Sunday, September 06, 2009

Brazil Handily Beat Argentina 3-1, Leave Maradona's Team In Danger Of Missing World Cup

Sack him. Sack him now.

Diego Maradona might be one of the three greatest footballers to have ever played the game, but he also happens to be one of the daftest managers to ever be put in charge of a major footballing nation. And right now, it's costing Argentina.

He can't get his team to defend set pieces (the first goal, in particular, was a bloody travesty). He is ill-prepared for things you can easily prepare for (a few months ago, the altitude in Bolivia gave his team enough problems for the score to finish 6-1). He has problems with his players (Riquelme, admittedly a headcase at the best of times, went off and retired from the national team to get away from Maradona). He has a mistake sense of nationalism (I don't even want to get into why he doesn't call up Higuain -- just google it). He has little idea of substitutions or tactical nous (putting in Milito for Tevez when the latter was doing an excellent job of harrying Brazil's ball control was quite stupid). He also has an extremely strange relationship with his team's (and the world's) best player. It's a little mentor-ish combined with a little bit of jealousy, in my view. His compliments to Leo are always backhanded, and you always get the impression that he wants to remind Messi (and everyone else) that he's not as good as Maradona himself was. At the minimum, it's not a typical relationship between a manager and his best player, one who happens to be a great team man.

In short, Diego Maradona is a bad manager. And if he continues to be Argentina's manager, they could well miss out on next year's World Cup.

This is how the South America qualifying table looks right now (via Soccernet). The top four teams are guaranteed a spot. The fifth will play a qualifying playoff against the fourth place team from the CONCACAF group (currently Mexico).


Argentina have three games left: Paraguay away, Peru at home, Uruguay away. Of course, we have no idea how the remaining games will play out for the other teams, so it's pointless going through the various permutations here. But my best guess is Argentina will need six points to get the fourth spot. Anything less, and any of Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay or Venezuela (currently 2-1 up on Chile as we speak; if that result holds they join two other teams on 20 points) can catch them. Hell, you can imagine 5 or fewer points condemning Argentina to sixth place, which means automatic disqualification.

The basic point is: this is do or die time for Argentina. They don't have the best team in the world by any stretch (their defenders not named Zanetti aren't exactly the best), and their playmaking options aren't setting the world alight either (the aforementioned Riquelme or the ancient Veron; for some reason Lucho Gonzalez isn't in Maradona's plans), but they do, on paper, have a top five or six team. But they will never play to their potential with this coke-head as coach. Can you imagine...I mean can you IMAGINE a World Cup without Argentina?

As for the game itself, well, not much to say really. Dunga has made Brazil look like Mourinho's Chelsea (substitute Fabiano for Drogba), what with the unimaginative play, the reliance on set pieces, the cynical fouling and kicking of the opposition's best players, and the caging of free-spirited and talented players. Fair enough, but as with Mourinho, it's working. Brazil won their first game on Argentinan soil in something like thirty years. And they did it comfortably too. Argentina briefly threatened in the first twenty minutes of the second half, applied loads of pressure, played their hearts out, got within a goal from a flukish strike from distance from Datalo, but Kaka trod on their collective neck with a beautifully weighted through ball for Fabiano to delicately chip, and it was over. Honestly, Argentina didn't look even remotely in the same class as Brazil -- it was like a big brother toying with the kid brother, letting him have the ball for a bit before reminding him who's boss. They look scary good, and in a match-up with Spain (the equivalent of Barcelona on the international stage), I know who I'd be favoring (hint: it's the bad guys). Ugh.

Come on, Argentina. Sack Maradona while you still have a chance. Don't make me watch next year's World Cup without Lionel Messi. Please.


zeyd said...

Maradona is out of his league, but that doesn't change the fact that Argentina are a weak team. They're a team of shorties that are far too top heavy (even then, it's only really Messi who stands out).

Their defense is weak, and in the absence of Cambiasso, their midfield lacks a bit of quality. Veron is finished, and Mascherano is just a cynical prick who goes about kicking people. He must have fouled Kaka alone on about 5 different occasions. Don't think he was even shown a yellow.

In a purely physical sense, compared to the likes of Juan, Maicon, Lucio, Melo, Gilberto, Kaka, and Fabiano, it's almost a case of men vs boys.

The WC is gonna be awesome, as always. It'll be interesting to see how Spain handle the (Brazilian) tag of favourites.

Can the old powerhouses in Germany and Italy ever be ruled out?

Have Holland firmly taken Spain's underachieving tag?

How will Capello's Ingerlund fare?

How long will Domenech hold onto his job?

How far will the classy looking Serbian side go?

Can one of the African nations go deep? Cote d'Ivoire looks strong (2 Toure's, Eboue, Zokora, Kone, Keita, Drogba, Kalou,) as do my personal favs - Ghana (Mensah, Appiah, Muntari, Annan, Paintsil, ESSIENNNNNNN!!!!!!)

Ahsan said...


It definitely was a case of men against boys, but I think part of it was injuries and part of it was Maradona's dumbass selections and formation. Imagine a 4-2-3-1 with Mascherano and Cambiasso as pivot men; Lucho Gonzalez, and Gago (ok, he's shit at Madrid but I think he'll fit in better with this team) in the center of the park, and Messi playing behind Diego Milito, with Higuain and Aguero as super subs -- suddenly doesn't look too shabby a team, does it? Their back four is utter crap though.

For all the interesting prospects for next year, keep in mind that only six teams have reached the final in almost half a century:

1. Germany/W. Germany
2. Argentina
3. Brazil
4. Italy
5. France
6. Holland (and that too only in the 70s).

A bit shocking, isn't it?

By the way, speaking of Kaka, he was immense. I think he's a bit sick of this Messi-Ronaldo debate, to be honest. Given their respective clubs and countries, I think next year's world player of the year will be between Kaka and Iniesta.

Ahsan said...

Brain fart: Maxi in for Gago. Done and done.

zeyd said...

Yeah, a midfield of Masch and Camb would control most games and do well to shield the miserable back 4. They're really missing Esteban, it's also a little scary to think how good Inter can be when they have him back. Alongwith Zlatan, he's been their best player for some time.

I'd play Higuain over Milito, and maybe push Messi a bit to the right. I feel like it got too congested in the middle, and if Messi was a bit wider he'd pull defenses towards him and create gaps in the center. But that's just a few tweaks; this Argentinean team has problems, and has had them well before Diego took over. I see them qualifying but I don't see them progressing very far, which has pretty much been the case since Diego hauled them to the final in Italia '90.

Not surprised by that list; the powerhouses are so for a reason. Maybe a bit surprised not to see Spain make a final.

Kaka's always been immense, and he'll remain in the top 3 players in the world as long he's fit. I think he's gonna show up Ronaldo a bit this season. But until his club start winning things, the player of the year will probably go elsewhere, and because Messi is so blatantly on a level that most others will never achieve (Iniesta's a good shout, he's upped his game over the past 2 seasons), he'll always be on the shortlist. If he stays injury free, it'll take something special to wrest it away from him.

Ahsan said...


Few points.

1. Inter are a serious darkhorse for the CL in my view. They have all the pieces, a bunch of aggrieved players who feel disrespected by their previous clubs (Eto'o, Sneijder) and the right manager to channel that chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.

2. On what would serve Argentina best re: Messi's position, he's actually at his most dangerous dropping deep, picking up the ball and going from the middle third to the goal. On width, yes, he can drift in and out as you say, but I think he's at his best playing not in the hole per se, but in the hole behind the hole, if you know what I mean.

3. On Iniesta, I think most of Barca's players and management secretly would tell you he is the best player at the club now (yes, better than Messi, sacrilegious as it is to say). He has injury problems, but if he can put in one whole season, the whole world will start agreeing with Rooney.

jimmy bakes said...

So let him do his thing..