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Argentina boost World Cup credentials

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Tim Vickery | 08:16 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

The warm-up work could hardly have gone better for the South American World Cup sides in action last week.

Paraguay had trouble finding opposition and had to settle for a visit to Athletic Bilbao, who fielded an under strength side. No problem. Coach Gerardo Martino had plenty to smile about after his side's 3-1 win.

Oscar Cardozo, a target for the boo boys back home, finally found the form he produces for club side Benfica and scored twice but, more importantly, star man Roque Santa Cruz is showing signs of coming good at the right time. In the presumed absence of Salvador Cabanas, recovering from a shooting in Mexico City, this is good news indeed.

Uruguay gave notice of their firepower with a thoroughly convincing 3-1 win away to Switzerland. With Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, backed up by Sebastian Abreu and Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans have plenty of dangerous strikers, but the big recent development has been the emergence of Nicolas Lodeiro as a playmaker, providing new layers of subtlety to what was a crash, bang, wallop side.

Dunga's Brazil, meanwhile, underlined that they will be the team to beat in South Africa with a typically clinical 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland.

But the week's big winner was Argentina coach Diego Maradona. While other teams went into their games with World Cup systems and personnel more or less defined, this was not the case with Argentina when they took the field in Germany.

But when the whistle blew to end an intense match in Munich, they had won by the only goal and Maradona could feel happy that, after the confusion of their qualifying campaign, he finally had a team to take to the World Cup.

Diego MaradonaOne goal was enough for Diego Maradona's Argentina in their friendly against Germany - Pic: Getty

Argentina's coach has called up countless players in his brief reign, but the team which beat Germany showed just one change from the one which sealed qualification with a 1-0 win away to Uruguay five months ago.

The striking thing about the side is the defensive line made up of four centre backs - on Wednesday, it was Nicolas Otamendi, Martin Demichelis, Walter Samuel and Gabriel Heinze (some might quibble with Heinze, who has played at left-back - but when he took over Maradona was adamant that the ex-Manchester United man should be considered as a centre-back).

Against Uruguay, this looked like a one off - a way of countering the opposing strikers in a match where a draw was good enough. Now it looks like something more definitive.

Sorting out the defence was Maradona's most urgent priority, and given the fact that the Germans had just one shot on target, his back line passed the test. But fielding four centre backs has implications for the team in possession. It means that there will be no consistent repeat of the pretty midfield patterns weaved by 2006 side, with the elegance of Riquelme at its hub. This team will inevitably be more based on the counter-attack.

It is a very different approach from the expansive passing football in which Lionel Messi shines at Barcelona. There, he has Daniel Alves as an explosive right-back, opening up the flank and creating space for Messi to cut in on the diagonal.

Argentina, however, have Nicolas Otamendi at right-back, a promising defender but one with few attacking skills, and on the right of midfield is Newcastle's Jonas Gutierrez, who ran and covered for the entire 90 minutes against the Germans, but who is not the sharpest of offensive weapons.

Messi, then, is sacrificed. But that doesn't mean he is useless. Maradona intelligently made a point of defending his number 10 after the Germany game. Without doing anything extraordinary, Messi was fundamental to Wednesday's victory.

He likes the ball played to his feet, so the opposition crowd men around him to reduce his space. With the defence sucked across, space opens up for Juan Veron to hit the diagonal ball for Angel Di Maria on the other flank. The Benfica flyer enjoys the ball played in front of him, and has the pace and left foot to do serious damage. Reminiscent of Veron's link up with Claudio Lopez a decade ago, that partnership with Di Maria looks vital to Argentina's World Cup bid.

Michael Ballack and Angel Di MariaFlying winger Angel Di Maria tangles with German midfielder Michael Ballack - Pic: Getty

There is a danger, though, that the counter-attackers might themselves be counter-attacked. Playing away to both Uruguay and Germany perhaps suited Argentina's new system. The onus to take the initiative was with the opposition.

But things will be different in the World Cup, especially in the group phase against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece. There is the danger, against cautious rivals, that as Argentina circulate the ball their defenders might be caught in situations for which they are ill prepared.

The first half against Germany provided an example. A move down the right lost momentum when the ball reached Otamendi. He played infield, and then as Samuel burst forward he was caught in possession. A dangerous German break was only snuffed out by Demichelis clattering into the striker and picking up a yellow card.

Maradona, of course, can work on alternatives for different types of games. He might think in terms of using conventional full backs for the group games, and then reverting to his four centre-backs for the knock out stage.

He can tinker with tranquillity because now he knows that the base of his team is set. And as he recalled this week, not too many people had faith in Argentina when they set off for the World Cup of 1986.....

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Just back from seeing Brazil play at the Emirates, I happened to be sitting close to the dugouts and my abiding memory of the evening will be the dog's abuse dished out to coach Dunga, by various Brazilians seated nearby (for more or less the full ninety). I don't speak Portuguese, but I imagine that the dissenters were not asking him round for a post-game pie and a pint.

Have to say it got me wondering as to why is he so detested, is the football or his personality that gets people's goat? Does he care (he certainly looked mightily relieved after the 2nd goal). And do the press feel the same way about him as some of the fans clearly do?

A) Hating the national team coach is an old Brazilian tradition. In victory the credit goes to the star players, in defeat the blame goes to the coach. Despite a reign full of good results, Dunga is probably an extreme case because of his combative personality, current refusal to call up Ronaldinho and the pragmatic nature of his side's play.

To be fair, the team were applauded after a 0-0 draw at home to Venezuela in the last round of World Cup qualification, showing an unusual tolerance for a Brazil crowd, and Dunga can take this as evidence of good results and commitment bringing about an approximation between public and players - the coach, though, is always sitting in a coconut shy.

There have indeed been times when the press has been gunning for him - results have kept them quieter, though there is the potential for mischief making in the calls for a Ronaldinho recall. The definitive judgement on his reign will be made after the World Cup. If Brazil don't win the verdict will not be favourable.

Q) Question about Wellington Silva of Fluminense, many big clubs have been following him over the years (even though being only 16/17) Arsenal signed him up, just wondering is he worth the £3.5 million and will he succeed like Rafael and Fabio at United when he finally moves to England at 18? Or will he struggle to settle like many other young Brazilians in Europe?
Sean Brophy

A) I'm just back from seeing him come on for the last 10 minutes and set up the winner against Botafogo. First up, a mea culpa. Fluminese had two Welllingtons (a pair!) in Brazil's under-17 squad. In terms of the Arsenal interest, first I thought it was the right one, then for a while got confused and believed it was the other, a midfielder.

The correct one is a little support striker, two footed and audacious who is adept at attacking from wide spaces. On early evidence, there is real talent there, though maybe a reason to be concerned as well. He scored on his debut just over a week ago, and broke down in tears, which seemed linked to the fact that he's already leaving the club. So worries that everything might be happening too quickly. There are also doubts about how he might stand up to the more physical nature of the English game. But it's still very early days.

He's making the news over here because there are photos of him wearing the shirt of local rivals Flamengo and Botafogo - and probably Vasco as well, because he played futsal there. I'm thinking of taking him a Tottenham shirt this week!


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  • Comment number 1.

    First here am I. ?? Good to see some positives from Argentina. It s good for the World cup to have a good Argie side. Thought Jose Pekerman's side in 2006 played pretty well aginst Serbia and Mexico. Only a tactically foolish decision against Germany cost them the match. While this team - which I doubt if Maradona even knows the starting eleven out - cannot be compared on the evidence, Messi, di Maria and Veron should make it ineresting.

  • Comment number 2.

    With a squad that contains Messi, Milito, Tevez, Higauin and Aguero Argentina will remain a threat to any1 they face. That being said surely they are the best bet at the bookies for the world cup.

  • Comment number 3.

    Yet again a great blog Tim - highlight of my week so far (even if it is only Monday!).

    Interesting how you summarise Argentina's play so easily with the cross diagonal ball which, if identified by team, should be easy to combat. I would be interested to see that tactic used against England as if Johnson is fit the pace is there but I'm not convinced the defending is so Di Maria could have a bit of a party down the left.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maradona said it the match had a quarter final feel to it. Winning away in Germany is quite good. Tim, how far do you see Argentina going this WC? and Tevez and Messi together upfront... any big striker options that Maradona will try out?

  • Comment number 5.

    Sounds like a backline that will have a bit of a problem with pace.. they surely won't play a highline in case of fast attackers getting in behind them which will mean shots from distance will be a real possibility.. and with all the talk of this new ball and its movement (which always seems to be the case with new balls) this could be risky..

  • Comment number 6.

    I'll take first of no one minds?

  • Comment number 7.

    And I will also spell if wrong. What a result.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Tim, i vaguely remember you making a similar analysis after Brazil played England. That there is a cross field diagonal ball played into the winger behind the full back (in particular to the left winger). Is this a South American ploy in particular if Brazil and Argentina are doing it? Do the other South American nations adopt this tactic? Is it a ploy against weak right backs? I know on the day Brown had a shocker for England, and was probably targeted by Brazil. Is it something that we will see throughout the World Cup? If so how can teams effectively defend against it?

  • Comment number 9.

    On the subject of Jonas Gutierrez, Tim. I'ma Newcastle supporter so watch him week in week out and I do agree with your summary of him "runs and tracks back for 90minutes but not the sharpest in offence".

    However, one thing I will say is his dribbling down the flank is absolutely incredible and he DOES have great attacking prowess but it depends on one thing....Jose Enrique.

    When he has Jose Enrique behind him playing as a wingback (Enrique is superb going forward aswell) Jonas plays superbly and the two link up to create pretty much 60-70% of all Newcastle's chances when they both start.

    I think the key to Argentina getting the best out of him at least would be to play wingbacks and not this 4 centre-back formation...but do Argentina have many good wingbacks available these days?

  • Comment number 10.

    Sounds like Argentina are getting closer to finding their best team.

    I honestly think that the hero of 2006, Maxi Rodriguez, would be a better bet for the right hand side of midfield than Gutierrez, although Benitez hasn't handed him many starts at Liverpool so far.

    I still find the omissions of Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti quite puzzling. If Argentina added these two players to their squad there's no doubt it would make them stronger.

  • Comment number 11.

    I found the opening somewhat odd. "Paraguay had trouble finding opposition." Clearly given the sheer number of games played, that Wednesday had been set aside for Internationals some time ago. For example Scotland had arranged to play Czech Rep. long before we knew they would be in our next Euro qualifying group. Does this not indicate a lack of preparation by the Paraguayans?

  • Comment number 12.

    Doubting Argentina is just foolish. It seems Diego is going to be playing a style that Bilardo played with them in the 80's and early 90's. It is not the best looking football but it works. Jonas and Di Maria did a exceptional job vs Germany. Messi did not really get involved in the match and Pipita did his job by scoring the goal. I feel Argentina could of won this game with ease but they should their class. This side we see in 2010 will be nothing like 06, the team will be a counter-attacking side and I believe it will work.

  • Comment number 13.

    With the players they have at their disposal, Argentina should be a force at the World Cup if they can click. Higuain has been perhaps the best striker in Europe so far this season, how important is he to their plans now? It's frightening how much talent they have. The likes of Lavezzi, Zarate, Riquelme, Banega, Gago, Perotti, Saviola, Aimar et al aren't often mentioned but they are all top players too.

    Gutierrez is outrageously quick with the ball and stretches teams, but as Tim says his end product can be hit and miss. That said his goal this weekend has to go down as one of the best I've seen in years as a Newcastle fan, superb stuff from Spidey. I always thought he might be better off being used as a full back for the national team though, superb engine, sound defensive capabilities - is he ever considered for that role instead? That would allow them to play Messi in an advanced wide right position and free up space through the middle for one of the myriad attacking talents they have at their disposal.

  • Comment number 14.

    Intresting point from subterrenean, don't know about zanetti, but cambiasso could surely play a significant role in this Argentine team. Veron may look allright at the moment but I'm thinking of them switching to something closer to the brazillian formation with Macherano and Cambiasso anchoring the back, perhaps with another worker like Guiterez to help out on the flanks, and then with the options of 3 or 4 of their multitude of attacking talents to go forward. I know they lack a right back of the quality of Brazil, but I think you could say that in all the other out field positions in this formation they could equal or better Brazil man for man. What do you think Tim, could a more conservative couch have made a success of Argentina in the new Brazillian style?

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Tim

    Realy like your column, but have to diasgree with your comments about Heinze, maybe Maradona sees him as centre back but he has always been best at left back, and whilst a good defender he was for Man Untied an extremeley good attacking full back and the couple of times I have seen him this year for marseille he has continued to be an attacking threat. So for you to say that Argentina played with 4 centre backs is not correct as just because Maradona says Heinze is a centre back most of the world knows him as a left back and maradona's judgement is known to be dodgy at best

  • Comment number 16.

    Honestly, I wouldn't rate that friendly against Germany to high. Both teams played their first match after five month. Both teams were only together for two days. Argentina had the same formation as in their last match against Uruguay, while Germany was heavily experimenting in formation and personnel.

    Additional this game took place in the mid of the important season-finale of international and national competitions, where those players have really different things on mind.

    We'll see the real Germany and Argentina, when they prepared for a month and WC 2010 finally begins.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Tim,

    Hope you are well.

    I have to agree the Germany v Argentina friendly was a vast improvement from their last outing against Uruguay.

    We had a few wagers on and were surprised Germany were defeated on their own turf. However, the talking point was Argentina's ability to snuff out opposition attacks - it must have been a bitter pill for the Germans to swallow.

    The situation with Messi also seems to be hyped. As he's *arguably* the best player on the planet, fans expect him to be the second-coming.

    The diminutive attacker pulls-the-strings at Barca, but fans will have to accept in the Argentine side he is part of a team and will have to do the menial as well as the sublime for them to succeed. [see the difference between Lampard/Gerrard/Del Piero etc at club and international level]

    Most pundit's have been waxing lyrical over Brazil, Spain and the emergence of an African side to lift this year's WC - I think I'll take a sturdy Argentina still sitting at 8/1...

    Look forward to next week's blog.

    All the best,

  • Comment number 18.

    If Maradona takes Cambiasso and Zanneti then Argentina have a good chance if he doesn't they have no chance. In my opinion he should play Cambiasso with Mascherano in centre midfiled behind DiMaria(left) Messi(right) Aimar (in the hole) and then any 1 of 4 or 5 in attack. His obsession with not playing Messi in his best position to accomodate spider man is nonsensical and him still picking Veron is ridiculous. Aimar has a great understanding with DiMaria as he does with Messi and the three of them plus say Tevez or Aguero would rip most defences apart this summer.If he then has Cambiasso and Masch breaking up the play and keeping it simple with Cambiasso supporting the attack on occasion then the defence will take care of itself as Argentina will have the ball all the time. An experinced defense of Demichelis, Samuel, Heinze and Zanneti would be what I'd send out as I think both Zanneti and Heinze have one tournemant left in them of bombing up and down the touchline, they may die of heart-attacks before the world cup is over but thats a chance I'd be prepared to take as the alternatives at full-back are not great. I think Zanneti has maybe not been playing for his country and playing in midfield for Inter so he can save his energy for his run bursting runs from full back at the world cup.

    Picking Walter Samuel again is a start but he's still a long way off picking his best side IMO whcih is fustrating as if he would then I would have Argentina up there with Spain as favourites to win the World Cup as middle to front both teams are way superior to everybody else involved.

  • Comment number 19.

    - I honestly think that the hero of 2006, Maxi Rodriguez, would be a better bet for the right hand side of midfield than Gutierrez, although Benitez hasn't handed him many starts at Liverpool so far. -

    Eh? Get your facts right, he's started every league game since the Wolves match. Since he can't play in Europe due to being cup-tied I think that he can be counted as a first team player at the moment.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great blog Phil. I feel that many (english) journalists were quick to put down this Argentina side manager. However, world cups are often won by the team that has a little trouble getting to a tournament (Italy were hardly world beaters in 2006) & then that seems to bind the group together.

    How many players & managers did Brazil go through to get to the 2002 world cup & then went on to win it as well.

    I hope Argentina do well & if they won it I would like to see a number of our top journalists apologise to Diego for having such a go at him.

    He was asked to get a struglling side to the World Cup & he delivered that.

    They have some outstanding players & the top player in the world so they must be a threat, to be honest depsite what we are paying Fabio I dont think we are as good as them at present, especially if we dont have either Terry or Rio.

    Higuain has been amazing for Real which is a huge bonus for Diego, this will take pressure off Leo to score all the goals as they do tend to not get many from their midfield.

    Brazil & Spain are obvious favourites but I think this side can go far.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think Argentina have a good chance this year. Its that seige mentality that saw Italy win it in 2006.

    One player that hasnt seemed to be mentioned and i cant believe he hasnt is DIEGO MILITO of Inter Milan.

    I havent seen such a clinical Argentinian striker since Claudio Lopez.

  • Comment number 22.

    Sorry but I don't agree. I have watched Germany before every world cup. They have often put out a side that gets beaten but when the business comes around they perform completely differently. Even the Irish beat them in a warm up a few world cups back and the Germans were very strong in the competition.
    I saw the Brazil game and in the second half it was like watching professionals toying with kids. Despite the Irish not having Dunne and O Shea, the Brazilians managed to terrify the back four forcing them into mistake after mistake, and there was plenty of tradmarks flicks and switching sides with long crosses.
    I also saw Argentinas work man like last game of qualification. They are not a patch on the Brazil side I saw the other night. Neither are France as Spain toyed with them too.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim - can you shed any more light on Adriano's latest escapade?

    After his disappointing perfomance at the Emirates, he and several other Flamengo players went to a baile funk at Complexo do Alemão - probably not the best thing to do at any time let alone 36 hours before a match - whereupon his fiancée started to chuck rocks at his and the other players' cars. Apparently, he's back on the drink again and hiding up in Búzios with rumours (denied by Flamengo) that he's been told to stay away to avoid anti-doping checks.

    I would hate his personal problems to prevent him going to South Africa as he was superb for Flamengo last season and comes across as a likeable and humble guy. It's a problem for Dunga as well - if he leaves out Ronaldinho for off-field indiscipline, can he be seen to treat Adriano differently?

  • Comment number 24.

    Argentina being on the right track is irrelevant. Spain are the ones to stop. They have by far the most rounded squad, are in form, and have a wily old manager who's seen it all.
    Argentina's system has flaws, their star players are erratic in their performances and have an unproven manager. No doubt if the likes of Tevez, Messi and Aguero perform, they have a chance but combining that with a stable defence is another thing. Also who is their keeper? bet he's no Casillas.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think Maradona has made one huge mistake , he has built a team that gives messi no chance , when he should have been building a system to suit the world player of the year.

  • Comment number 26.

    Messien, are you Spanish by any chance?

  • Comment number 27.

    To the Calvinator - sorry but you are on your own with this comment that Heinze is a better left back than central defender. He was frequently caught out of position when playing for Man Utd. and became a defensive liability, picking up booking after booking for rash tackles when he was caught out of position. Time after time the central defenders had to come across to assist him and this left a hole in the middle. Why do you think Ferguson got rid of him so quickly? Yes, like so may other defenders (Johnson, Warnock, Baines, Bale etc.) he looked good tearing up the wing but primarily he was a defender and he simply could not defend adequately.

  • Comment number 28.

    I meant to add previously that I simply cannot see an Argentine team with Veron playing in it, winning the World Cup. He's now a veteran and was always slow and is getting slower and given the match schedule in a World Cup I can't see him lasting the pace.

  • Comment number 29.

    One win in a friendly cannot hide it was a dismal game and qualifying campaign. Also, Germany are hardly at their best and wasting Messi's talents will not take them far. I just think that Maradona is a bad manager and will come-up short against any decent one even if the team was as talented as some believe.

  • Comment number 30.

    I think Veron could be one of the stars of the show in South Africa - The International Game is much slower tahn the Prem anyway which will suit his game - if he has got willing runners around him in midfield who are there to tear around winning the ball and then give it to Veron then I think he could be the Playmaker of the side!

    All the big Countries,(minus England)will raise their game for the World Cup happens every year! The Germans have looks woeful going into the last 2 world cups but have looked good one the competition get underway.

    I am deffo putting my wage packet on Maradonna's side this summer!!

  • Comment number 31.

    20. At 10:46am on 08 Mar 2010, sirHellsBells wrote:
    Great blog Phil

    Oh dear. Schoolboy error from a newby.

    Welcome to the finest blog on the beeb - by TIM Vickery

  • Comment number 32.

    I am a huge fan of the aesthetic side of the game and there's none more pleasing on the eye (or perhaps slow on the eye) than Riquelme, is there any chance that he will come out of retirement to play for Argentina this summer or does his rift run too deep with Maradona for that to happen?

  • Comment number 33.

    Great stuff Tim. I know you'd talk about Argentina!
    Anyways, couple of thoughts: even though these are the days of flying fullbacks, is the Argentinian play that limited when the 4 CB's are on show? I didn't watch the game, but it seems you are suggesting the lack of traditional Argie pass and move is all down to not having a supportive fullback. Seems stretching a bit. But I don't know, could be. In 2006 they had Sorin pushing the play, but the other flank featured Coloccini or Burdisso. Equilibrium?
    Regarding Jonas, his work-rate and the wonderful 2006 side, do you think it's possible to bring Jonas back to rightback and place either: Maxi Rodriguez for a double link-up; or a central midfielder like Cambiasso, so Veron can be pushed up to Riquelme's anchoring place, close to Messi, thus emulating the 2006 shape? Or is it too much thinkering to place Jonas at RB?
    I just think that a flat 4-4-2 with old Veron in the middle is a bit dangerous, he's the type of player that needs 2 men to cover his lack of pace.
    Well, that's it. Argentina got fantastic players going forward and should be a great feature at SA. This Germans v Argie game will be a quarterfinal match! Cheers,

  • Comment number 34.

    Argentina were never as bad as some of their qualifying results and haven't become a great side because of the win in Germany - the truth lies somewhere in between.

    While Brazil v Spain would be a great World Cup final, the supposedly two best sides don't always make it. France in 2006, Germany in 2002 and Argentina themselves in 1990 were sides who managed to dig out results and reach the final when they weren't expected to. There's no reason why Argentina can't do the same in South Africa.

  • Comment number 35.

    33 - the point about veron needing 2 men to cover in a 4-4-2 - agreed, and this was the importance of gutierrez last wenesday - cobering inside for veron, tracking lahm on the outside - he was everywhere.

    15 - heinze as a left back? After brazil beat argentina 3-0 in the final of the 2007 copa america assistant coach jorginho tlked about how they'd done it - they'd identified that heinze was too slow to play at left back, atacked his flank from the start and won the game.

    Diego Milito - I don't think he's guaranteed. Higuain is first choice, and maradona says palermo has 80% chance of going. Three number 9s? For a counter-attacking side, the speed of Aguero might be more useful - more useful than tevez as well, i would have thought.

    I don't realy unerstand the strength of the cambiasso lobby, though he's clearly a good player. But he did feature in those dismallast few games of Alfio Basile's reign without looing at all convincing.

    The absence that baffled me from the squad v germany was that of banega of valencia - a genuine class act who could come in for veron (who might struggle to last the tournament at his age).

  • Comment number 36.

    8 - points out that both brazil and argentina are more based on the counter attack than four years ago.
    Argentina were a treat for the eyes, and Brazil went with ther magic quartet - more romantic times!

    an interesting contrast - as the big south american pair have become a bit more cautious, on the evidence of Euro 2008, some of the Europeans have gone in the other direction.

  • Comment number 37.

    RE boredfootballfan

    I'm actually Welsh, but i know a good squad when i see one. When i close my eyes i can see Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alonso, et al passing rings around old Veron.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi Tim,

    Big fan of your blogs. I'd like to know your thoughts on how the Argentine players react to El Diego? Do they play for their manager? I haven't watched them since the Uruguay game but my gut instinct is they will have a decent tournament. Tactically I'm still not convinced bit I think Maradona will bring to his team something that many coaches wont be able to, raw passion. Couple that with the ability of some of his players and maybe Argentina could go far.

    Also how do you think Chile will fair in Group H?

  • Comment number 39.

    It would be ridiculous if Palermo travelled instead of Milito who has been superb for Inter this season, for a team who are not the most fluent he scores hatfuls.

    What would you belive Diego's 23 man squad to be Tim?

  • Comment number 40.

    Tim i take it by what you say that despite a couple of steps forward for Maradona there is still a big problem in the full back areas. Heinze is utter rubbish as evidenced by Brazil comments that they love to play against him. The recall of Samuel is obviously a help but Garay and Zanetti would add even more defensivly. Could not agree more on the idea of Banega i think he is a lovely player to watch, his passing is excellent and he is bang in form. Do you think that these players could force there way in?
    As for Brazil i am getting a horrible feeling that Alexandre Pato will not go to the world cup and there is no one out there who will convince me that anyone but Robinho and Fabiano and maybe Ronaldinho be in front of him. Nilmar and Grafite are good players but Pato is just simply better.

  • Comment number 41.

    11. At 10:11am on 08 Mar 2010, Rabster wrote:
    I found the opening somewhat odd. "Paraguay had trouble finding opposition." Clearly given the sheer number of games played, that Wednesday had been set aside for Internationals some time ago. For example Scotland had arranged to play Czech Rep. long before we knew they would be in our next Euro qualifying group. Does this not indicate a lack of preparation by the Paraguayans?

    Dont blame the Paraguayans!
    The reason they had trouble finding opposition for last wednesday's friendly was because Nigeria (yea Nigeria!!) pulled out last moment due to contractual agreements. Hardly surprising from Nigeria. Nigeria did not agree to terms set by Paraguay and as a result Nigeria ended up playing at home in Abuja against DR Congo. hardly a way to prepare for a world cup! This also coincided with Lars Lagerback's appointment as the Super Eagles coach

  • Comment number 42.

    Question for Tim, or anyone else on here. I'm travelling around South America from May 3rd (to Rio) for 4 months and was hoping to see some games in Brazil and Argentina. Will there be any league games in May in either country? When will they take a break for the world cup?

  • Comment number 43.

    yes there will be a break for the World Cup - there will be football up to mid-May

  • Comment number 44.

    quality article yet again Tim. England need more good journalists like you.

    quick question, do you think Javier Pastore has what it takes to become the new playmaker (or the new Riquleme, as many would say) for Argentina in the near future?

  • Comment number 45.

    36. I was thinking the same thing, and also thinking that this makes me like Brazil's chances, in particular. Both fatigue and tension (not to mention negative tactics) can take the edge off a high-octane team like Spain (or the total football Dutch) and leave a comparatively dull side to collect the silverware.

  • Comment number 46.

    It's all very well pointing to Cambiasso's poor form for Argentina before the coach change, but anyone who's watched Inter and Liverpool this season will tell you he's looked much better than Macherano so far. Isn't the test of a good international coach that he gets the best collective performance out of a group of players, as we've seen with Capello? If their wasn't space for Cambiasso I'd understand but considering the success that Brazil are having with the two DM's and Argentina's decision to also apparantly play on the counter attack surely this is the way to go with two desctructive holders? You stat yourself Tim, that Veron's legs are likely to tire, imagine if they come up against Spain or Holland, is Masch alone gonna stop all that pretty passing with a bit of help from Spiderman?

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Tim,
    Long time WS reader and WF Phone-in listener.
    I have a question about Brazil and their problem at left back.
    As they have probably the two best right backs in the world (Maicon, Dani Alves), could one of them not be switched to the left?
    I know this is Brazil, not the Dog and Duck, but surely a proper class act like one of those two would do a better job than a mediocre (by Brazil standards) left back.

  • Comment number 48.

    "I'm thinking of taking him a Tottenham shirt this week!" No you won't! LOL.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well, Cambiasso has a decent left foot, for starters! My uncle used to say: "lefties make the game prettier"
    Jokes and nostalgic notes aside, I'd think Cambiasso because a left footed central midfielder balances the game, spreads play to the other side. But, as you said, Veron seems to be feeding Di Maria pretty well.
    Banega has definitely been in good form and would be a good shout, either to replace Veron or to occupy Cambiasso's role.
    Gago is a good player, but hasn't featured at all for Madrid, I don't think he stands a chance. Argentina has great players. Their biggest worry is the lack of fullbacks. I'd go with good old Zanetti on the right

  • Comment number 50.

    Cambiasso isn't a patch on Mascherano as a defensive midfelder, and doesn't have the range of passing of Veron or Banega - who would walk into my squad, though Maradona at the moment seems keener on Bolatti.

    I love lefties, but I think it's easier for a right footer to hit diagonal passes to the opposite flank to feed Di Maria.

    47 - well, Daniel Alves has come on as a sub for Brazil at left back, but he's very open about the fact that he can't play there - he's being introduced to take set pieces rather than to operate as a left back.

    I'm not a fan of right footed left backs anyway - Brazil could get away with it in 82 with Junior because they had a left winger in Eder to keep the pitch wide, allowing Junior to cut inside. But in the absence of wingers, the role of the full back with Brazil is to keep the pitch wide, so I think a left footer is essential.

  • Comment number 51.

    Thanks very much for the quick reply.
    I guess if Dani Alves is not happy there, it would be counter-productive and risky to start him.
    It just seems a great shame that one of Europe's best full backs will rarely feature at the World Cup.
    I would much prefer a holding midfield player who has had to hold together a stuttering team (JM, Liverpool) to one (EC, Inter) who does an admittedly great job, but for a much stronger side in a much slower, less combative league.

  • Comment number 52.


    Paraguay were originally scheduled to play Nigeria, I think somewhere in London, but Nigeria's lack of organisation forced them to cancel and look for an alternative.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi Tim. Quick question. After the cancellation of Paraguay's friendly with Nigeria, it turns out the APF (Paraguayan FA) use an agency to arrange their friendly matches. Is this true of other countries or is it only here? I'd never heard of that before, and i have to say, they don't seem to do a very good job! Although, the match against Bilbao apparently was played for charitable reasons, something to do with helping their local teams.

  • Comment number 54.

    I don't see much point in comparing the form of Mascherano and Cambiasso. Regardless of how well Cambiasso plays, Diego loves Mascherano and so will stick by him.

  • Comment number 55.

    No doubt Argentina have some quality players but with Maradona at the helm they will be unpredictable.
    They do have potentially dangerous teams to beat in the group stages - I can see Nigeria and Korea pulling off upsets if only because they are teams with totally different playing styles.

    Classic pic of Michael Ballack subtly fouling Angel Di Maria!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Just finished up my predictions with the tie-sheet i got(i'm not sure if its the right one).If the upsets are too less too little,i'm finding argentina might actually find themselves up in the semis against france or england. How lovely that'd be.As for my view on the argentine squad,though i love seeing veron pulling the strings,maria and messi penetrating the defenses and aguero,higuan and tevez tapping in easy goals,i'd rather have banega and cambiasso there in the mid. I don't understand having 3players along the right,messi should move inside and forward his partner being higuan.Banega as the man to pull the strings,maria to the left,jonas to right and there mascha always to break the play or break the opposition.Another alternative as you suggested few weeks ago Phil might be having only 3 at the back with mascha and cambiasso.This allows veron to break free as a man behind the hole and push on with diagonal balls and screamers from 25-30yards...Do you remember riquelme used to be that roaming midfielder when he played...Cambiasso presses the ball well and can beat some cul-de-sacs,so his link up play with maria,veron and masch can be the key.While facing a attack with masch as holding midfielder,the defense is of 4men and given jonas's speed and cambiasso's ability of positional play there might not be too many flaws to cause an upset against their attacking mindset. And when verons tired banega can substitute him or exchange position with cambiasso as only linking midfielder rather than an attacking one...

  • Comment number 57.

    And tevez can only be used as an impact substitute while maradona has enough of strike force to start with,with the likes of milito,aguero,higuan,palermo etc etc...If only riquelme were still in the team,argentina would have been a prime contender...

  • Comment number 58.

    Great blog. Your stuff is always more insightful and less obvious than much of what is published on football pages. A quesion for you. Emiliano Insua is having a decent season at Liverpool. As I recall he has played once with the senior national team. Wouldn't he be a decent option for Argentina's left back problems? I would also find a place for Zanetti in the squad. The man is a wizard who defies age.

  • Comment number 59.

    Bit of change of topic.
    Regarding Adriano and his latest off-field negative publicity. Did you follow that? The whole night-out at the favela with other Flamengo players, his fiancee smashing their cars, being tied up to a tree, all quite loud and unnecessary.
    What's your verdict on that and Adriano?
    The word here is that he seems to be mentally unstable and unreliable for a long concentration period like the WC. The journos are split: some think this whole thing won't affect his eventual call up because Dunga never talked about that regarding any player. Others blame this so called unreliability. What do you reckon? In case he doesn't go, who could take his place? I'd imagine Pato, because there are no other proven big number 9's in good form. Ronaldo is certainly out of the picture...

  • Comment number 60.

    forgot to mention that what botters me isn't his off field exploits, but this piece of news on stating that he's weighting absurds 106 kilos and misses training sessions at will. He's scoring goals at Mickey mouse state league, but he does look heavy and sluggish, as the Ireland game shown. Worrying times...

  • Comment number 61.


    You're a brave man suggesting that Maradona has absolutely any idea whatsoever about what he's doing!

    My favourite player of all time, but as a coach clearly has no clue! I'm much more inclined to think that any success his team has should be put down to pure luck on the day of the game. Anything can happen with his Argentina!

    That said I still wouldn't bet against them going a long way in the world cup based purely on the quality of players available to them, and obviously Messi in particular. Coupled with the unpredictability of Maradona it probably makes them a very hard team for anyone to prepare for!

    Final point on your suggestion that Brasil are the team to beat in South Africa - Have to disagree. Spain just look in a completely different class to any other side in the world right now. No doubt they and Brasil are the two best teams, but i'd put Spain above them for the sheer quality of incredible players throughout their whole squad. Not sure Brasil can quite match that. One things for sure, I hope England don't have to play against either of them!

  • Comment number 62.

    No. 41 Dont blame the Paraguayans!
    The reason they had trouble finding opposition for last wednesday's friendly was because Nigeria (yea Nigeria!!) pulled out last moment due to contractual agreements. Hardly surprising from Nigeria. Nigeria did not agree to terms set by Paraguay and as a result Nigeria ended up playing at home in Abuja against DR Congo. hardly a way to prepare for a world cup! This also coincided with Lars Lagerback's appointment as the Super Eagles coach

    I think you will find that it was Paraguay NOT Nigeria who pulled out. nigeria announced the game and were scheduled for it until Paraguay announced to the media that talks had broken down.

    Nigeria were then forced to find an alternative at short notice, and were left to go with DR Congo.

  • Comment number 63.

    Paraguay also had their tickets booked for the game against Nigeria apparently, and according to the media here, it was Nigeria who never confirmed.

  • Comment number 64.

    We also tried to arrange a game against Ghana for that date, but they too pulled out.

  • Comment number 65.


    i'm really keen to get your opinion on Insua aswell. He doesn't get anywhere near enough recognition for his solid performances. If he was at Real Madrid or Man Utd people would talk more about him.

    by the way he is liverpools top assist provider with 8.

    how do you rate him Tim ?.

  • Comment number 66.

    So Tim

    It is safe to conclude that...

    You don't rate Cambiasso (superb at the last world cup, superb for Inter since then), you are a big fan of the diagonal pass, you dont think old man Veron will be a liability in a 4-4-2 against decent oposition and you think its ok to play the best player in the world out of position to accomodate a championship player?

    You should become Diego's assistant, I'm sure the two of you would bring Argentina nothing but success!

  • Comment number 67.


    Sorry Tim, but as you'll appreciate arab87 seems to share my sense of humour!

  • Comment number 68.

    on Emiliano Insua - for what I've seen he falls into the trap - not quick enough to be a top class left back, not commanding enough at centre back (where he's played for Argentina Under-20s). But I do rate him higher than Monzon of Boca, who Maradona likes a lot.

    The Adriano thing - I did an interview with him a while back and came to the impression that he's a giant kid. If he doesn't go to the World Cup - Dunga seems to have a downer on Pato, so maybe Grafite is the next in line - didn't do himself any harm last week off the bench v Ireland - right foot shot, left foot shot and a lovely backheel return pass for the Robinho goal.

  • Comment number 69.

    67 - yes, you should form a Mexican-Arab double act. A supremely spicy combination!

  • Comment number 70.

    Great blog as per usual.

    Only one point I disagree with:
    "Dunga's Brazil, meanwhile, underlined that they will be the team to beat in South Africa with a typically clinical 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland."

    Surely the team to beat in South Africa HAS to be Spain? They're the best national side I've seen in the last 10 years.

  • Comment number 71.

    I'd love Spain to win - would be good for the game, and perhaps even good for Brazil.
    But the doubts remain. I know it was only the Confeds Cup - but would Brazil have lost to the USA? They found themselves 2-0 to the same opposition in the final, and yet had the mental strength to haul themselves back.
    This is a team with physical and mental strength added to superb set pieces, flashes of individual genius and a devastating counter-attack. It's going to take a good team and a brave one to knock them out.

  • Comment number 72.


    First off, congrats for your Mexican-Arab crack - very sharp!

    Got to disagree with your view on Spain though - The USA result was a one off against a well organised team playing on the counter attack with two experts of the tactic in Dempsey & Landon Donovan, who people are now realising is a superb player now he's in England - Definitely the best outfield player the USA have ever produced.

    Brasil were struggling against the same tactic and, yes, while they were excellent to turn it around you could also say the USA folded under the pressure too.

    Spain have lost just once in what is it? about 44 games now or something ridiuclous like that? Plus look at the ability to deal with pressure to win the European Championship. There are zero question marks over them as a team at all! They are the one true great international team of the current era and definitely the best team that will be at the World Cup by some way.

    I'm not saying Brasil aren't a great team too, but although they're streets ahead of everyone else they're still some way behind Spain. Spain have to be the favourites, followed by Brasil.

    Remember Dunga had to work to find a system to suit his players and tinker with the tactics and shape before he found the consistency they now have. Spain on the other hand have the players to play any system, any tactic and unlike Brasil are not restricted in this way. Put whoever you want in the team from the Spain squad & it'l continue to perform the same i.e. No Villa, put in Torres or Fabregas. No Xavi or Iniesta, put in Alonso. No Casillas, put in Reina. No Puyol, put in Pique. Not sure Brasil would look the same if a Maicon or Kaka went down to a long term injury in May would they?

  • Comment number 73.

    Hi Tim,
    What do you think of this formation?
    Messi-Mascherano-Banega-Di Maria
    and can you please tell us what do you think is the best formation and squad for Argentina?


  • Comment number 74.

    I thought Clemente Rodriguez did well at left back in 2nd half for Argentina against Germany (on for Heinze). He-s been in good form for Estudiantes over last 6 months, where he plays right back (though he was left back for Boca in their 2007 Libertadores triumph).

    I think Rodriguez will make the final squad and, as a natural full back, provides a more attacking outlet for Argentina than both Otamendi and Heinze.

    Most of the specualtion in Argentina suggests that Maradona, like his predecessor Jose Pekerman, will take six strikers to the World Cup = Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Palermo, Milito, Aguero.

    As the World Cup is all about finding a team and form at the right moment, then I'd say Argentina have a chance of going far, inspite of all the confusion and the poor performances in the qulifiers - we all know there's a good team in there somewhere, and I agree that there are signs that it could all be coming together at the right time now.

    Spain have been excellent over last couple of years or so, both in terms of results and aesthetics, but you have to wonder if perhaps they have peaked too early? They can-t get any better than they have been, and even maintaining that level will be difficult. And unlike Argentina, expectation is high. That could be another advantage for Argentina = nobody is talking about them as candidates.

  • Comment number 75.

    Without doubt Argentina have a complete squad but their problem will come from the bench.Their manager Maradona have to lower his image without this they will crash out in the first round.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hi Tim

    Thanks for another fine insight.

    I was surprised to hear the comments about Dunga's lack of popularity with the fans. My impression was that his appointment satisfied the public sentiment that the team lacked passion in the Germany 2006.

    Secondly, I doubt (if he is a unpopular people say) that he will ever get the respect of the Brazillian public and press. For example, Carlos Alberto Parreira's 1994 side is largely unloved for their pragmatic approach even. Parreira (who I remember from his time as Manager of the Kuwait Espana 82 squad) was hugely unpopular during his reign. Especially as Colombia were playing such entertaining football.

    Harking back to 82, Junior's problem (like Juan Pablo Sorin in 2006) was not so much that he was right footed - but that he could not defend! After all Paolo Maldini showed that a right footer could play there very well - if you are a strong defender rather than a converted winger/outside left.

  • Comment number 77.

    74 - what about Lavezzi fr Argentina's bank of strikers - very useful on the counter.
    if he goes, who is at risk - milito, palermo, aguero?

  • Comment number 78.

    Hi Tim,

    Yes i just wanted to ask you argentina have alot of attacking options such as tevez,palermo,agureo and hugain as you mentioned but what about lisandro lopez of lyon do you see him breaking into mardonnas world cup this summer?. Whenever i have seen him play hes been very impressive and a very clincial striker as you know in his days in porto but personally i would put him ahead of palermo and lavezzi in the pecking order the reason ive said this is because he isnt shy of confidence when it comes to scoring when he has a chance he will take it most notable against liverpool in the champions league but yet mardonna seems to ignore him most times ?? which baffles me ? of such a striker of his quality.

    Again i wanted to ask you whats your take on ronaldinhos world cup hopes ive seen him play for milan the last few months and hes starting to produce the form that we have seen of him in the past but why does he keep on getting ignored but yet people like adriano,grafite havent had the best seasons and didnt impress that much in the friendly with ireland but yet they are still called up to squad.

    Im not surpised why dunga gets many brazillian fans angry when the likes of lucas and anderson get called up and he ignores world class talent such as diego and pato frequently i know both players have been on their best form and had injuries but surely it would be mad to leave them both out and take the likes of julio baptista,lucas and anderson instead!!!!.

  • Comment number 79.

    i don't think the system at used by argentina vs germany is good enough to get them pass the last 16/QF's.

    This is what i think should be the squad and XI

    GK: Remero,Ustari Andújar
    DF: Samuel,Garay,Pareja,Milito,Monzon,Zanetti,Ansaldi, Angeleri
    Mid: Cambiasso,Masch,Veron,Benega,Di Maria,Perotti,Aimar
    Forwards: Messi,Milito,Higuian,Tevez,Kun




    -----Messi-------Aimar------Di Maria


    primarily a counter attacking system, which is what i think is their best policy, good enough to make the SF's are win the entire thing IMO.

  • Comment number 80.

    Tim, who is at risk, you ask?

    Of the six, I'd say Aguero.

    But, at the end of the day, Brian, I think, barring injury, those six will be the ones who'll go (Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Palermo, Milito, Aguero).

    Lavezzi's only hope is an injury to one of the above.

  • Comment number 81.

    So much talk about Spain being the team to beat!... why? Is it because they are european champions?...Greece were European champions too and nobody thinks they'll win the WC, let's see if the greeks can even score a goal this time around.
    Spain are undoubtedly the best European team at the moment but that's about it. As soon as they met different styles of football in the Confederations Cup, they lost, so it remains to be seen whether they'll be able to cope with the pressure at the WC. Their history so far in the WC has been pretty poor with 4th place their highest achievement and that was 60 years ago!

  • Comment number 82.

    @72 - "The USA result was a one off against a well organised team playing on the counter attack"

    Have you seen Brazil play lately?...For a while now they've been playing the counterattacking game and they are the best at it. Fast, accurate and lethal in front of goal. Argentina and Chile are just two examples of teams that were destroyed when they decided they would attack Brazil, during the qualifiers. An attacking team like Spain will play straight into Brazil's strength. Now, that would be a game to look forward to.

  • Comment number 83.

    @72 -
    No Xavi or Iniesta = No Spain

  • Comment number 84.

    'Yes, like so may other defenders (Johnson, Warnock, Baines, Bale etc.) he looked good tearing up the wing but primarily he was a defender and he simply could not defend adequately.'

    How can you leave Ashley Cole out of that list?!

  • Comment number 85.

    I watched the game against Germany and though it was a step forward, i still see positions that could be improved upon if only Deigo would start choosing the best argentines over the ones he likes (Jonas!) Walter Samuel was a long overdue pick and the return to club football of Gabi Milito (one of the few barca defenders performing well at the moment)could provide a very solid centre partnership if selected. Milito could answer the left back issue too as he is predominatly left sided and would be far more reliable than Heinze. Garay at Madrid is also making a claim for a spot after finally getting a run in the team.
    Di Maria on the left of attack is a no brainer as too Higuain in the centre (for all of Madrids millions it has been the Argentine who has come to the fore 3rd in the pichichi with 16goals in 18apps!)The pichichi front runner is Messi and everyone bar Diego knows that he is better suited on the right of attack than Jonas! The inclusion of Jonas on the right not only reduces the effect of the worlds best player but weakens the midfield as the 442 offers only Mascherano as any real protection to the ageing legs of Veron. Reverting to 4-3-3 would see Messi back to his club positon and the inclusion of Benega or Gago alongside Mascherano would offer a soild base from which Veron or my preferred choice- Aimar to conduct. Zabaleta could easily slot in at right back as too the ever green Zanetti though i am keen to see Otamendi to be part of the 23. On a paper Argentina could have a very strong 23 as right across Europe their players are hitting form - Di Maria-Aimar-Saviola(benfica)Tevez,Zabaleta (man city) Samuel, Cambiasso, Zanetti, Milito (inter) Higuain,Garay(madrid),Milito, Messi(barcelona)Benega(valencia), even those having a dip - Aguero, Maxi, Mascherano,Gago are a class act. Only Maradona's strange faith in 442 and potential bizarre slections - Palermo, Schiavi,Jonas,etc could derail the 8-1 shot from being a very good bet indeed!

  • Comment number 86.

    Good Blog Tim,

    It would be good if Argentina win the world cup this time. It would do lot of good for Argentina.

    They have several spectacular players all over the field with them with an eccentric coach.

    The following team would do good is wahat i think
    GK: Remero,Ustari Andújar
    DF: Samuel,Garay,Pareja,Milito,Monzon,Zanetti,Ansaldi, Angeleri
    Mid: Cambiasso,Masch,Veron,Benega,Di Maria,Saviola,Aimar
    Forwards: Messi,Milito,Higuian,Tevez,Kun

    And if Ronaldinho is not selected in Brazil squad for world cup, then they wil not win the world cup for sure as we have seen him weave that magic in Milan which he was doing at FCB.

    That said,on the other hand it would be nice to see an European country lift the world cup as none of them have won it outside Europe.

  • Comment number 87.

    Going off on a bit of a tangent here, and may upset a few folk (including Tim who is one of his biggest champions), but I personally think Javier Mascherano is and has been one of the most over-rated players of the past 5 years. I know Tim raves about his performances at under 20s level which I obviously never saw, but ive seen him take part in a lot of football since and for me I think his influence and impact on games is minimal at best. Xabi Alonso never got the credit he deserved for years, but im fairly certain if the roles had been reversed and he had stayed and Mascherano left, Liverpool wouldn’t have struggled half as badly as they have this season.

    We see at least 20 – 30 Liverpool and Argentina games live each season now, and I can only think of a few games where ive thought that’s why he gets the credit. I know you can maybe point to the continual speculation of the Spanish big boys interested in him, big transfer fees, etc. For me that proves nothing though and it’s the performances on the park that matter.

    What other players does everyone think are and have been over-rated over the past few years ??? How about

    Any other players out there who folk think are and have been over-rated over the past few years or so. How about Beckham for starters.
    Or could have the opposite, who hasn’t got the credit they’ve deserved ???

  • Comment number 88.

    Hi Tim

    Whats your opinion on Coutinho? And how will he work in Serie A football? My football blog site has a Brazilian correspondent and he's very keen on Coutinho, but I doubt his knowledge and wisdom in the game rivals yours!



  • Comment number 89.

    Thank you to other posters for shedding some light on the "Paraguay situation" although there does seem to be a difference of opinion on where the blame lies.

  • Comment number 90.

    the match was more a showcase of Argentina's many individual talents. I still think Maradona has little or no clue as for what strategy of the game means...

  • Comment number 91.

    The events of recent days with Adriano sadly mean he'll almost certainly be scored of Dungas list for South Africa. Inevitably the cry will be for Ronaldo to replace him. Although he is an incredible natural scorer and has done well at Corinthians it is inconceivable that he'll be called up, even if if he were to lose weight.
    I cannot see Ronaldinho Gaucho getting a recall either, he doesn't fit in with Dungas philosophy. I think Dunga feels it would be too much like being back to 2006 when all the same superstars were carried away with there own rock star publicity and failed miserably. Dunga will not let that happen this time and the exclusion of Ronaldinho will enforce that to the rest of the squad.
    The discussion about Spain being favourites ahead of Brasil I think ignores the fact of history, Spain have often had excellent teams in advance of World Cups and have failed miserably every time, they are not a World Cup nation, Brasil are. Likewise, Germany and Italy are World Cup specialists and there you have 3 of the 4 semi-finalists already.

  • Comment number 92.

    is zanetti in or out of favour with maradonna? could someone please answer this as i am hearing conflicting stories thanks

  • Comment number 93.

    My preferred Argentina XI would be following a 4-2-3-1 formation:

    Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Samuel, Heinze; Mascherano, Banega; Messi, Aimar, Di María; Higuaín.

  • Comment number 94.


    Nice article on Erico/Santa Cruz in The World Game. Santa Cruz was considered the next Van Basten when he first came out at Olimpia.

  • Comment number 95.

    I doubt that the argies will have much struggle but I do see them having a few stumbles ahead. If only a few of their players aren't ready when playing then the squad as a whole will fail.

    It is obvious that the chemistry in Brazil is far greater and more together than that of the argentinians and for that alone is another possibility for their team to lose's not just about skill but team work too.

  • Comment number 96.

    Thanks for the tip on that article Alimana, very interesting stuff. I found the comments by the Australians at the end most amusing. What do you think of all the rumors about Juan Iturbe?

  • Comment number 97.


    Super blog as always. I think Argentina can be a genuine contender, their group is relatively winable and the draw could benefit Maradano's side. Worth a few quid at 9/1 anyways!!

    The Libero

  • Comment number 98.

    # 18 Arab87

    Banega would serve better the speed of Di Maria and Messi than Aimar or Veron. Aimar has tendency to drive up the ball then look and pass where Banega quickly scans the field and delivers fast and if no one is open he would move up. To take advange of the speed of Messi/Di Maria you need quick accurate delivery. Banega is the missing piece of Argentina's attack. This may also explain the reason Jorge Jesus, Benfica manager, prefers Di Maria as the main play maker at Benfica ahead of Aimar.

    Against Canada Banega could make his case. Of course, he has to be invited.

    Tim thanks for explaining the reason Gutierez is on board, cleaning up for Veron. lol

  • Comment number 99.

    I have a question regarding a particular Argentinian talent - Maximiliano Moralez.
    During the summer of 2007, I was on holiday in Canada, and once I was out there I saw that my trip coincided with the Under-20 World Cup - which Argentina went on to win.
    The 'Holy-Trinity' of the Argentinian team (so to speak) consisted of the relatively unknown Moralez, Mauro Zarate - now at Lazio, after earning a spell at Birmingham City the season after the world cup - and the Atletico Madrid superstar Sergio Aguero, who was already a household name in europe to any serious football fan.
    Though, to me at least, it was Moralez who impressed me most of all that summer, showing such natural passing creativity, goal-scoring from midfield (he finished the tournament on 4 goals; 3rd top scorer) and mature composure on the ball - to whisper him in the same breath as Cesc Fabregas at the same age, or even Paul Scholes back in the mid-90's would not have been over-zealous.
    So since that summer I have (loosely) tracked his progress, and I see he has encountered a seemingly disastrous move to europe with FC Moscow, was loaned back to his original club, and now has secured a permanent move to different Argentinian club - Vélez Sársfield - where he occupies the coveted no.10 shirt and is doing pretty well by all accounts.
    Yet his counterparts, Aguero and Zarate, have secured big money moves to (relatively) big european clubs, in addition to - especially with regards to Aguero - being on the Argentinian National team radar for World Cup 2010, In contest, Moralez's career just hasn't panned out the same way, even after an awesome U-20 World Cup performance where he voted 2nd best player at the tournament.
    With your South American football wisdom could you please give me some insight into why this hot Argentinian talent - now at 23 - is not gracing European shores?
    Andrew Davies-Colley

  • Comment number 100.

    radamel it just me or does he have a great amount of potential?


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