a coach who is unable to perform the function?

So the sword of Blatter-clese was hanging over Maradona - but has now been removed with the levity of the punishment. There is a small fine (just under £15,000) and a two-month ban from football activity - at a time when, with Argentina in high summer, there is little going on.

maradona595getty.jpg Maradona learned his fate at a disciplinary hearing in Zurich

A game against Catalonia is planned for late December, and Maradona will have to miss that one. But he will be back in action well before the next Fifa date, in March, when the build-up to South Africa continues with a high profile friendly away to Germany.

Has the incident affected his prestige in Argentina? I think it has, though his prestige would inevitably take a bruising from stepping into the job. In a nation of football coaches his team selections could not possibly please everyone.

Some were shocked by the crudeness of his outburst, and many parents were upset by requests from their children to explain what had been said. Also, offending the press is not usually a sound strategy for making friends and influencing people. He doesn't like criticism? Fine, but he can certainly give it. Local newspapers dug out the quotes from when Maradona had a go at previous national team coaches.

But there is also a section of the press that, in their admiration for him and in exchange for access and interviews, will forgive Maradona anything.

Just as, abroad, there are plenty who forgive him nothing. And so all balance is lost. He's either a deity or a madman who has taken charge of a world-class team and hurtled them straight towards the rocks.

The fact is that he inherited a team which, prior to the resignation of Alfio Basile, had won one of its last seven World Cup qualifiers. Under Maradona, with more difficult fixtures, they won four in eight. We can certainly be critical of some of his selections and substitutions, but there is no statistical basis for sacking him.

And now the Fifa punishment has been light, there is no disciplinary basis either. In fact it was a good few days for Maradona, who emerged strengthened from Saturday's friendly away to Spain, even though his side went down 2-1.

Firstly, the team clearly played for him. Argentina hauled themselves back into a match where they were being over-run. They showed more spirit and attitude than football - at times an excess of spirit when the tackles were flying. The key point, though, is that they did not roll over.

Secondly, Maradona took advantage of the half-time break to improve the side. After the interval, with defence and midfield closer together, it was much harder for Spain to play their way through. At times Maradona has wrecked his own team with bad half-time substitutions. This time, instead of panic changes, he came up with a sound positional adjustment.

Of course, the easier way to play an improved second half is to produce a very bad first one - and Argentina were totally dominated in the opening 45 minutes. I can't remember the last time I saw an Argentina side have so little of the ball. There is plenty of work to be done, because last Saturday's line-up is very unlikely to make a serious challenge for the World Cup.

A back four of Coloccini, De Michelis, Heinze and Ansaldi inspires little confidence, and with Veron rested for this match, there was no-one linking up properly with Messi. I tend to the view that, with a dearth of top class full-backs it might be better to play a back three, and pack central midfield. But that will be Diego Maradona´s decision - and the light punishment handed out by Fifa on Sunday would seem to ensure that he will be the man making the decisions for Argentina in next year's World Cup.


  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Nice blog...
    But seeing that Veron is the only playmaker Argentina have,is there any chance that Riquelme might get a recall?
    Would love to see him at the World Cup...
    I don't see Argentina progressing far seeing how they played against Spain

  • Comment number 3.

    2 blogs in a week Tim???

    Great stuff!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    1. At 11:00am on 18 Nov 2009, BeyondThePale wrote:

    "Comical, just comical."

    Yes, you are indeed buddy. Of no relevance to the Blog....but your bitterness knows no boundaries!

    Regarding the article Tim, I said it at the time of his appointment that the Maradono leadership would end in tears. It almost did already but give it time and I believe he'll eventually go down in flames.

    The ban, of course, involved careful assessment from FIFA and Blatter. Why deprive the world of the potential of Maradona making a show of himself on the world stage. Guaranteed entertainment and endless headlines await....and maybe he'll crash and burn on the biggest stage of all...but not for the first time!

  • Comment number 5.

    Two blogs... you are spoiling us Tim.

    "the sword of Blatter-clese" I hope Robbo is watching and learning.

    I think Maradona raw passion will drive the team on come the tournament, a lot of people will write them off too, which is dangerous. I don't think they'll win but I wouldn't be surprised if we (England) meet them in the latter stages.

  • Comment number 6.


    Why is it comical?? Maradona went into a foul premeditated rant about the media.. the same media he has used to keep himself in the loop with through his years of doing nothing.. and as the article points out, this would be the same Maradona who would've used the media to complain about the team/manager if he wasn't involved and they were playing the way he had them playing..

    Ferguson is a law unto himself and he has got away with too much but there is now this sudden urge to study everything he says.. before it was the nudge nudge wink wink mind games of Ferguson.. and now he is being strung up for the same kind of comments..

    2 different bodies handed out the punishments as well.. FA and FIFA..

  • Comment number 7.

    Agre with Nitish_Nayak. Would love to see Requilme at the WC. However, I think there is a problem between Maradonna and Requilme. Can anyone explain to me what happened?

    Anyone with half a brain cell would pick Requilme over Veron. So there must be a problem.

  • Comment number 8.

    The Spain friendly showed me how I expect Argentina under Maradona to play in SA...

    Maradona played under ( and was undoubtedly influenced by the two "footballing schools" of Argentinan football.. The beautiful free flowing passing style, of Menotti, and the much more physical, cynical style of Bilardo )

    In 1990, with Maradona carrying an injury, and with an aging team, Bilardo's Argentina, managed to get themselves to the final by force as much as skill..

    I think Argentina in SA, will play with the Bilardo mentality.
    Maradona's Argentina are unable to play sweet football successfully, and teams like Spain will out football them, so their best tactic may well be to play the way they did in the 2nd half against Spain.
    Maradona may very well recognize the simliarity between Argentina in 1990, and this current side.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hopefully Maradona calls Saviola back to the side, he has been keeping tabs on «El Conejo» and stated he will get a chance soon, maybe against Germany. Riquelme would be nice too, but not sure if that will happen.

  • Comment number 10.

    Both punishments are a bit soft given the circumstances, but Maradona's outburst aimed at the press will get a lot more sympathy from me and most people than Ferguson's, who will one week criticize another manager for insulting a professional then do the very same thing the next week - hypocrisy without bounds. The press seems to forgive him, largely out of fear it seems - whereas other managers are apparently losing the plot etc when they do the exact same thing.

    Still, Argentina looked poor at the weekend, gone is the team that strung together that amazing passing move finished off by Cambiasso at the last World Cup. Riquelme is a great player in my opinion, brings others into play and rarely concedes possession. They've so many good players as well, surely someone can do a job as a full back, what about Gutierrez? He struggles with end product anyway, and has unbelievable stamina.

  • Comment number 11.

    Did anyone really believe that Blatter and co would Ban the manager of one of the Biggest and most historical teams in the world, from the World Cup??

    No way, it's just like announcing seeding the European play off places two weeks before they take place. They want the BIG TEAMS and BIG NAMES at the World Cup. No matter what.

    Come on Bosnia tonight, do the World cup a favour and let us not have that smarming, diving, winking Portugese whiner anywhere near it.
    (That's Ronaldo for those that didn't guess)

  • Comment number 12.


    The managerial temperaments of Maradona and Dunga reflect their playing styles.

    Dunga, we recall, was a sturdy defensive midfielder, who organised those around him to some effect. Maradona, simply illuminated the world, and constantly played on the cusp of insane imagination and bewitching beuaty - we could never be sure what he would do next. (I've been watching football since 1967 and he is the best, most explosive and mesmerising player I've ever seen).

    Ditto in relation to their management styles.

    Dunga has Brazil playing as a team again, sacrificing samba for solidity.

    Maradona has .... well .. we still don't know what will happen next ...

    Hopefully they will play each other in South Africa next year at the business end of the tourament.

    Put your money on samba to floor the tango.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think Javier Zanetti still has another WC left in him, he's still playing at the top level in Italy. He never seems to give the ball away and he would be an experienced head that would add indoubted quality to the side.
    Why is Lisandro used so sparingly? Surely he would bring more to the squad than Tevez?
    Any news on Cavenaghi? Would he be worth a call up?

  • Comment number 14.

    I am not sure Maradona is a good manager (or even merely bad) but if the players will at least play for him that is half the battle and one many cannot claim. Also I think they really lack the players. If they are missing Veron good luck....

    His crimes compared to SAF's questioning a referee's ability and fitness to referee were nothing. I guess I have double standards where this great player is concerned just like the FA with S'Alex. Maradona's crime was one of taste and decorum Ferguson's was far worse.

    In this country does only the threat of the criminal law stops a manager risking a 4 match touchline ban by beating the referee to death? In many ways Maradona got banned from the game unlike S'Alex who merely gets a better view. I'd say one is lenient one is not even a punishment.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

    I have to question Maradona's selection policy. Why aren't players like Diego Milito, Walter Samuel, Lisandro Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez in the Argentina squad? They're exactly the players that Argentina needs to be a potential winner at the World Cup.
    Also, I'm very concerned about the football that Maradona's Argentina is playing. It's some sort of outdated, disjointed football that I can't remember seeing from Argentina in previous years. Sure they've won a couple matches and qualified. But playing as awful as they have, I can't see Argentina doing anything at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 17.

    Lucho has been injured for a while now but Lisandro should be called.

  • Comment number 18.


    How do you rate Chile's chances at next year's World Cup? Do you think they can make it to the last 16 if they get a favorable starting group?

  • Comment number 19.

    Argentina are a squad that needs experience, they are lacking quality they rely too much on Lionel Messi, 1 man cant win the World Cup, it would be a big bonus and a real moral booster if Roman Riquelme, Cambiasso and a few other quality experienced players returned to the squad.

    I cant see Argentina winning the World Cup whilst Diego Maradona's in charge, you may have been a great player but when it comes to being a manager you dont have the same success, just look at Marco Van Basten and Jurgen Klinsmann quality football players but no success in managing.

    Argentina cant compete with Spain, Brazil, England, Germany and probably others ranked below them.

  • Comment number 20.


    Admittedly, I haven't watched much of Argentina recently but have read in various blogs and reports that Messi often gets crowded out by 2 or 3 plyers to stifle his obvious talents, much like Ronaldo did in his latter days at United. Do Argentina use this as an obvious advantage to free up space for some of the other players, much like Sir Alex did? I was just wondering if Tim (or anyone else out there) might have a more insighted opinion on this?

    Thanks - keep up the good blogs, love hearing about things I wouldn't normally get the chance to!

  • Comment number 21.


    Prepared to be censored for those comments, as I was for exactly the same comments.

  • Comment number 22.

    14, not 19, sorry.

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with the poster who said it would be silly to write off Argentina so early on, if anything this could work to their advantage. With such obvious quality they are always going to be a threat, however I disagree with 19 saying Argentina rely on Messi, he hasn't performed for Argentina to the same level he has for Barca.

    I still can't understand why Cambiasso, Samuel and Zanetti are not included in the squad. Given I was surprised Zanetti got a call up at all under Diego, I don't think he's ever liked him, but the fact remains he's the best right back available to Argentina while he is also a versatile player with great experience. Has Maradona previouly criticised or had problems with Cambiasso and Samuel?

    I agree in Tim in that I'd love to see a back three of Samuel, Demichilis and Heinze. With Cambiasso and Mascherano in front of them and Veron as the playmaker, Messi out right, Di Maria/Higuain out left with Aguero and Higuain/Milito up top. Maradona's got so many options though I guess it'll be difficult for anyone to guess what he'll do.

  • Comment number 24.

    Totally agree with "And they said Eboue cant score". I am a massive Inter Milan fan and looking at the Argentine players at the club, there is at least 4 who would help improve the national team. With Milito as the top goalscorer for us, Samuel playing regular and solid at centre back, Zanetti, as solid a player as there is, and Cambiasso who is a much better holding midfielder than Mascherano. If Maradona included these players, i think the squad as a whole would look much more confident and show off the true depth of quality that Argentina have. As a neutral, you always want the best teams with the best players competing on the biggest stage.

  • Comment number 25.

    As I'm no doubt you're aware from sources in the Rio media, one of the English Football League's founder members, Accrington Stanley, have recently experienced tax problems which threatened them with a record second extinction, a remarkable claim to fame, as I'm sure most right-thinking people would agree. My question for you is formed of two sections, Mr Vickery. First: which Brazilian club has the proudest tradition of heavy debt? Second: would the great Vickery be prepared to risk his status as a pundit by testing himself in the cauldron of lower league Northern English football? What we want to know is this: will you step up to the plate? Or are you prepared to go through life as another Alan Hansen, untested in the managerial realm? Although you will no doubt miss that big statue of Jesus which is on every dull documentary about nightlife in Rio, I can promise you that the iconic factory chimney at Nori Brickworks will come to replace it in your affections. Cometh the hour, cometh the meat pie, as they say in these parts. You know it makes sense, Timothy. Step up to the plate.

  • Comment number 26.

    Come the start of the World cup i think Tevez and Aguero will have cemended their place up front, with Messi, Veron and Riquelme operating behind them, with Cambiasso protecting the ack 4. Now that is one of the best front 5's in world football. Argentina will be there or there abouts come South Africa.

  • Comment number 27.

    The question that has to be asked is whether Argentina, with Maradona in charge, will have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup?

    In my opinion the answer has to be no. Whilst he has improved the side since taking over he was taking over a team with an awful record. I must admit that he is learning, i.e. playing a dominant central striker, i.e. Milito or Higuaín with two smaller wider men, rather than Messi, Tevez and Aueguro.

    Granted the current players want to play for their idle but a fresh start could give the whole team more drive as a whole.

    P.S. Tim, I've written about the whole three at the back thing before and it simply won't work against the better teams that will be at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 28.


    I would be interested to know your view on the Argentinan goalkeeping situation? It seems to remind me of the England goalkeeping situation, there are alot of goalkeepers of a simlar standard in this case Romero, Ustari, Carrizo and Andujar and no one has really stepped up and made the shirt their own.

    Who do you think will be the number one for both the world cup and long term? I would personally pick either Romero or Andujar because their size give them more security on set pieces where they seem weak. I think Andujar is in the better form but Romero is the better long term prospect.

  • Comment number 29.

    Think the keeper will certainly be Romero - he doesn´t totally convince me but he has a touch of flamboyance, and Argentines tend to like that in a keeper.

    Cambiasso was in the squad and came on towards the end of the Spain game. As a purely defensive midfielder I don´t see him anywhere near Mascherano, though he could challenge Gago for the other central midfield poisition.

    When a team is in trouble there´s a percpetion that the best players are those who are not playing - lots of people have championed Cambiasso during the Maradona reign, forgetting that he was one of the least effective players towards thye end of Basile´s reign. Samuel´s exclusion baffles me , but whenever I see Diego Milito for Argentina - like Julio Cruz before him - I can only wonder how he scores all those goals in Europe.

    25 ' I´ve got friends from Accrington - or Accy as those of us who have been there are allowed to call it. Haven´t been there since the early 90s, but the look I got at the bar when I asked for a lager top convinced me that I would be miles out of my depth if I did indeed step up to the plate.

  • Comment number 30.

    For Tim Vickery: Your article about Maradona dealt with many interesting points. Regardless, I believe that he should have received punishment under Article 57 and 58 of the FIFA Code of Conduct. Roberto

  • Comment number 31.

    I was lucky enough to be in Argentina at the time this happened.
    It seemed clear that the opinion of public on Maradonna and any of his actions had a clear split. The split with everything in Argentina seemed to be on class grounds.
    For the richer people, Maradonna can do no right, it seemed viewed that with all his his talents and money he had the opportunities to better himself and improve the country and has failed to do so.
    For the lower classes he still seems an untouchable hero.
    The press it seems will attack any manager.

    Whilst his managerial skills are at best unproven and there are some legitimate complaints about his management skills, Aguero not playing, his reliance on Veron and an inability to provide room and help for Messi. ( Which to be fair is difficult with two or three defenders next to him everytime he gets the ball).
    It seems to me there are some circumstances in his defence. Apart from some world class tallents such as messi, Mascherano etc, there appears to lack of strength in depth. For all the attacking options available to him the choice in defence is well documented to be poor, and a over reliance on an ageing Veron and calls for Riquelme may support this.
    I was lucky enough to see a game Huracan vs River Plate, for all the excitement at the match, I came away surprised by the lack of quality in the match. The lack of quality was matched my the relative youth of most of the players, maybe i am ageing but the majority of players looked at most 22 - and many lacked technique which i did not expect at all.
    I felt is was very surprising that the best player on the pitch by a distance was the ageing Ortega. To my mind whilst there are some obviously huge talents in the Argentinian squad Maradonna is slightly unlucky to be in charge at a time with a lack of depth.

  • Comment number 32.

    Cereal_killer, I am no expert. But my opinion was that Maradonna has not been able to address the problem of Messi being over crowded.
    This has resulted in two things some criticism of Maradonna, and probably a little harshly criticism of Messi, including from Maradonna himself at times. There has been criticism that Messi doesn't try as hard for Argentina as he does from barca

  • Comment number 33.

    I think for Argentina I would use Ustari, Walter Samuel should be a starter along with nicolas Burdisso and Fabian Monzon who will have a great future) or Zanetti. In the middle I would use Di Maria, Mascherano, Veron, and Maxi. Up front I would use messi, higuain, and aguero or Lisandro Lopez.

    For subs: Milito, Lucho Gonzalez, Lavezzi, Cambiasso, Tevez, Heinze

  • Comment number 34.

    Light punishment? A two months ban isn't a light punishment in that occasion, Phil Scolari only had 2 or 3 games as punishment for something so worst(punching someone)

    As for argentina, I reckon that my starting XI would be:

    Romero, De Michelis, Samuel, Coloccini, Mascherano, Gago, Cambiasso, Di Maria, Messi, Aguero and Lisandro Lopez

    The idea is to have two holding midfielders so one of them can go to the wings to defend when needed to without losing the midfield, Gago can link up with Aguero, Messi and Di Maria(Aguero playing a little more deeper, like an advanced midfielder) and those making the balls arrive to Lisandro Lopez.

    Maradona is no fool, his records are getting better, and those who say that "Argentina has no coach capable of challenging." might be wrong when the world cup finishes. I fear the Argentinians more than the English, Italians and Germans for the world cup.

  • Comment number 35.

    Some of the names mentioned above as potential stars really do deserve to showcase their talents at the pinnacle of world football. I, like many others would love to see Riquelme don the famous shirt alongside Messi and Tevez et al but do people really think that once these quality players arrive in SA they will need any firing up from Senor Maradonna? or do you think that cream will rise to the top regardless of what their manager is doing? I for one believe that they will get to the last four.

  • Comment number 36.

    Do you think a deciding factor in the world cup would be those available for selection? I only ask as before reading this blog i heard news that Gabriel Milito is making a comeback after a long time injured. Think he would make a big difference if of course he is selected for the squad. Would have thought a back line of Zannetti( or Angeleri) and Milito as full backs and Garay and Samuel at the heart of the defence would make the back line a formidable one, would be interested in people's thoughts.
    But back to my original point i have heard a lot of people make a great deal about these friendlies. It is over half a year to the world cup and form and injury could lead to a few teams being very different.Spain could for example have iniesta injured or Brazil could lose Lucio and Kaka. What makes world cups so fun is you never know who is going to peak at the right time and have the luck to be able to pick all there best players.

  • Comment number 37.

    "galoucura" Maradona's two month ban will only see himi miss one game. If he had received the same ban as Scolari then he would miss the first two games of the WC. It's a weak punishment.

  • Comment number 38.


    A few people have asked for your opinions (above) about the re-call of Riquelme but you chose to ignore it .. why? they seem curious to get your opinion on this and obviously as you have written a blog on Argentina and Maradona, they are presented with an opprotunity to discuss and seek your opinion on the Argentine team so please answer...

  • Comment number 39.

    You never know. I think Argentina might, just might have that seige mentality that the Italians had in 06 and suprise some people...

  • Comment number 40.

    Argentina will probably end up being a seeded team in the World Cup. You have to think, given their inconsistent performances, that teams would much rather be in a group with them as opposed to the other seeds, England, Brazil, Spain, etc. (except South Africa)

  • Comment number 41.

    Does anybody think Maxi Rodriguez will make it to South Africa, you look at Messi, Aguero, Tevez, Higuain, Perotti, Di Maria etc, do you think there is a place for Maxi?

  • Comment number 42.

    i think personally that Maradona has very little knowledge of tactics and instead relies on putting some players on a park, hoping they win the game for him without any real gameplan. Messi is wasted, Mascherano doesn't seem to know his role in the team, there is no settled strikeforce and the defence is a shambles. The fact that Veron is even slightly important to a team with the quality of Argentina is laughable, especially with better playmakers such as Aimar, who is playing brilliantly this season at Benfica, Lucho Gonzalez (when fit), and of course the deeper lying Fernando Gago. In terms of the defence, players like Otamendi, Schavi and Ansaldi are not of the required quality; Burdisso, Diaz and Samuel are all superior defenders, Samuel being the rock of Inter's defence alongside Lucio this season. Up front, Higuain was too long ignored and together with Aguero, Lissandro and Tevez should be first choice for squads, rather than the likes of Palermo.

    All in all my World Cup squad barring injury would be:

    GK: Romero, Ustari, Abbondanzierri

    DF: Zanetti, Burdisso, Demichelis, Samuel, Garay, Diaz, Heinze, Milito/Zabaleta

    MF: Mascherano, Cambiasso, Gago, Lucho, Maxi Rodriguez, Aimar, Di Maria

    FW: Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Lisandro Lopez

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    "Secondly, Maradona took advantage of the half-time break to improve the side."

    He seems to have done quite a few substitutions that actually helped in the recent matches. I really wonder whether it was just luck, or whether there was some plan, but it does look like whoever comes on the pitch is somehow motivated to play and have an impact. I think you are very right to point out that Maradona's statistics are far from disastrous, which the players themselves must know very well. They did make it. The changes that Maradona did actually helped them in the end, for whatever reason. From this point of view, the Maradona-bashing that the press did was misplaced, and the affair may help to improve the team's... well, if not play, then at least morale and self-belief.

    I think the punishment he received is all right. It would be wrong to let him go... then again, I laughed my socks off when reading the details. I wonder how many national coaches around the globe have dreams with them doing what Maradona did (i.e. winning and then telling the press to stuff it in no decent language). I do think he shouldn't do it again, of course. As for the children... well, they do have to be told sometime. I wonder if it weren't only the middle-class/rich kids asking, tho, as the poor ones may live in this very discourse.

    Excellent read, anyway, this blog. Never fails - truly amazing.

  • Comment number 45.

    Perotti has been quality when I've seen him this year, but has anybody seen much of Banega at Valencia, I know he's picked up a knock but until then he's been superb. Why is he not mentioned in all this? Thought he would be there or thereabouts the way he has played.

  • Comment number 46.

    Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Lisandro Lopez
    Merely looking at the strikers makes me feel it has to be a dream team. Only the way Argentina struggled to qualify brings me back to earth.
    There is no way back for Requelme unless Maradona manages to get sacked well before the World Cup.

  • Comment number 47.

    On Riquelme - I'm a huge fan, but 2 key points

    1 - he pulled out of the national team of his own free will. no one pushed him.

    2 - he was the key man under Basile, in the side that was struggling before Maradona took over.

    Without Veron or Riquelme, with the 4-4-2 Argentina playe don Saturday - i think it reduces their game to counter-attacks and means that Messi has to live on scraps.

    The anti-Veron brigade are not even euro-centric, they´re anglo-centric. His form and leadership this year have been excllent, and he was the key man in that vital win over Uruguay. It wasn't a great performance but it was a very gutsy one - he never hid, and though he gave the ball away to often, it was his passing that hauled argtentina into the game.

    The doubt about him at 34 is fixture p'ile up - world club cup coming up, estudiantes´defence of their liberatdores title next year. Will he be able to have any gas in the tank come south africa?

  • Comment number 48.

    How does one qualify to be a moderator? Obviously a brain is not a pre-requisite.
    Many of the early posts related to comments made in the first post, a post which was deleted by the moderators, thus rendering those comments meaningless.
    If someone posts something containing an objectionable word, is it not beyond the wit of man to blank out the offending word?
    Moderators also seem to have no discretion. For example, a word which is generally used by people from Liverpool to describe themselves and is in common use on the BBC itself is deemed to be offensive and will result in a post being deleted.

  • Comment number 49.

    Maradona is no buffoon as everyone here believe so. Infact he is the only one coming out as a winner of all this scrimmage. In real truth the Argentine team is average it may have few seductive names but the side is hollow. How many times one has witnessed Messi defending? It has probably the worst back five of all the leading nations. If the side is judged by just its back five then it must be outside the top 25 nations.

    How Maradona is a winner? Well he has made clear where one can lie with his outbrust. It is the first step to build a seize mentality. This team filled with Prima Donnas will now make them think twice before expressing their opinion in press as they all know what Maradona thinks about press.

    It is good with strategy as he took probably the worst team to world cup final in 1990. That team was team of two players Maradona and Cannegia. He just need somebody with electric pace to play along with Messi. If Benefica's Maria progress well then he could be the most effective player in Argentine shirt come next July.

    This is how Argentina will play in next world cup

    Seven players will be always in front of the ball and other three will be free to roam around and create chances in important matches. The option for them is play narrow may be with three defenders and four defensive midfielders. Key to the success of this strategy is get rid of Heinze as he is too slow and too light weight. Get three no nonsense defenders in the center and play like Greece did in 2004. This will not only protect defenders by more talented midfield.

    Task for Maradona - Find a goalkeeper who is good at penalties as quarterfinal and semifinal will need him.

  • Comment number 50.

    I find it a shame that in the week that Uruguay (the first South American team to win the World Cup) are in a playoff we get articles about Brazil and Argentina.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi Tim

    Great to get a 2 blogs in a week. Something to consider next year for the World Cup.

    What is heartening at least is that the Argentine media have stopped giving him a free ride - something that was commented upon in previous blogs.

    Foot for thought is that Argentina never seem to perform to expectations (either high or low)at el Mundial.

    1982 holders and co-favourites (with Brasil & Germany) - but were subsequently easily eliminated.

    1994 - only made it via playoff, but played really well, until the Maradona drugs bust.

    1990 - A old team that was often outplayed but mad eit all the way to the final.

    2002 - Joint favourites (with France)- and eliminated in the first round.

    Even their victorys in 1978 surprised a lot of people (not least the Dutch and Brasilians). pershap this is a frivalous observation .... but is it me or si our Diego starting to a porky Michael Jackson? (something for the conspiracy theorists, I'm sure). However, his skin colour and texture and hair colouring, are quite unsettling.

  • Comment number 52.

    Could Messi play right-side in a 4-4-2? If he can it would eliminate creative problems, allow for a greater presence up front and not compromise tactics. True greats should be able to adapt tactically so maybe this should be worked on for the good of the team and when attacking allow him a free role to drift inside. With Mascherano and Cambiasso, along with the willing Di Maria, could it work?

  • Comment number 53.


    Danny is Ariel Ortega really still playing for River? And they say Veron is old!

  • Comment number 54.

    We have seen a few glimpses of a merry Maradona in the stands during many of Argentina games. And cheers of his worshipers would unsettle the whole stadium at the site of their football god, on ground enjoying the game just like any other ordinary Argentinian. The concept of "Maradona" has this electrifying effect that permeates through the Argentinian mentality. It is a different effect from that of Pele. Diego was the type of the player who took his team single-handedly(indeed against England as well) to the World Cup Finals. His constant affiliation with drugs and struggles against lateral excess did him no good, but have not thrown him off from the status of virtual divinity.

    However, you immediately start raising eyebrows when you read in the papers, "Maradona to take the helm." What is the role of a manager? To manage, to mediate, to scheme, to calculate, to organise, to mastermind a plot to WIN. Maradona's personality is just not intended for that. We've seen him make a few substitutions that seem to demonstrate the lack of any sort of tactical calculations. And on the side lines, he has uncanny resemblances to a crying little boy short of puberty when he harasses the officials. For some of his raw and lascivious comments, I would certainly give him a point for a rarely seen formidable audacity against the press on national television. But this only reinforces his inadequacy as a manager of a great footballing nation.

    As for the present Argentinian squad, they are a team well above average, weathering a temporary internal storm. In my humble opinion, what the squad lacks is a godfather figure in the central midfield to pull the strings. Unfortunately, Riquelme, probably the player who defines such a position has retired from international football because he could not "work" with Maradona. Leaning on Lionel Messi to do what Maradona did simply will not work. He is just not that type of player. It is no coincidence that we have seen the flowering of his talent in Barcelona, where Iniesta and Xavi bless him with sharply measured passes.

    Besides the little maestro, in terms of a strike force, Argentina is spoiled for choice. Angel Di Maria (Benfica) is definitely one to keep your tabs on. Ever since the Youth World Cup where he played alongside Messi, he has matured and has become a promising candidate. An admission to the world stage will provide him with a golden opportunity to announce his arrival. Nevertheless his lack of experience might mean that he would prove to be more useful as an impact player. As for the assassin who would lurk around that crucial 18-yard box, Diego Milito of Inter is a favourable option. Carlos Tevez is also a brilliant player but one who is not so prolific in scoring. Ever since he moved to England, he is just not that astounding flair player he used to be back in Brazil for the Corinthians. He has increasingly drifted his game towards honest and industrious work. The potential of Sergio Aguero has been compromised by an endless string of poor performances from Athletico Madrid this season. This is such a shame given his ability in the striking department. The latest export of FC Porto, Lisandro Lopez of Lyon has proven to be a very exciting player. For the campaign in South Africa, his contribution could be invaluable. So, if Argentina manages to appoint a midfield general, it could unleash a terrifying strike force that could shake any back four by its roots. Just imagine the beauty in football that this World Cup might display.

  • Comment number 55.

    Very controversial character!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Sorry I was about to come on here moaning how he's a cheat, he blatantly used his hand to assist in the goal etc etc but then I realised the article was about Maradona and not Thiery Henry.

  • Comment number 57.

    29. Re. your thoughtful answer on the potentially vacant managerial position at Accrington Stanley, I wasn't actually inviting you to take over at the club, Tim. When I said "Step up to the plate, Timothy", I did literally mean "the plate". It's a massive plate with a massive pie on it. And, as an honorary Accringtonian, it's yours any time you want it. PS Thinking of pies and that old English chant about unfit players, what's the funniest football chant you've heard in Brazil? Or is irony at footy matches more of a northern European thing?

  • Comment number 58.

    Hi Tim,
    Do you think Ever Banega deserves a chance in the team? I think he is a talent that could be of great help for this dwindling Argentina team. He is a hard tackling midfielder who is as much an attacking threat as Xabi Alonso. Agreed he is quite inexperienced and does not have the best disciplinary record(Both on and off the field). But on the evidence of his performances for Valencia, I fell he is worth a try.
    With him holding the midfield along with Mascherano, Argentina can use a 4-2-3-1 formation. Messi on the right, Di Maria on the left and a playmaker/attacker in the center with a target man up front. This should be Veron/Higuain and Lisandro Lopez respectively. Tevez is finished (unless he can rediscover his Corinthians days) whereas Aguero can be used as an impact sub. Aimar should be back up to Veron in case the heavy fixture takes its toll on the South American Player of the Year.
    For some reason, Maradona feels Jonás Gutiérrez is starting team material. Agreed he is a hard worker and does a lot of runing. But do you think he is among the best XI Argentina has? Or is he in the team because there is no one better to play on the right side of a 4-4-2 or 4-1-2-1-2 formation? Even better than a certain Maxi Rodríguez?
    Also Ezequiel Garay and/or Juan Forlin could be called (Along with Walter Samuel) up to shore up the defence. Heinze has been given enough opportunities and he should have been gone a long long time ago. Left back position must be up for grabs between Ansaldi and Insua. I feel that Zanetti is the best right back in Argentina by a country mile. Nicolás Otamendi and Zabaleta have what it takes but I guess they will need a few more years to stake claim to being Zanetti the 2nd.
    I do not completely disagree with Maradona's call up of Rolando Schiavi because opposing target men usually tower over the smaller built Argentine defence. This guy is 6'3'' and will definitely be of some use against such opposition.

  • Comment number 59.

    Veron wasnt rested he was playing for Estudiantes in the Apertura as were all the other home based players

  • Comment number 60.

    i think evrthin s bin said bout dis argentine team, juss want to chip in a thing or two.they need a creative mind btw da midfield and da attack.and lookin @ da options available, aimar of benfica, veron, even though i am a bit sceptical bout that.riquelme, and there s this guy who plays for rubin kazan,he s a delight to watch , is name is dominguez.he s an ideal link btw midfield and attack.and finally i stongly disagree wit those dat rates mascherano ahead of cambiasso.mascherano snt a purely defensive midfielder, not @ all. he s better passer,less aggressive and even got offensive qualities than mascherano.

  • Comment number 61.

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  • Comment number 62.

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