A Glimpse of the Favourites: Part 2 - Argentina

By Gabriel Cazotto

Profile: First Stabile appeared in the early 30s, Di Stefano was the man in the 40s and 50s, before he changed his nationality to Spain, the 60s was the decade of Luis Artime and Onega, Kempes was the star in the 70s, followed by the rise of their biggest king, Maradona, who won the trophy in Mexico 86. The two following decades led by Batistuta, Riquelme and Verón were marked by the sadness of having world class players, but being eliminated in every tournament. Proving that Argentina always has competitive teams, but needs a true icon to lead them. From all of these stars, only two reached the status of icon or geniuses: Maradona and Di Stefano, but just El Pibe led the team to the World Cup glory. Yes, Di Stefano was huge at Real Madrid, but was hampered by the world war hiatus and the refusal of Argentina to take part in 1950. Kempes also shone in 78, but the team was more cohesive than just a great player that centred attention. The third icon produced by Argentina, and the heir of this football throne, has the potential to be the biggest ever, Messi. Recognition as a genius he already has, scoring an amazing 91 goals in the 2012 season and winning two Champions League for Barça, but something essential is required to La Pulga lead Argentina to a trophy.

Goalkeeper: Once a great school of goalkeepers. Since the days of Fillol, Argentina can’t produce a star keeper for their squad. Even Pumpido and Goycoechea, the tapa penales, who were fantastic in 1986 and 1990, were far from being outstanding. Sergio Romero is the current goalkeeper, nothing but an average and consistent man to defend the goal, the same starter of 2010, and who continues without a challenge to the position, as Andujar, Orion or Ustari are on the same level as Romero. River Plate’s Marcelo Barovero is a goalkeeper that I liked very much, I don’t know why Sabella didn’t gave him a chance at all, but by now it seems impossible to make the squad in place of three of the four keepers mentioned above.

Defenders: Another problem for this fantastic Argentine squad from midfield and attack. Those were the times of Ruggeri, Sensini and Ayala. As reliable as Garay and Federico Fernández can be (don’t get me wrong, both are very good defenders), to support the strong offensive force of La Albiceleste attack, Sabella prompts Marcos Rojo, who can play both as left and central defender as a third defender for the left, something that Pekerman did in 2006 with Burdisso (a central defender) playing as right defender so Sorin could attack freely. This helped increase the defence and also the strong offensive attack with Riquelme and Saviola those days. A tip that Maradona ignored in South Africa, and even with another fantastic offensive force, their defence was chaotic, using Gutierrez (a right midfielder) as right-back, “amazingly”, three of the four German goals came from the right side of the defence. Sabella appears to use Pekerman’s approach using Rojo or Campagnaro as a real third defender. In some cases, he can use both, replacing Zabaleta and make a 4 Central defence line to liberate even more one of the mightiest attack forces ever.

Midfielders: As I have being telling in this analysis, Argentina’s game is based on their fantastic offensive force. To prompting even more there, besides the defensive line I told before, the focus main in the midfield is former veteran captain Mascherano, El Jefito, he commands the defensive line-up from midfield, sometimes retreating and acting even as a libero during Argentine counter-attacks. The other two men who are in charge of the offensive force are Banega and Di Maria, who on contrary is playing as winger in Real Madrid, act as as a left midfielder in Argentina. The creative mind of him is essential to set up plays for Messi.

Forwards: If Messi can make the world dream as a centre forward in Barcelona, why use him behind a striker like Argentina has done in the last 5 years? It seems something you can’t understand. As bad as Sergio Batista was in charge of the team in Copa America 2011 (and I don’t think he was that bad, probably would have won the competition if have not lost on penalties to Uruguay) he initiated something that Sabella adopted, playing with two wingers (Agüero and Lavezzi) and Messi behind the wingers, coming from the midfield as a false 9, who can play as centre forward, put Messi, where Messi is Messi, simple! The way Palacio is playing at Internazionale he can grab the spot of Lavezzi and bring a more vertically style of play in Argentina’s left wing, which can lead to a more offensive force from “Kun” Agüero at the right wing.

Tactics: Sabella’s Argentina is lined-up in a 4-3-3, prioritizing possession and focused on one of the best players of the world, Messi, who acts as a false 9. In attack, him, Di Maria, Lavezzi and Kun Agüero harass constantly the opponents changing positions all the time. Also, keep an eye on the long shots of Di María, extremely dangerous. If the ball reaches Lionel, we all know what will happen: Messi will conduct with the ball “glued” at his feet, as if it was a part of his legs, won’t let going it with ease, and even receiving numerous fouls will remain on foot and never stops carrying it in the goal direction to end with his trademark left foot curve shot. Even knowing by everyone, it is unmarkable. The hope for Argentina is that he has being playing recently for them everything that he plays at Barça. As said before, the weak point is the defence with Sabella having to use a side defender as a third central defender.



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