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What's wrong with Argentina?

Tim Vickery | 07:39 UK time, Monday, 8 September 2008

In the course of one round, the pressure in South America's World Cup qualification campaign has changed hands.

It was on Brazil, but their 3-0 win away to Chile takes them to second in the table, above Argentina on goal difference - an Argentina who have now gone four rounds without a win.

And in this midweek's eighth round, Brazil have much the easier game, the home banker against Bolivia.

Argentina, meanwhile, travel to Peru, who for all their problems have yet to lose in Lima in this campaign, and who will have their tails up after registering their first win on Saturday.

riquelme438.jpg So what's the problem with Argentina?

There is no side in the world more pleasing on the eye, with their intricate midfield patterns. But for all their success at Olympic and Under-20 levels, their last senior title came in 1993. How can a side that circulate the ball so well be looking on Wednesday for their first win in five games?

What's more, they seem to be aware that something is wrong.

For the first 10 minutes at home to Paraguay on Saturday they were irresistible. The opening goal seemed a matter of time. But as soon as they went behind to Gabriel Heinze's own goal, the confidence drained out of them and for a while they were a shambles. The team sensed its own fragility. Perhaps they know that for all the interpassing they need to improve in both penalty areas, where matches are won and lost.

Gabriel Heinze is an example, a good, gutsy club defender who is not up to international football. At the highest level he is exposed as being neither one thing nor the other. He's not quick enough to play full-back - the Brazil coaching staff made it very clear that playing on this won them last year's Copa America - and not commanding enough for a centre back - Saturday's own goal was another illustration.

Now that Roberto Ayala has gone the Argentina back line is creaking. There is not a lot of pace there. Also, if they are going to select three centre backs, as they did on Saturday, then two of them must be capable of bringing the ball out of defence. If not, the consequence is a sequence of passes played back to the keeper - and Carrizo, the substitute goalkeeper who came on after first choice Abbondanzieri was injured, is not at his most comfortable with the ball at his feet.

He did, though, produce one flying save to ensure that Argentina secured a 1-1 draw. All eyes will be on Carrizo on Wednesday. It is a long, long time since Argentina produced a top class keeper - an aspect of the game where they have been comprehensively overtaken by Brazil. One of Brazil's leading goalkeeping preparation specialists told me he thought Argentine keepers were strong on personality but weak on technique.

In Argentina they are confident that the new generation has been better trained. Ustari, who injured himself in the Olympics, had a troubled season with Getafe in Spain but remains a hope. Romero, who took over from him, may be one for the future. But this is Carrizo's moment to show that he can provide the solution.

At the other end of the field, Carlos Tevez has become a problem. On Saturday he was sent off in the first half - as happened in the last World Cup qualifier he played, away to Colombia. But when he manages to stay on the pitch his scoring record is hardly prolific - seven goals in 42 games.

Sergio Aguero, who came off the bench to score Saturday's equaliser, looks a better bet. His extra pace means that he can be slipped behind the line.

But Argentina have plenty of stocky little strikers. What is lacking, if only as an option on the bench, is a target man. The key to Brazil's 3-0 win in Chile was the physical power, aerial strength and cutting edge of centre forward Luis Fabiano. Since the decline of Hernan Crespo Argentina have missed this type of player.

In the first 10 minutes against Paraguay the Olympic hero Di Maria, making his senior debut, put over two gorgeous crosses from the left. No one got on the end of them - if Batistuta was still around his eyes would have lit up.


  • Comment number 1.

    Would Ezequil Garay be an answer to the problem at centre-back?

  • Comment number 2.

    Seems to me Garay is too lightweight, Collochini isn't up to much either.

    I reckon Argentina need to take the old philosophy of Brazil, "we'll score one more than you", don't panic when one goal down, after all any team with the worlds great player in will score goals, just give the ball to Messi and watch him unlock any defence in the world. You don't need a target man when you keep the ball on the deck.

  • Comment number 3.

    How is it that Tevez's disciplinary record is so bad for Argentina but not at United?

  • Comment number 4.

    Garay = Wonderkid

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree re. not needing a target man.

    Having Aguero and Messi up front is surely good enough.

    The passing ability of the Argentinian team should be able to create havoc with these two to pick out, if they play the ball on the deck.

  • Comment number 6.

    This may seem like too simple a solution, but what about just playing the young team that won the gold at the olympics?? With Messi of course.

  • Comment number 7.

    i guess Higuain from real madrid can be a good solution for argentina as a target man. he is not ready yet but he is growing. last year he was really foxy in the box. tevez, messi, aguero all like to play a little behind. someone like batistuta or crespo would make it the best attack. but i am sure they will come back and win in wednesday.

  • Comment number 8.

    as usual, the most interesting article on bbc sport i find this. keep it up tim

  • Comment number 9.

    #8- I agree. Tim's column is normally the most interesting- although maybe that's because I'm less well informed on S. American football.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am a big fan of Crespo. He was a quality striker on his day, he is what Argentina needs up front. I find Tevez to be more of a goal poacher whereas Crespo runs onto the ball, and moves with it really well and applies a good scoring touch to it. I've seen quite a few big games of Manchester United and all Tevez does is hang in the penalty box and waits for something he can tap in. That's how he scored his goal in the Man Utd vs Liverpool game last season, he waited near the post and tapped in Rooney's powerful drive. Tevez reminds me of a Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    Crespo on the other hand, one of his best performances was the 1st half of the 2005 Champions League final when he played for AC Milan, those 2 goals scored by Crespo were fantastic! The downfall of Crespo is that he's changed clubs far too much. He's been going back and forth on loan deals because Chelsea never find him useful and Crespo doesn't like England and prefers Italy but AC Milan don't want him back and at Inter he hasn't gotten proper game time to show his worth.

    I hope Crespo finds a suitable club where he will have regular game time and he's still at a decent age... if this happens I believe it will be a big boost for Argentina as well because Crespo is a type of forward Argentina lack.

  • Comment number 11.

    Two years time:

    Collocinni, Demichelis, Garay, Zabaleta

    Messi Masch Gago Di Maria

    Aguero Di Santo

    Subs: Tevez
    Javier Rodriquez

  • Comment number 12.

    @todubhain461: Di Santo? Di Santo is hardly proven and still very young. I don't think Di Santo has the quality to make it to the 1st team.

    Where's Lavezzi in that list? Lavezzi is miles better than Di Santo. Lavezzi was one of the key players in Napoli's promotion to Serie A and last season he was brilliant for Napoli and expect better things from him. Plus he had a brilliant Olympics scoring a few handy goals.

  • Comment number 13.


    Nice article as always there.
    I have a question though, if the #9 is such a problem why has'nt Basile tried with Cavenaghi who I believe is the player that you mention Argentina are lacking. Or even with Higuain, though he plays a bit down the flank he has the instincts to get to the end of crosses.

    Additionally, do you think Garay and/or Fazio (Sevilla CB) can fill the boots of the great Ayala.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think Higuain has opted to play for his father´s team, France, that´s why he was allowed a European passport.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm afraid you've nailed it there Tim. The lack of athleticism at the back is Argentina's Achille's heel. Heinze should not appear for the Albiceleste again. He typifies the problem. Another player who's beginning to look a bit lost to me is Cambiasso. Up front should take care of itself with or without a target man. In full flow they can rip any defence apart. The problem is they have no faith in their back line which errodes everyone's confidence when going forward.

  • Comment number 16.

    slightly off topic. but i think robinho looks lightweight for brazil and he did for real madrid. how will he cope against no nonsense defenders in the premiership? i doubt he will

  • Comment number 17.

    well yes last saturday´s match against paraguay was pretty lame but we did manage to get the gold medal in the beijing olimpics! not exactly childs play! anyway cheer up! we could be british! ha ha ha ; )

  • Comment number 18.

    I believe Cruz from Inter Milan could be a solution up front. He has great goal instincts, the physicality, and is a different type of striker to Aguero, Messi and Tevez.

  • Comment number 19.


    Go shoot mcnumpty Your articles are miles ahead of him.

    Are you suggesting argentina go the brazil route and bulk up and hope the technique tips the balanace?? I for one am a fan of how argentina play. Juts because it doenst happen for them all the time doenst mean its wrong.

  • Comment number 20.

    I saw the paraguay game, and the main problems were lack of pace at the back and lack of classic centre forward upfront.

    The defensive problem was there in WC2006, when they struggled with Mexico. Lack of height and pace at the back will always struggle. Just imagine if Santa Cruz had played, it would have been 3-1 to Paraguay.

    Up front they are similar to England, one dimensional. Both teams need a big man to feed the smaller faster strikers.

    Paraguay played with their usual 100% commitment, and excellent first touch on the ball, breaking quickly. Its such a shame they don't have more confidence when they go to World Cups, they looked scared of England in 2006, when they were there for the taking.

  • Comment number 21.

    argentina,one of the top teams in the world..a rejuvenated crespo should do the magic for argentina.i do not think di santo and the excellent di maria are quite ready...given a chance,maybe julio cruz can solve the problem..

  • Comment number 22.

    Iv been reading these articles for years and finally became a member to comment...

    I watched the match, iv been concerned about argentina for long time now, i dont like basiles tactics - formation and team selection, more to the point his squad selection!! Cavenaghi has been in fantastic form since feb/mar time and i has been in a competitve squad!! hes the man they need up top with aguero and messi. I think Riquelmes position is unbalancing the team, a back four is needed. Zanetti i believe to too old and there is no great cause for him to be in the team.

    Im a huge argentina fan and a huge Gabriel Heinze fan but i must say since his bad knee injury hes been 'dodgy', not quick enough at left back but i still would have him in my starting XI, hes the most commited player iv ever seen and how can he be not be 'not up to international football' when hes been a regular since 2003/2004, picked by Biesla, Pekerman and now Basile. They do miss Ayala, i dont rate Demichelis would like to see Villarreal Defender Gonzalo given a chance.

    I hope in a second coming of Hernan Crespo hes my favourite player of all time, i hope he gets it right in time for 2010.

    Someone posted argentina XI for two years time, heres mine:


    Zabaleta Gonzalo R/Coloccini Heinze Insua

    Mascherano Gago/Banega

    Messi Di Maria

    Cavenaghi Aguero

    My hearts ruling my head with Heinze :) make him the captain!

    on a side not anyone a big fan of Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Garcia? I think hes immense and will follow him at PAOK this season. He had a brillant Copa last season, Tim or anyone know if or when he will return to the national side? i heard he requested not be picked.

  • Comment number 23.

    they seem a bit lightweight.. immensly skillful, aesthetically pleasing.. remind me of the old notts forest (that went down)

  • Comment number 24.

    On Tevez disaplinery record, did you see the sending off against Peru? It was yellow card at a push, if that. He didn't have two feet off the ground, the tackle wasn't flung in, he went slightly over the ball, but not over it. Was a joke, never a red card in a million years.

  • Comment number 25.

    In answer to Point 3 re: Tevez's disciplinary record.

    Here's an interesting fact for you...

    In his 11 years as a Man United player Phil Neville was never sent off.

    During his first season as an Everton player he was sent off twice.

    I hope this helps! ;-)

  • Comment number 26.

    The reason is Tim is because they too individual! I live in Argentina and the majority will tell you that as well.

    They get tired of messi trying to beat all the opponents team twice, tired of riquelme who just does not appear for 80 minutes in the game and most of them want Basile out!

    Argentina always have there supposed number 10 to run the game but in many important games number 10 who's riquelme does not come up good.

    Another note Basile was going to play Martin Palermo had he have not been injured I think that explains everything.

  • Comment number 27.

    Garay, Pareja, Gonzalo Rodriguez, are all defenders that could step up.

    Fernando Cavenaghi has revitalised his career in France and is now banging in goals left right and centre. He should get a chance, as should Lisandro Lopez and Higuain.


    Zabaleta Gonzalo Garay Monzon
    Messi Gago Di Maria

    Cavenaghi Aguero


    Higaun/Lisandro Lopez

  • Comment number 28.

    How is it that Tevez's disciplinary record is so bad for Argentina but not at United?


    For Argentina he plays more as a classic striker and gets both kicked and isolated as a result.

    For united he has a freer position, and has more quality support up front.

    Argentina have too many 'nice and pretty' players who can pick out a decent pass and put ina good through ball but only Tevez and Messi can actually force the play so theya re targetted.

  • Comment number 29.

    what about Diego Milito as a target man?!

  • Comment number 30.

    The decline of Crespo?

    What would England give to be able to call him up!

    64 games for Chelsea, 24 goals
    65 games for Argentina, 35 goals

  • Comment number 31.

    I am sick of BBC sports pundits always writing about Argentina. From the olympic team to the national team. Argentina is good soccer nation but don't get so much interested in them as they have discovered cure for AIDs(HIV). Please spare your precious time thinking about how your English national team will make it to South African 2010. Please do not create an idea that one will mistake Argentina as the best soccer nation in the world. They are not and will not be. When was the last time they won the world cup? 20Yrs ago. It is 16yrs ago they finished as the runners up.

  • Comment number 32.

    Good article Tim, interesting as always.

    @17yeah, would be awful for you to be Britain as then you wouldn't have a team. Britain plays as its individual countries England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

  • Comment number 33.

    At comment #10, how can you say Tevez is a poacher and reminds you of Van Nistlerooy when he works his socks of for United? Yes he may of scored a tap in against Liverpool but im sure Messi and Torres have scored many of those in the past, at least Tevez can score from outside the box, the reason he does not play so well for Argentina is because their set-up does not suite him.

    I Believe Ustari to be one of the best upcoming keepers and we will likely see him starting for Argentina soon.

    As for center backs, as so many have said Garay would be a great addition, but also Gabriel Milito of Barcelona is worth a shout.

    For their strikers, they have some of the most skillful attackers around but they have a lack of international goals between them. Higuan would be the answer but as far as im aware he has declared for France, Mauro Zarate is another argentine striker i rate highly but he is of the same mould as Messi and Aguero.

  • Comment number 34.


    I find the minute Argentina or Brazil lose or draw to any other side in South America, they have suddenly gotten weaker and there is cause for concern and time for the inquisition. Could it genuinely be, that Paraguay deserved a point in Buenos Aires and deserved to beat Brazil a few months ago in Asuncion?

    For me the Paraguay team look the most stable and balanced of any team in South America right now. Aside from struggling with the altitude in Bolivia, they have had an impressive qualifying campaign so far and look in a strong position to qualify for a 4th consecutive world cup. And this, from a nation with only 6 million people.

    They are like the Danes of South America. Small, resilient, hardworking and compact - making the use of their small resources to produce decent players who can do a job without making much fuss.

    How about giving them some credit where its due and praise Paraguay instead of bemoaning Argentina's birthright to steam roll everyone in South America and waltz into the World Cup with minimal effort...

  • Comment number 35.

    Personally, I'm always happy to see Argentina beaten!

  • Comment number 36.


    I find the minute Argentina or Brazil lose or draw to any other side in South America, they have suddenly gotten weaker and there is cause for concern and time for the inquisition. Could it genuinely be, that Paraguay deserved a point in Buenos Aires and deserved to beat Brazil a few months ago in Asuncion?

    For me the Paraguay team look the most stable and balanced of any team in South America right now. Aside from struggling with the altitude in Bolivia, they have had an impressive qualifying campaign so far and look in a strong position to qualify for a 4th consecutive world cup. And this, from a nation with only 6 million people.

    They are like the Danes of South America. Small, resilient, hardworking and compact - making the use of their small resources to produce decent players who can do a job without making much fuss.

    How about giving them some credit where its due and praise Paraguay instead of bemoaning Argentina's birthright to steam roll everyone in South America and waltz into the World Cup with minimal effort...''

    replace 'Argentina' with 'England' and theres my problem with england fans.

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree with #29 Diego Milito would work as a target man, strong, not slow and an eye for goal makes him perfect.
    He needs, however to be at a better club. Genoa will never provide what he needs to become a better player.
    Obviously I'm biased here but he would do much better at a team like Tottenham or Aston Villa than Genoa. I know he played there before but come on.
    In terms of what else Argentina are lacking is the ranging wing backs that freed up the players in the middle. Juan Pablo Sorin and Javier Zanetti are not what they used to be and it is interesting whether Zabaleta and Insua can provide in the future.
    It seems as if Garay is the future, he's at R.Madrid now and although he has been loaned back to racing he will do well.
    My Argentina team would be this


    Heinze CAN play at full-back and proved it at Man Utd. They need to get rid of this 3-6-1 system they have used in the past as it does not work against sides who defend deep, wouldn't you agree Tim?

  • Comment number 38.

    shouldnt lucho be playing instead of riquelme he is well overrated, lucho gives height and he can meet di maria balls, just like at porto he heads in quaresma crosses.

    what about frederico fazio looks a real good prospect and he aint gonna play DM is he with banega, mascherano, gago and esteban cambiasso already in the step up.


    paraguay are quality tho wouldnt mind that barreto in the premiership.

  • Comment number 39.

    Paraguay are indeed truly remarkable - may be the subject of next week's piece.

    At centre back I'm a huge fan of Ezequiel Garay - picked him out in World Soccer magazine as one of the names to look out for in the 2005 South American Under-20s, so his progress doesn't surprise me at all. Terrific distribution from the back as well, though he's not the quickest.

    The target man situation is a worry - with Messi and Aguero there's no need necessarily to start with one, but they must have one on the bench. German Denis is currently in the squad, but like many of them who've been tried, I think he's very ordinary. Every time Julio Cruz plays for Argentina you wonder how on earth he scores goals in Europe. Diego Milito had a go in the Copa America when Crespo got injured, and didn't really look up to it. Cavenaghi deserves a chance - he's been coming off the bench in friendlies. Di Santo? His progress at Chelsea will be followed with interest.

  • Comment number 40.

    An interesting article, yet it exaggerates problems within the most talented young squad in the world. I believe the only significant concern Tim highlighted was the loss of Ayala; it is very difficult to replace a captain on the back line (however this will come soon with time). In terms of offensive threats, Argentina's wealth of talent is the envy of every nation including Brasil. What I think will be interesting and exciting, is to watch how this team matures as the WC approaches.

  • Comment number 41.

    @uchegodfrey: Tim is a BBC correspondent for South/Central American football so this is what he's meant to write about; if you want commentary on the England national team then there are many other commentators on the BBC website.

  • Comment number 42.

    'How is it that Tevez's disciplinary record is so bad for Argentina but not at United?'

    Because Ferguson will get the hairdryer out if he steps out of line there.

  • Comment number 43.

    Correct answer was given by whoever wrote that

    "they seem a bit lightweight.. immensly skillful, aesthetically pleasing.. remind me of the old notts forest (that went down)"

    They have quick players but not fast. Copa America final showed the vast superior athletic and physical advantage that Brazil had over Argentine.

    No matter how talented, skillful my 10 year old nehew is, he has no chance against me (I am over 30).

    Not that Argentine players look like 10 years old, but they will have tough time against Physically strong and organized teams.

    There were also a misleading mauling of Mexico in Copa semifinal , that gave Argentine a false dawn.
    Mexico time and again carved up Argentina's defense but failed to score and once they went down a goal Argentina's s counter attack killed them

  • Comment number 44.

    why are england getting stick in argetina so shite?

  • Comment number 45.

    Atleast Argentina won gold in the olympics.

  • Comment number 46.

    i agree that heinze is too slow for international football. He is a weakness.
    As someone mentioned eaerlier, Argentina should play the Olympic team with the addition of a couple more experienced players like Demichellis and Esteban Cambiasso.

    I thought Gago and Mascherano were awesome in the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beejing. Heinze is just the weak link and they should never play him again and I hope that Coco Basile soon see that.

    I think this article doesn't take into consideration that in the 2 home games they played, Argentina were 10 against 11 for more than 60 minutes with Tevez seeing red on both occasions. And one of the away games were against Brazil so no need to panic YET.

    Vamos Argentina !!!

  • Comment number 47.

    I Think that although Argentina are currently 'struggling', their problems have been exaggerated.

    Its without question that from the back 5 forward Argentina are extremely talented and have great strength in depth. Although they do not possess a proven target man, their alternative options in aguero messi tevez and cavenaghi, who needs to be given a chance, means they have more than enough firepower provided they play a system that suits, a system which Basile has not introduced yet.

    In terms of the back 5, it is true that Argentina have not produced a world class goalkeeper in the recent past but Romero seems to be a promising prospect. Garay is currently a bit lightweight in my opinion to sustain a position in the national team but will be more than ready in the coming years and will soon be a fixture of the argentinian side. Current centre back options are argentina's weak spot. Heinze is not up to international standard playing in the middle and I don't rate colocinni highly either. Gabriel Milito is far from international standard and is now another name on the recent line of average Barcelona centre backs.

    Argentina are currently going through a rough patch but will soon return to form and will be one of the best teams in the world again. There goal now should be to win an international trophy of some substance or they will remain as a team with huge potential that never goes the distance

  • Comment number 48.

    What about Manu Villa, hes our best player at County.

    Seriously though Tim mentioned a while back that Lisandro Lopez was like a more cultured version of Villa, surely he's worth a go.

    And whatever happened to Rodrigo Palacio, I know he's not a tall, target man but has he lost out since he didn't take his chances?

  • Comment number 49.

    uchegodfrey the difference is when England qualify for a World Cup it is seen as a success whereas in Argentina if they don't win it, it's a failure.
    Yes it's actually 18 years since they finished as runners-up. When was the last time England finished as runners-up??
    Never ever compare England to Argentina, it's an insult!!

  • Comment number 50.

    How is it that Tevez's disciplinary record is so bad for Argentina but not at United?

    The answer: Sir Alex Ferguson, simple as that.

    We need desperately a bigger striker, Tevez, Messi, Aguero and the stunning Diego Buonanotte (another Diego) are so short. Argentina can not play defense all the time, is in the nature of Argentinean football, do the opposite will give something as Brazil under Dunga.
    Argentina needs to lead the attack, if they score once we need to score twice and keep the pressure until the very last minute ….. that’s why ManU is so good (and I’m a Liverpool supporter).


  • Comment number 51.

    I wouldn't want to hit any panic button - after all, I think world football needs to thank Argentina for their continued faith in an expansive passing game with lots of little players. Long may this be the case.

    But there's a need for balance. Brazil centre back Lucio is very unlikely to have been caught out as Heinze was on the Paraguay goal. He'd have dealt with it.
    At the other end, it was the physicality of Luis Fabiano that won Brazil last night's game against Chile. Argentina can't match this at the moment.

    But Brazil need balance too. The Brazilian press are banging on about how their team showed a change of attitude. I don't see it - it's reducing everything to the level of an emotional soap opera. I think the reasons have far more to do with football.

    Brazil met a team willing to attack, to play into the hands of their counter-attack - and who suffered for not selecting a defender big enough to deal with Luis Fabiano. Against an opponent who denies them the counter, I suspect last night's Brazil would have looked as laboured as they have in other recent games - because their central midfielders have great limitations in passing the ball, especially in comparison with Argentina's.

    Just a thought - imagine Brazil playing with Argentina's midfield - what a team that would make!

  • Comment number 52.

    Argentina have a few issues to address, all of varying importance:

    IMO, the most important is to forget about Riquleme. He is a magical player, on his day as good as anyone. Unfortunately this is not all that often anymore and never when it really matters. Everyone knows you put a big, fast, strong, aggressive marker on him and he disappears from the game. The solution is to play Messi in the '10' role, he is more than good enough to do it. As back up -if Messi is injured- there are a whole host of players to choose from: Aimar, Tevez, Aguero, Buonanotte, Lavazzi to name but a few.

    In addition to the problem of Roman, the defensive shape and personal needs addressing. I think they should return to the WC2006 formation where they only had one attacking fullback (Sorin in 2006) allowing them to play a auxiliary third CB at RB (Burdisso in 2006) once more. Argentina are severely lacking in decent attacking fullbacks and playing like this limits them to having one on the field.

    GK obviously needs sorting too and is a tough place to fill, as none standout from the crowd. Perhaps in time Ustari or Romero will grow into the role. Maybe it is nearly time for Argentina to take a gamble on one or the other and give them a run of games? For now Carrizo has the chance to prove himself, and good luck to him; but, he needs to work on his ballskills as the other night he was very shaky with the ball at his feet.

    My current team based on WC2006 formation(if all fit and available) :
    Coloccini...Gonzalo..Milito...Jonas G

    Subs: Romero, Garay/Diaz, Zanetti (legend, but cant go on for ever), Cambiasso, Di Maria, Tevez, and Higuain (Denis, Cruz, Milito and certainly Palmero are not up to it.)

  • Comment number 53.

    When Argentina solve the conundrum that is Juan Roman Riqelme they just might get better.Is it just me or does he slow down the game to snail's pace.On his day he is a marvel to watch and his delivery from set pieces is magnificent but I think the time to drop him from the side has come.

  • Comment number 54.

    Argentina is going through the same as Brazil, just less evident. Argentina haves to replace some key players of their system and others have to get adapted to it.

    For example we cant keep organizing the squad around Riquelme when it should be organized around Messi. Im not saying to take Riquelme out of the team just to be clear around who you will make your team.

    Besides that I believe that a change of coach would make them good. Even Batista who doesnt showed nothing great in the Olympics made a more solid team with much more personality.

    About the CF issue one good prospect is the actually injuried Nicolas Frutos playing in Anderlecht. He obviously doesnt gets the press of other players but its the kind of tall and solid player that Argentina needs.

  • Comment number 55.

    I dont see why all the critisism about brazil…are you another person who should maybe relocate to argentina from brazil and write about them? why not provide some insight to them about how they can improve? About 20 years ago brazil played all out attack and they were almost unstoppable…then commentators said its suicide to sit back and wait against brazil. So teams started to attack brazil and realised brazil make mistakes under pressure and can be defeated in that way. so everybrazil hater was happy and every team started attacking them and in 1993 in the copa america both chile and argentina registered big wins against brazil.…Well brazil said enough is enough and decided on a strategy. Now everyone is angry again that brazil have found the perfect answer (for brazil). A ruthless counter attack…now brazil say, “hey if you want to attack us, go ahead - we’ll just smash you on the counter” and once again people have to re-think about how to stop brazil and that makes all the brazil-haters angry again. So everyone hopes for dunga to be sacked so that once again brazil will start playing stupid attack football (like agrgentina and chile) and become “specialists in losing” once again. I hope dunga stays for a VERY LONG TIME.

  • Comment number 56.

    yes argentina is good, thats why they havent won the world cup for oh just about 20 years...and brazil have won how many? say brazil's gameplan is a lot better than anyone else in S.America and anyone who says different, doesnt know football from soccer.

  • Comment number 57.

    The last line sums it up - there will only ever be one Gabriel Omar Batistuta - if he was still playing it wouldn't matter how dodgy defence is.

  • Comment number 58.

    I totally agree with tim.. Hernan crespo is a huge loss, he was a brilliant center forward!!

  • Comment number 59.

    Actually, there's nothing wrong with Argentina. They can't win a match for love or money and that's good enough for me!
    Why are you wasting good blog space even considering the question?

  • Comment number 60.

    You underestimated Argentina.Gabriel Heinze is a great player.They have great players for every position and Argentina his just the best national team in the world.

  • Comment number 61.

    Not surprised to read about Heinze. When he played in England he was found out because of his inability to tackle cleanly. So many of his tackles were fouls and accordingly he was often given the run-a-round by smart wingers. He was good going forward, but Patrice Evra can also go forard and can tackle well also. I'm suprised that Argentina still play Heinze as Brazil singled him out in the Copa America and continually attacked down his flank, leaving him floundering.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have never underestimated Argentina
    since I watched their match against Peru in the 1978 world cup, then again in 1986 in that infamous game against England.
    Although they can't win a match, I believe they would do absolutely anything to win one!

  • Comment number 63.

    to glasgowgooner: you must have seen a different game! it was a tie game 1 to 1. btw i see macedonia beat scotland 1- 0. you dont see me with a grin on my face do ya? ha ha ha! ..:.

  • Comment number 64.

    As usual tim you prove yourself the bestwriter on here, far better than phil mcnumpty,

    does anyone know much about west hams new signing uraguayan left back walter lopez?

  • Comment number 65.

    Heinze and Evra have different styles,you can't say who's better in back-front duties,Heinze more clever at deffending,great crosses,Evra fantastic penetranting dangerously in the opponent's area and making great tackles and pursuing
    the opositors
    I Agree,there's nothing wrong with Argentina

  • Comment number 66.

    Good article Tim, but could it not be that many other nations are getting better and long gone are those days when Argentina can just turn up and win.

    Different team with about 3 players or more that the Olympic side who who if Nigeria took their chances would have taken Gold.

    A target man will not necessarily be the answer. I once saw an old documentary of Pele in Sao Paulo, when he stated that a team has tro play to the strengths of its strikers. So its a bit dumb playing high balls or putting in crosses with small strikers.

    Tim its all well and good playing nice smart intricate passes ( who can forget the last WC when Argentina had that 20+ what passes to score ). But goals win matches not POSSESSION AND FANCY PLAY WITH NO END PRODUCT!!!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    all this nonsense reminds me of spain before the euros they pass the ball too much they are not athletic bla bla bla.
    argentina need to stick to what they do best. forget a target man,should inferior players play cos they are tall. i do not think so. look around and you will see target men cramp the style more than anything else, italy at euro 2008 anyone.think a spain man u the invincibles of arsenal brazil 2002 1994 this is the new way.did u actually watch the match argentina did not win not due to alack of chances or due to something a 6 foot genius would have done they simply lost too many chances.
    what argentina need is a new back line proper defenders and good full backs who provide width then they would be ready to go.they need need to peak at the world cup not during qualifiers as previously

  • Comment number 68.

    Cavenaghi surely deserves a shot up front perhaps playing off Aguero of course. He`s been performing very well for Bordeaux and scoring alot of goals since last season. Also the left full back is a problem position now and in the future I think. Can only think of Monzon who might be capable of filling the position long term at the present moment

  • Comment number 69.

    There is no doubt that Garay is an exceptional talent and I am sure Mr.Vickery agrees with me because he once told what a brillient defender Garay is. However not to long ago I heard about Gonzalo Rodriguez who plays for Villarreal in Spain. How good is he as a defender and with Garay and Rodriguez in the team is it safe to say that Argentina has two excellent defenders for the future?

  • Comment number 70.

    Reacting to the coment you made about the shift in power in south american football you made on the up all night show, I've not been to surprize by the fact that Argentina are still strugling to transform all those youth titles in the real thing : wins and authorithy at senior level !

    And for further proof that youth compétitions are not relevant when trying to predict succes at senior level :

    - nigeria 1996 : 1/8 final WC 1998 (1-5)
    - cameroon 2000 : WC 2002 ( 1ST round)
    WC 2006 (not qualified)
    - argentina 2004 : 1/4 final WC 2006

    How many of those players winners at youth level make the grade at senior level (less than 5-10 %)

    That's the problem of Argentina basing to much on youth and forgetting the power and physical side of modern soccer

  • Comment number 71.

    Good topic. I have wateched Argentinian league footbal for many years now and here is my opinion.

    In my opinion, Lisandro Lopez is the box player that Argentina could do with integrating. He is explosive (look at his Champions League goals last year for Porto and in big derby games), mobile and able to lin up with midfielders, has fight (he saved Racing Club from demotion in his last season there), aerial power (strong neck), quick turn and big shot and he is tireless.

    German Denis, Nicholas Frutos, Di Santo, Palacio, Julio Cruz are all not quite skilful enough to link up with the midfield players.

    Milito and Cavenaghi should also feature before the above.

    Also, Lucho is a good alternative to an off form Riquelme (he would have been better staying Europe longer).

    When Lucho played with Masherano and Cavenaghi at River in 2004, they were excellent at moving the ball around. Also, Gago's form has now meant that Riquelme is less important as a link up player dictating the rythm of the game (apart from his free kicks etc).

    Any opinions on this?

  • Comment number 72.

    Mandyryang - If Heinze was 'more clever' at defending than Evra then why did he get booked so frequently for foul tackles and why was Sir EAex so eager to get rid of him? I think you were watching a different player. Heinze and Evra are very similar players in their desire to get forward but when having to defend one can tackle and the other could not.

  • Comment number 73.

    Hernan Crespo was a target man? urm quite simply. . . no

  • Comment number 74.

    Vickery is mostly right. He does not mention though Argentina's biggest problem: Riquelme. (Although he alludes to it with the phrase he puts just under Riquelme's picture).
    R is lazy, weak, predictable and unintelligent as a playmaker. Of course he has great technique, but this is not enough. He spoils Argentina's game and it is a great shame that all the coaches insist with him when he has failed to deliver on all the big occasions.
    Much better if Messi plays in his position, or even Lucho or Aimar.

  • Comment number 75.

    Riquelme is not unintelligent. That's the worst critique I've ever heard of him (and I've heard plently!). On the contrary, Riquelme is one of the most intelligent players on the planet, when it works you get fantasy style football in the Serbia-Montenegro mold. Rewatch the 26 passes golazo to see how Riquelme moves all over the pitch, distributes the ball with absolute perfection and then suddenly shifts the tempo with a cheeky 1-2 with Saviolita.
    His main problem is inconsistency, that's his biggest fault.

    Argentina's problem is our overdependence on him. There's nobody who can replace him, that's what makes most people so frustrated with his spotty form.

    Let's go over the likely candidates shall we:
    Messi is not an enganche, he's a mediapunta or a second striker. He's very direct because of his fantastic dribbling skills but he's not all of a sudden going to distribute the play. Never going to happen.

    Aimar: when he wasn't injured he never convinced. Perhaps even more inconsistent then Riquelme. Too fragile to ever built a team around.

    Lucho Gonzalez: has gotten COUNTLESS chances in the past with Argentina. He has played litterly everywhere. As a CM, as a playmaker, as a side midfielder, as an #8. And he has blown every single chance he ever got. His Porto form has never been seen on the NT. A lost cause if you will.

    The answer to this problem? Ditch the enganche seems all to simple, we'll play faster and more direct they say. Let Gago distribute the ball!! Unfortunetly Gago's distribution is not near anywhere as good as people make it out to be.

  • Comment number 76.

    #63 - er, I don't know what you're on about. I merely said I enjoy seeing Argentina being beaten. I didn't refer to a specific game? I just meant as a general thing.

    As for the Scotland game, I could care less, being an RoI supporter! I just happen to be in Glasgow!

  • Comment number 77.

    in response to #56 you guys seem to forget that before 94 Brazil hadn't won the world cup in 24 years

  • Comment number 78.

    Re Vollume3 comments

    I think you are totally correct about Riquelme.

    To add to this, I would say that he would have been better to find a club in Europe than return to Boca.

    His form for Argentina was better when playing for Villareal as his physical condition was sharper as he was also accustomed to a higher pace of football with better forwards (no disrespect to Palacio).

    Maybe ur right about Gago in that he plays a lot deeper and has defensive duties to worry about so cannot roam as Riquelme.

    In Roman's defence, there are very few players like him and I recall people questioning Zidane's form in same manner as Roman's so I think this type of player always struggles to maintain a high level throughout a long period.

    In the next generation, Diego Valeri looks a good bet and has similar style to Roman but lets see what happens with him...I would still play Roman unless someone makes a stunning case with form.

  • Comment number 79.

    I believe that Julian Speroni has the ability to become a world class keeper.

    If Palace get promoted, or he leaves for the Premiership, and the goalkeeping crisis continues for Argentina, it won't be long before he gets a call up.


  • Comment number 80.


    Valeri is an interesting case. Voted player of the Apertura last year (I think) after winning the league with Lanus in stylish fashion (scoring goals + assists).

    He shares many characteristics; able to spot a pass, great freekick, hard shot, elegant on the ball. But he also runs a lot more and knows how to defend (from time to time). His form made him look like a likely contender to be on the olympic team but then he got injured and never recovered. Too bad as he would have made a much better substitute for Roman then Sosa.

    Your comment on Riquelme's form is true/not true. He had a lot more responsibilities under Pekerman then he does under Basile. Pekerman made him the central fulcrum, everything and I do mean everything came through him. Under Basile and with the rise of Messi, Roman plays a lot further up the pitch which shows in the amount of goals he has scored. He was Argentina's lead scorer in the Copa America and he's Argentina's lead scorer in these eliminatorias.

    Once again this shows how much we have come to depend on him and how difficult it is to replace him...


    Speroni is not well known in Argentina, before he left he played with a small club named Platense in the second division. Not with a big club like River, Boca or Independiente. He's also 29 allready wich will make it even more hard for him to break into the team.

    It's safe to say that Carrizo, bar any serious injuries, will be the starting goalie in 2010.

  • Comment number 81.

    Watch again the last Copa America final against Brazil: Riquelme hits tens of setpieces, all directed to the same spot, all dealt easily by the Brazilian defence. A more intelligent player would have figured out at some point that he had to do something different.

    In general, Riquelme is unintelligent because he does not understand the particularities of each game and of each move in a game. He tries to play the same way uder all circumstances. So, although he appears to be inconsistent to you, what is really happening is that he simply cannot cope when the nature of the game changes in a way that does not suit his style.

    The 26 passes against Serbia were sublime (and of course their primary value is in the final move by Crespo and Cambiasso - if there had been no goal nobody would have remembered the passes), but none of the big teams would ever let them exchange so many passes. And, as someone notes above, big teams always have a strong defensive midfielder hanging on R, not letting him play his game. What does he usually do in these circumstances? Instead of passing the ball quickly, he just keeps it, waiting to be fouled in the middle of the pitch.

    Of course Argentina can play without enganche, with Messi as a mediapunta and two forwards in front of him. I do not see why there always has to be a player in the style of Riquelme in the team.

    Aimar is technically less gifted than Riquelme, but at his best he deserved more to be in the team because he helped with the flow of the game, he did not stall it as R does. And, perhaps more importantly, he is much more of a fighter than R: he does not let up in the face of the first difficulty. Finally, Aimar has actually won titles in Europe, unlike R, who was only fighting for 3rd-4th position in the Spanish League.

  • Comment number 82.

    I am a very hard die fan of argentina, when argentina waz beaten in this now infamous quarter against germany, i spent like 3 weeks of sleepless night, this waz again due to poor appreciation judgment from a coach who did i shall admit a tremendous job to bring up the root of our current team ; jose pekerman. I am all the time wondering when will we get a coach to make our players express themselves at their fullest.

    i will never forget the way basile made us be humiliated a by a very, very average brasil due to his lack of imagination, how he flanked cuchu in that game. he just fell short in putting two very slow players in da flank, veron and cuchu giving brazil the chance to attack us from the flank, the way i could not understand that aimar pace against such a very defensive team could have brought fluidity and movement. no it is just too much this old man, conservative and stubborn guy should go before another disaster

    there must not be any room for complacency at this level, to me the verdict is clear, coco should leave. a team with the standard of argentina as i said last time would have trashed teams like bielorussia, peru, etc… with a very very average coach. how long will it take to AFA to realise that coco is not the man to lead to glory or is the man to lead us to catastroph with is very predictable tactical scheme.

    please AFA, m fed up of heart-breaking disappointments due to stubborn coach or coach making junior mistake. get us batista, tocali (i know some will say this a pekerman bis) or why not bianchi.

  • Comment number 83.

    Bianchi... well he is the most defensive coach that i have seen at boca.

    As for Battaglia in the squad- he is a poor player and does what his name says, battle only. Might as well play Raul Cascini!

    The problem with Basile is that he is making silly choices with key positions. German Denis is good striker in Argentina, but he is not better than Lisandro Lopez, no way.

    In the goalkeeping stakes, I think Ustari has more technical skills although Carrizo has more personality. We'll see what happens. German Lux was a good keeper but I have not seen him recently.

  • Comment number 84.

    Nothing is wrong with Argentina. yes they lack a target man but all teams are going to struggle with modern football. The disparity between teams are becoming less and less. Players from most countries are playing at a higher level in leagues around the world than before so no country is afraid of playing another country. Argentina is a good team bu they have to work hard to win just like anybody else. Look at Bolivia they placed 10 men behind a ball and poor Brazil could not break them down. I saw the US did the same thing against Brazil in 1994 put 10 men behind the ball and brazil could not break them down until Bebeto received a pass from Romario and scored

  • Comment number 85.

    Higuain will NOT be playing for France. Higuain has already decided to play for Argentina. I saw him play in Los Angeles when Argentina played Guatemala which he scored 2 goals. As for him being the main traget, maybe. He has been on fire for Real Madrid, but I do wonder how he will play with a Aguero,Messi line up. Only time will tell. France asked him to play but turned down the invite. People thought he would be the new Trezegol. As for Fernando Cavenaghi I recall his days@ River. At one time it was debate beween who was the best player in Argentina Fernando Cavenaghi or Carlos Tevez. All the major clubs were after him but he was sent to Russia? But he has found his form in France. So he can be another player but not to sure how he is going to mesh in.

    A player everybody seems to forget about is Luciano"Lucho" Figueroa. He is so deadly for Argentina. In 15 games has scored 9 goals. For some reason the guy puts it in the back of the net for Argentina. If he never got hurt befor the 2006 WC he would of made the spot over Julio Cruz. As for Cruz forget about him. The guy can not put away a goal if his life was on the line. Just watch the United States game and that will tell you enough. As for Di Santo, has a lot of quality but I want to watch him play for the U-20 WC next year. Lets see if Argentina can repeat? Bet aganist them, I do not think so.

    As for Argentina's future on young players. Keep your eyes on Mauro Icardi. Picked up by Barcelona. Only 16 years old or even 15. Long tall striker, but has a lot of grace. Plays the ball close to his feet. He can make a splash really. soon. The kid has scored well over 500 goals in the jr league when he was playing in the Canary Islands. Spain has already asked him to join the U-17 team but has turned them down to join Argentina. Another key figure can be Lucas Trecarichi, plays in the second divison in Spain.He is a midfielder and like Icardi Spain has asked him to join the team but turned it down as well. Has already played for U-17 side. Nicholas Mazzola another talented player from Independiente, West Ham has already been linked with him, just 18 years of age.

    Kids who are from Argentina but will be plying else where. Gerardo Bruna, Liverpool took him out of Real Madrid's grasps. From what I am hearing he can be an explosive player. He decided to play for Spain instead of Argentina. Very simple reason, far too many Argentine players are similar to him, Messi, Aguero, Tevez,Saviola. So making the side would of been tough for him but hey who knows. The second kid is Fernando Forestieri. He was a Boca Jr product and BOCA sent him out to Italia for a loan but never got him back. Boca fought this but it was a losing battle. Plays in Serie A, he is not a goal scoring machine by any means but has room to grow and will be a force. Decided to play for Italia instead of Argentina, but his parents thought it would far too dangerous for him to play in Argentina, and plus his family is from Sicilia. A shame neither one will play for Argentina but Argentina is stacked with young players coming.

    Best player in Argentina: Ricardo Noir now watch a Boca JR game and you will see. Major clubs are trying to hunt him down but I think another year in Argentina will do him a lot of good. He is a striker and has a lot of style to his game. Some will say Diego Buonanotte and yes he is a amazing talent, pound for pound maybe the best in the world but I am not sure how he can play vs big European players. Imagine him vs a 6'3 Dutch defender. But hey he is great on the ball and a wicked right foot. His FK in the Olympics was beautiful.

    A person that has to go from the team I think is Riquelme, he slows the team down. Great player but he has days off and Argentina can not have days off in the WC. When he plays great Argentina is unstopable. I have started calling him El FANTASMA( The Ghost), either he will kill you or you can not see him anywhere.

    A person I have been giving praise to since last year is Angel Di Maria. You know Arsneal had a chance to buy him for only 6mill, and think about how well he would of fit in Arsenal. He has had a great Olympics and look for him to make a move in Jan. He is great on the ball and is so explosive, in a blink of an eye he runs by players.

    In the end, Argentina will be fine and will make a serious run for the WC. They just have to be more consistant. If they are they will be UNTOUCHABLE.

  • Comment number 86.

    It doesn't matter how well known Speroni is in Argentina. The fact is that national scouts have been at Palace matches recently to watch him play.

  • Comment number 87.

    great post, BatiBati9. Are you living in Argentina, if so can u tell me what happend to a player called Luca Sparapani of Almagro.

    A few years ago, he looked like a player capable of playing above the second division of Argentina, but then he disappeared with Almagro- did anyone sign him?

    Thanks in advance

  • Comment number 88.

    U13299637-I think he is still with Almagro. See relegation and promotion is a bit strange in Argentina, it is some what complicated. So Lucas is still in Almagro. As for living in Argentina I spend most of the year in Argentina about 8months out of the year in Argentina and spend the other 4months in southern california.

    Boy oh Boy has anybody been watching Zarate? The kid is looking REALLY good right now. He maybe moving from Lazio really soon if he continues playing the way he does. He did great in the league in Quarter(I could even score a goal or two in that league) he did very well in his stint in the EPL and has 4 goals in Lazio's first few games. I think he should get called up and he will likely take Saviola's spot and he is likely pushing Tevez to the side. Zarate is a fan favorite in Argentina. I can not believe I did not put him in my last post.


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