Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Water everywhere!

Argentina lost their second friendly match in a row today against Spain. After being thrashed by Brazil (3-0), it was Spain who got the best from BASILE's men and left the Nueva Condomina Stadium victorious thanks to XAVI and David VILLA's strikes. Daniel BILOS, in for injured Maxi RODRIGUEZ, had equalised for Argentina.

On a curious note, I haven't seen the match which was played on a very wet surface because I was in front of the Devil's Throat (La Garganta del Diablo), the gigantic leap of water which graces with its presence the magnificient Iguazu Falls in the Argentine province of Misiones.

I will be travelling Argentina for the next couple of weeks and therefore I will only stop by to write a few things every now and then. In the meantime, I would love to read your comments on this match (i've seen a few in the other post) and your messages regarding anything else you'd like to say.

Till then....VAMOS ARGENTINA!

47 comments:

alwin said...

Hi All,

Argentina lost for the second game running. It's not all bad as it's transition time, a new coach, a new playmaker and tough opponents. Yes, i know in order to be the best you need to beat the best, but i would rather them learn from this.

The friendly chosen were against strong and good quality teams. If it was an easier opponent then im sure we would have won and many people would have been heaping praises and all. But we must understand that even our future friendly matches are against the best of the best and Basile needs to prepare his men physically and mentally.

To me there is nothing wrong losing now and after 2 games into his tenure im sure Basile will know which direction he is going to take for future games. I didnt get a chance to watch the game as it's not broadcasted here in Malaysia, but from what i read and the overall picture of things, it's still early days.

Im sure a lot of you might have had some high expectations from this game, but then please take this defeat positively and im sure Argentina will get more hungry for future games. It's simple math here...if you lose first and start winning later..you gain momentum...rather then you win now and loose later.

My question is, have we got a competent playmaker in Insua? I have not seen much of him and i did get to see a glimpse of him when they showed the German League Highlights, but even then he came of the bench for M'Gladbach. Does he feature regurlaly in the Bundesliga? I still believe that D'Allesandro should feature back in the team.

By the way, Seba..i have heard of the beautiful Iguazu falls and if i have the chance to visit Argentina, that is some place i would like to visit. You should try the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Argentine Patagonia, i heard its lovely too.

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

John said...

Hi Everyone,

I know defeat is always sad but I'm not going to get upset over this game. I'm pretty sure Coco Basile has something up his sleeve and its just a matter of time before he starts showing it.

To proof this, lets take a look at what is going on with Boca Juniors. They are not enjoying a great run since he left. So lets stay unite and stand behind our beloved ALBICELESTES.

Seba, thanks for sharing with us on the beautiful scenery in Argentina. If I were too come down to visit you, make sure you take me there. We might enjoy that moment with a glass of Argentine wine.

John said...

Hi Everyone,

Check out Linda's blog (Albicelestes fan from New Zealoand) at http://black-white-and-grey.blogspot.com/. There is an article about Jose Pekerman which I think its fantastic.

John
Malaysia

Xudong said...

Dear all,

Here are my two pennies:
1) BILOS is great! Almost all threats are from his side. The questions is: do we have a good player on the right hand side? It was so silent on that side in the match.
2) I know that a lot of people love AIMAR. But I don't think he should be called up again. I have nothing personal against him, but just don't think he has good control over the ball. He always looses the ball when there is a tackle. That's the big difference between ROMAN and him, I think.

Anonymous said...

So I ended up following the game online on the Clarin website, though I'll end up watching it Sunday (no self control). I'm sorry we lost but I'm not to concerned, it's only a friendly and actually if you think about it, it's only the second game we have played since the WC. Spain has had more experience in that they have had friendlies and are in the midst of Euro 2008 qualifiers so of course they are going to gel better than we did. You can have the best players in the world but if they aren't comfortable as a team then it doesn't mean anything. That's what I think we are trying to do at the moment, build a team. As the year progresses and the team becomes better formed we will improve. The most important thing at the moment though is not to win but to make the best team.
I also think that it's a bit unfair for people to be calling for Aimar to get kicked off from the team on this one performance. If there is one thing that I don't like about other Argentina fans (and I say this with love people) it's that we are too fickle. Last month everyone was after Riquelme's head after the Brazil game where he could barely complete a pass. I never judged him on that game or actually on any solitary game so I refuse to say that Aimar doesn't deserve a chance just because he had a bad 35 min today. He didn't even start, in fact he never gets to start for the national team so I can't really blame his performance from being a little inconsistent. He comes in when the DT is desperate for something to happen. If you see him play for Zaragoza where he starts and is in for most of the game he is awesome. I just think it's a little unfair to judge him so harshly at the moment, give him and actually Insua a chance.
In fact I should say that both Insua and Aimar have a lot of pressure to fullfill Riquelme's role. It's not going to happen instantaneously, we need to be patient. If Riquelme comes back then great but at the moment Aimar and then Insua (In my opinion) are the best options we have and both are very good players that are capable of taking the playmaker role despite today's performance. Hey we could even put them together, maybe if we diffuse the pressure it would be better.
Remember, it's only a friendly.

Wow, so that was a long post and may have sounded harsher than I originally intended it too. I typed it all out though so I'll leave it hehe.
Iguazu is so pretty, I've been there when I was little and haven't been since. I never have time when I go back to Argentina because my family (cousins, grandparents etc) is all over the place and so I usually spend most of time trying to see all of them which actually is a bit of a tour of the country in itself.
I agree with Alwin though, if you haven't been to Patagonia then go. Anywhere is good in my opinion, it's beautiful everywhere. Argentina is such a pretty country, sigh...hehe

-argentinafan

Anonymous said...

One more thing, I should add that the whole angry post above really stems from spending some time over on some other forums and hearing a lot of gloomy argentina fans. I think I just had to let some of that out so again I'm sorry if I sound a little combative :)

-argentinafan

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

It is shattering to hear about Argentina's loss right in the morning after staying up whole night in vain waiting for some channel to show the game.

I had not planned to make a visit back to this site after staying away from computers and work due to poor health with an Argentina loss.

It would be great to have someone put an elaborate report of the match. Most sports website reports are very brief and fan posts on forums seem excessively vitriolic.

I would agree with Alwin, John and Argentinafan that such defeats at an early stage can only help. Games against quality teams will help Basile identify the areas of improvement and the best combination out of so many talented players. Anyway, losing 1-2 to Spain is much better that winning against Qatar and Israel.

The other day I was watching an Argentina-England game from 1991 in Basile's tenure and I must confess that it was the worst Argentina display I have ever seen. Albicelestes were lucky to come back from 0-2 to draw the match 2-2 with two goals from setpieces.

But soon after that terrible display, Argentina won the Copa America. So, I think we should be more patient and hope for the best.

Saurabh
India

john said...

Spot on Argentinafan and Subh,

You guys are finally getting the idea of what Coco is trying to do. I believe that matches like these will create a better team. 2010 is still 4 years away.

Hey Seba, was wondering did you get my e-mail?

John
Malaysia

Seba said...

Hi there again. I'm still in Puerto Iguazú. I've been to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and it was a mess! In that place you can buy electronics at very cheap prices, but the noise, the crowd in the streets and the searing heat (37 degrees!) where too much!

At the end of the day, I didn't buy a thing. But it was OK to be in that really busy place full of Paraguayan, Brazilian and Argentines.

As for your comments, I'm so happy we're getting a lot! And being only online for a couple of minutes, it is impossible to read them all and interact with everybody.

And John, yes I did read your e-mail and will get back to you shortly. Thank you very much!

Seba said...

Argentinafan, I totally agree with your comments about AIMAR and RIQUELME and the lack of patience that is everpresent in Argentina (especially when it comes to football and when it involves a player identified with River -AIMAR- and one related to Boca -RIQUELME-).

From what I've heard from BASILE yesterday, I see he is quite relaxed and not taking these results like if they were the end of the World. He has just started and so it is still early to open fire against him. He is testing and that's exactly what he should be doing.

Saurabh, I don't know what happened to you but I hope you're doing better now. It actually surprised me to spend quite some time without hearing from you but I hope you're good now.

Just a couple of news:

Maxi RODRIGUEZ has suffered a serious injury (ruptured knee ligaments) and he'll be away from football for 6 months. I think I speak for all of us when I wish him the best and fastest of recoveries.

Yesterday, apart from Argentina losing to Spain, our teams did well in the Copa Sudamericana. In a triple-header duel between Argentina and Brazil, San Lorenzo, Gimnasia and Lanus advanced to the quarter finals at the expenses of Santos, Fluminense and Corinthians respectively. Well done to all of them.

Tonight there is River Plate facing Atletico Paranaense (also from Brazil) and trying to win away after being defeated 1-0 in Buenos Aires in the first leg.

Boca will be hosting Nacional (Uruguay) and will need to win 1-0 to advance on away goals after losing 2-1 in Montevideo.

If River and Boca advance, they will meet again in the next stage and that will mean we'll have 5 Argentine teams out of the 8 quarter-finalist.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, so after hearing the news about Maxi it looks like Athletico Madrid was the real loser. Cruciate ligament tears are horrible injuries, as we all know from Heinze's experience. What's worse is that it appears the pitch was at fault. I have the article here http://football.guardian.co.uk/breakingnews/feedstory/0,,-6142413,00.html
I was curious (I'm having a brain fart moment), when does Copa America start? How far into his recovery will he be. I wish him a fast one but I wonder how that might affect his placement for that little tournament (hehe). I know that he has a one match ban but I wondering if this might affect his chances as well.
Glad to hear that Copa Sudamericana is going great (must invest in Fox Soccer Channel). I'm a Boca fan (funny since I defend Aimar so much) so I'm hoping the boys and LaVolpe deliver though it would be nice to meet River next round for a rematch...

-argentinafan

alwin said...

Hi All,

Goodluck to all the Argentina teams in the Copa Sudamericana. Basile was the last coach to win Argentina a senior title with the Copa America in 1993. Lets hope he takes this into his stride and the Albiceleste will taste success again.

argentinafan, the Copa America will be in Venezuela from June 26th 2007 till July 15th 2007.

Hope that Maxi recovers soon and im sure he will play a major part in this team providing he doesnt loose his form as i believe he has got a fantastic engine that keeps him running. Take the World Cup 2006 for example, among the most reliable engines whom i saw running tirelessly was Juan Pablo SORIN and Maxi Rodriguez.

Lets take for Example the European Championship, all the teams participating there takes it very seriously as compared to the Copa America, eventhough the price is the same which is being the Continental Champions. Some might say that Europe have more competitive teams and the continent has more respesentatives, but i think its about time Argentina take this tournament seriously and we should keep up the winning it. After all we are on top of the winners list after winning 14 titles so far, tied with Uruguay.

What does the Copa America lack in stature as it is very rich in history being the longest serving international football competition in the world?

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Alwin,

I don't think that it's a matter of Argentina not caring. If I remember correctly we took out A team last time and many expected to win. I think that the reason that people believe that south americans don't take Copa America seriously is that we don't have qualifiers. In fact we now ask other regions to participate as well. This could play a role in the prestige of the tournament since you don't really have to do anything to enter than be a south american country or mexico... I am excited for next june though. We need to end this dry spell of no senior titles.
I also hope that Maxi is in form for Copa. It's one of the reasons I wanted to know when it was (again I was experiencing some selective memory loss, hehe).

-argentinafan

alwin said...

I didn't mean that they dont care at all. Yes, we did take out an A team last term and we could almost touch the cup until the last gasp equaliser by Adriano and then we lost on penalties. Having no qualifiers might be a reason. But Argentina is going through a dry spell and its about time we won something on the senior level. Thats my concern here.

I really hope Argentina do well too and i was with my fellow Argentinian fans (John, Bala and Ganesh) the last time around watching the Final in a restaurant in wee hours of the morning in Malaysia. I remember we almost had it in the bag when Cesar Delgado scored to make it 2-1 but then Heartbreak after that.

By the way, how is Cesar Delgado doing? and has he any chance to featuring back into the team, as he did feature quiet prominentely under Bielsa.

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

john said...

Hi All,

First of all, I do agree with everyone that its time we win something. As far as I've know, we never been through such a dry spell before. Perhaps Seba, you may clarify on this.

On the other hand, it is true that the Copa America is losing its prestige. One main factor might be due to the World Cup qualifying round system, which players might suffer from burnout. Another factor that I think the Copa America may need to change is to allow extra-time rather going straight into penalty shoot-out. This is just my opinion, what does the rest think about this? Any idea?

John
Malaysia

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

I wish that Maxi recovers as quickly as possible from his injury. However, he should not act in haste and further damage his knee. His absence is indeed going to be a big blow for Athletico. He was really looking good along with Aguero.

As far as Copa America is concerned, a blend of several factors have undermined its value. Timing, the lack of qualifiers and a definite lack of respect from teams have all contributed to its demise.

In 1999, if I remember correctly, Argentina sent a second string squad. It did not play in 2001 for security reasons and I do think that lack of tournament practice for Bielsa contributed a lot to the debacle in 2002.

Having said that I do feel that 2004 edition saw very high quality football.

I also feel that the South American football bosses need to do more to market their game in Asia. The support for Argentina, Brazil and even Colombia (people still fondly remember the team of 1990-94)is immense here.People relate to South American game much more culturally, in terms of playing style and the passion generated.

But superior marketing from European teams and leagues is making people follow European game more. I remember while there was a lot of buzz about Euro 2004 in India, it was difficult to even get the schedule from TV networks about Copa America.

Seba. I am as hale and hearty as ever now. I just had a viral infection but had to go through several tests to eliminate the possibility of anything serious.

Saurabh
India

john said...

Subh,

Great to have you back. Hopefully everything is fine with you.

Btw, the ICC Championship is currently held in India. I suppose it must be the big thing there right now with a lots of coverage. Since you've just recovered, perhaps a dose of cricket might just help you get better.

Anyway good luck to team India. As for me, I'll be just following the event from the news and papers. This is because live telecast is only available on pay-per view and it is very EXPENSIVE!!!

John
Malaysia

Anonymous said...

In case you haven't seen it, check out this goal from England's game against Croatia on Wednesday

http://youtube.com/watch?v=s34w8k00ifk

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

Well....the Robinson blunder reduced my frustration at missing out on the Argentina-Spain game. May be it is an extreme case of what the Germans call Schadenfreude - but I really love watching English cricket and football teams struggle. However, the English team should thank Robinson for not being 0-3 down by the half time.

John, it is sad that the Champions Trophy telecast is not available for free in Malaysia.

The Champions Trophy has already got bogged down in controversies between the governing body in India and the International Cricket Council, which must be the most ineptly run global sports body and whose incompetence would flatter even Sepp Blatter.

Talking about cricket, I cannot help but note the similarities between Basile's travails and the current pressure on Indian cricket team.

We got a new coach last year, were bold enough to drop the lately underperforming but arguably greatest leader Indian Cricket ever had (Saurav Ganguly) and started with a completely young team and experimented a lot with position of the players.

The initial results were awesome where we routed Sri Lanka and England at home and won the series against our arch-rival Pakistan 4-1 away from home after losing the first match. Critics and fans went overboard and immediately branded the team favourite for next year's world cup.

Now, when some of the experiments have not clicked aganist the reigning Champions Trophy Winner (West Indies) and World Cup Champions (Australia), the same critics are baying for the blood of the team management.

They have conveneiently forgotten everything they said about the benefits of experimentation - blooding young players, fine tuning strategies, exploring strengths and weaknesses et al.

I am sure it is going to be same with the Albicelestes. The moment some of the experiments click and few wins are attained, Basile will be hailed.

A newsbyte hungry media will go on hyperbole for very obvious pecuniary motives.

So, it is important for the fans to keep a perspective around these friendlies irrespective of the results - whether we win or lose.

andaman said...

Hi all,
It's Basile's 2nd game only and it is a friendly. Loosing is no fun but I rather the team lost now in not so crucial games than important ones. Argentina lost to Spain, another good team, that are together for a while and had played competitive games not to mention that they have a point to prove after 2 consecutive lost in matches that count. Brazil want to beat Argentina no matter it counts or not and they were better prepared. Basile is still experimenting and that's what these games are for. He is an experienced coach and he has done very well with Boca, as John said. I've watched many Boca games under Basile and they're like a well-oiled machine and these are players that are not all top class like in the NT. So let's give him time and it's better to lost now and get it right. xudong, I disagree about Aimar. He had just 35 mins. as anonymous said and he seldom had full game with the NT. He was very effective in full 90 mins games for Zaragoza (and Valencia) and there should be a big difference betweeen him and Roman. No one plays football like Roman and no one expect Aimar to play like him. They are 2 individual wonderful players.

The media are fickle and very irritating. They bashed Riquelme and he left the NT because the effect on his mom. The day after the Spain match Clarin wrote something like ...Riquelme on a bad day gave more than Isua and Aimar against Spain... (should tell him that before he's gone and never come back.) So I just hope Basile is firm and stick to what he is doing. I trust him.

Andaman,
Thailand

helen said...

The worst news of the not-so-friendly game is that Maxi was severely injured. I couldn't believe the organizer put two top teams in a very bad field and let this happen.

Maxi was in tremedous form for Athletico Madrid recently and his injury is a severe blow for ths club. In my opinion he is the most important player - more so than Torres and Kun. I watched all Athletico games this season and they are two different teams with and without Maxi.

I only him best luck. And I hope Arg won't play in another bad field again.

andaman said...

I read that both coaches were very unhappy with the state of the pitch. It was awful. I saw one picture where a player kicked the ball and the grass, earth and dust came flying.

Very sad about Maxi. I read he will be out for 6 months. I started rooting for Atletico Madrid because of him and Kun. I hope he recover and can come back sooner. An important player for both club and country.

alwin said...

Dear All,

Yes, the state of the pitch was horrible and was very risky for the players. I have to agree with Helen and Andaman and all the other guys who have raised this issue on the pitch, i think if it was in a real bad state, it should not have gone ahead.

I just have to let something off my chest, the one team that i would like to see Argentina beating so badly is ENGLAND. I really want to witness this happening. Whether it can be a friendly and or a competitive game, i must say that for Argentina, nothing is sweeter that a victory over the English, and it has not happened for the last few meetings, leaving me shattered.

On the bigger picture it doesnt take a genuis to know that we have a better team than them but i've realised that Argentina players seemed disturbed or maybe nervous playing the English. Is it too much of a pshchological battle for them based on the previous historical meetings.

If you guys were given a chance to pick a rematch between any nation with Argentina, who would you pick?

My Choice has to be England.

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

Seba said...

Wow! It's impressive to see so many messages and most of all to see new posters such as Helen, Andaman, Lena and a few others. Welcome!

I'm typing this from the beautiful city of Cafayate in the province called SALTA (which nickname is LA LINDA -The Beautiful-).

This trip is fantastic! We spent 27 hours in a couple of long-distance buses but it was worth it! Every minute of it!

I'm here to check on Racing's results and I'm happy because we have secured our 4th consecutive win and we are pretty much fighting up there with Boca and River!

I'll hope to have the time to read each and everyone of your posts and update our blog soon!

Thanks for being here!

john said...

Seba,

Great to hear about your trip. Who knows if some of us had the chance to come and visit Argentina, perhaps maybe you can take us around to these wonderful places.

By the way I've got a question for you? Apart from AIMAR, RIQUELME, LEO FRANCO & CAMBIASSO, another player that I remember was outstanding throughout the whole tournament was DIEGO QUINTANA. His size and skills reminded me a lot of the other DIEGO (MARADONA of course!!!....in case you're wondering). But since then I've never heard much from him.

Do you have any idea what happen and where is he now? It is sad to see such a talent gone wasted.

John
Malaysia

johnny said...

I see that Messi scored again today for Barca. When and if he ever gets integrated into the national team, he will be a force to be reckoned with. I hope Coco can devise a way to get him the pelota closer to the action and not stuck out on the flank where he has a tendency to try to do too much. I just arranged a move to Barca from BsAs in December, so I hope I will have a chance to see Messi and Barca live(though I am betting tickets are very rich !).

andaman said...

And Diego Milito is now sharing top spot in goalscoring with Kanoute of Sevilla at 5 a piece. Basile should consider him in the next match. He is good in the frontline.

alwin said...

Yes Andaman, Diego Milito is on form and his brace against Sociedad only means that he is knocking harder on the call up door. I think he will offer abit more punch upfront with the rest of the guys (Tevez, Messi and Aguerro) setting up chances for him.

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

It was great to see Argentina players having a profitable weekend.

I was impressed by Galletti's performance. Though patchy, he was willing to take on the full-backs and he earned the penalty with his industry. Aguero was ...well... cheeky. Whether it is good for the game is debatable. We must bear in mind that history remembers Hand of God kindly for the magic that followed. However, his gesture towards Maxi was really nice.

Milito's brace is a timely one and I hope he can be a worthy successor to Crespo. But can any one give a feed back on Aimar and D'Alessandro's performance. They are equally critical for Albicelestes performance.

I have been reading reports about Basile's intention of relying on home based players for Copa America as he will have more time to work with them. I am curious about the arrangment in Argentine clubs. Do the home-based players get more time with the National team than the European players or are their time also restricted to the international dates only?

But I hope Petr Cech gets well soon. These are incidents which put the game in its rightful perspective.

Helen said...

Hi, everyone! I want to confirm something.

Arg is going to play Turkey in a friendly matvh on Nov 6, 2006 (which is next month), isn't it?

Coco will have to win this one. Three consecutive losses can not be accepted by any standard.

andaman said...

If the team still arrange to meet and practice for only 2 days before the game like the ones in London and Murcia. I'm afraid the result might not be better, Helen. Zabaleta said something about short period of preparation time and that it showed on the pitch. He had a point. Coco himself said after the second loss that he would like to use more local players so they can have more time to practice together and reinforce with the ones in Europe. So he knows where part of the problems is but I hope for a win too.

Helen said...

But every national team is like that, isn't it? Gathering several days before a game and practice for a while, and then play.

I mean, does Denga of Brazil have any more preparation time? Most of his players are in Europe, as well.

john said...

Hi Everyone,

Subh, let me be the first to congratulate you on India's victory over England in the ICC Tournament.

I'm not pretty sure about AIMAR and D'ALLESANDRO performance as I've not watch any ZARAGOZA matches yet this season. What amazed me if the fact that both of them play similar role and I wonder how the coach is gonna fit both of them into the team.

Helen, the problem of getting European based players is not something new for any Argentine coaches. In fact I would strecth this problem to any national team coaches outside Europe. I guess building your team on home grown players is not a bad idea afterall. And with young talent coming through, Coco may have the luxury to build oone fine solid team for the future.

Remember most of the players under Pekerman have played under him since their junior days.

John
Malaysia

alwin said...

Greetings,

Short time for preparation is a normal problem faced by many teams due to hectic league schedules. If we lose to Turkey does not mean the end of the world. We must look more at the performance rather than the result at this stage. Like i have said before, our opponents chosen are tough and if we were playing easier ones, im sure we would have won and people will be heaping praises. Coco's side still needs time to gel,i think and the more games they get the better they become.

As for Dunga's case, most of his core players were all playing together already as a team before. The attacking players like Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adrianho, Ronaldo..etc were all included in previous managers teams as well. As for Basile, he has opted for a change of personel upfront and our attacking players (Messi, Tevez, Bilos,Insua, Aguerro) are mostly newly featuring together as a team. Of course with a new playmaker too. Another thing is, we must look at the opposition for Brazil in their friendlies, are they considered to be "competitive" for Brazil's standards with no disrespect to those oppositions. Im sure if Dunga also had a simmilar friendly schedule like the one faced by Basile he might not be winning everything as well.

It's still early days and yes a victory is important, but the performance as a unit is the bigger prize from friendly matches.

Good Day,
Alwin
Malaysia

Seba said...

Helen, sorry my message didn't get through earlier but that friendly against Turkey has been canceled.

It's quite possible that Argentina won't play again this year. Our next game could be the one against France in Paris (February 7th, if I'm not wrong) and that's confirmed.

As for Diego MILITO, I agree and I think he deserves a chance for Argentina. I've been following him since he started out at Racing and then he became the top-goalscorer for Genoa (Italia) and Zaragoza (Spain). So why can't he wear the Albiceleste? He scored 4 against Real Madrid once and he is lethal in front of goal. I hope he gets a chance and so Andres D'ALESSANDRO, one possible solution to our play-maker vacancy left by RIQUELME.

Anonymous said...

An interesting article from Tim Vickery.

Argentina must get it right - Tim Vickery
Monday, 16 Oct 2006


Not many sides can operate without a traditional centre forward. Perhaps a team looking to play on the counter-attack can – its attacking game is likely to be based on slipping quick strikers down the channels.

But in the vast majority of cases a team needs, if not necessarily an old fashioned target man, then at least a reference point up front capable of holding the ball with his back to goal.

This has certainly been one of the lessons of the first two games in Alfio Basile’s second spell in charge of Argentina. In fact, it was also apparent during the World Cup under his predecessor José Pekerman. Whenever centre forward Hernan Crespo was substituted the team suffered.

Pekerman recognized the fact in the fateful quarter final against the Germans. This time Crespo was replaced by Julio Cruz, a similar type of player. Of course, the problem was that this was Argentina’s last substitution, and when Germany equalised just a minute later Pekerman was unable to bring on Lionel Messi and go all out in search of victory.

For the game against Brazil at the start of last month Basile decided not to call up Crespo or a single striker of this type. He saw his team have lots of possession but achieve little penetration on their way to a 3-0 defeat. So for the Spain game Crespo was back in the squad – only to be forced to drop out through injury.

A week before the game Basile said that he "prefers a target man number 9 if he’s scoring goals and opening up spaces for the little guys coming in from behind. But if the number 9 is not playing well, he’s out, and the little guys are in."

He has plenty of talented little guys to choose from. As well as Lionel Messi there is Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Javier Saviola. All of them have featured in the matches against Brazil and Spain. And it hasn’t worked.

Indeed, the only goal the side managed in the two games came from giant midfielder Daniel Bilos. And it came in a move in which he cut in from his position wide on the left to momentarily act as a target man.

Tevez chipped into the penalty area from deep, Bilos chested down with his back to goal and hooked a pass to the right for Federico Insua, who then turned the ball low across the face for Bilos to side foot home.

So there is plenty for Basile to think about as he goes about building a cohesive team. On the plus side he has a hugely promising group of players. On the minus, he has the usual limitations of time that national team coaches have to put up with.

One of the things that he will undoubtedly be dwelling on is the decision of Juan Roman Riquelme to retire from the international game.

Riquelme pulled out as a response to the criticism he received after the loss to Brazil. Basile may have his portion of blame. Riquelme had captained the side. In the post-match press conference Basile pointedly refused to confirm his playmaker as captain for future fixtures.

Riquelme had indeed produced a disappointing performance. But even off form he generated football. Argentina threatened little, but they did weave pretty patterns all over the Ashburton Grove pitch.

Against Spain there was a huge Riquelme-sized hole at the heart of the team. Argentina threatened less and didn’t weave any patterns at all. Admittedly the pitch in Murcia’s new stadium was in deplorable condition.

Even allowing for this disgrace, which cost Maxi Rodriguez a long term injury, Argentina found themselves totally unable to circulate the ball and produce the probing, passing football that has been such an attractive feature of their play over the last two years. The two years, of course, in which Riquelme was king of the midfield.

His replacements, Insua and Pablo Aimar, are much more likely to be found breaking into the opponents’ penalty area. But they are incapable of being what Riquelme was, the hub of everything that took place over the length and breadth of the field.

What does Basile do to replace him? He could turn to youth. Boca Juniors’ 20-year-old central midfielder Fernando Gago is a class act, and although he is right footed is constantly compared to Fernando Redondo.

Gago’s strength is knitting the side together. He plays intelligent passes forward and is immediately charging forward expecting the return ball. His chance will surely come. Basile knows all about him – he stepped down as Boca coach in order to take the Argentina job.

Or the clock could be turned back, with a recall for Juan Sebastian Veron. Now back at home playing for Estudiantes, Veron is only 31, is strong on the ball, has a magnificent range of passing and would love to have another crack at winning something with the national team.

He was never used in the previous regime – Veron had fallen out badly with Juan Pablo Sorin, Pekerman’s captain, and was considered a divisive element. With the change of coach, and Sorin now out in the cold – Basile has yet to pick him – the terrain could be fertile for Veron to make a comeback.

There is a third alternative. Basile could try and persuade Riquelme to return. The Villareal playmaker is only 28, and should be at the height of his powers. Basile might conclude, however, that for all his class, Riquelme is always likely to underperform at the very moments when he is most needed.

The reason given for his international retirement offers a clue. Riquelme complained that the constant criticism he was suffering was having an adverse effect on his mother.

It is a declaration that exposes a lack of faith in his own ability – after all, a return to form would resolve the problem and ease the stress on his family. But it is entirely in keeping with his timid nature.

He is the product of his own contradiction; Riquelme the player has a style and range of skills that cry out for him to given responsibility, which in turn then proves a heavy burden for Riquelme the man.

VAMOS Argentina

Ingi
Papua New Guinea

Anonymous said...

John,

D'Alessandro addressed the question about whether he and Aimar could play together in this article (link included):
Zaragoza's D'Alessandro: I'll work it out with Aimar
tribalfooball.com - October 11, 2006

Andres D'Alessandro insists he and Pablo Aimar can play in the same Real Zaragoza team.
The former Portsmouth and Wolfsburg midfielder said: "I do not see any problems. Each one has his position, but we have total freedom under (coach) Victor to move where we want.

"When we attack, I start off from the left, but I can appear also on the right, as well as Pablo falls sometimes into my space.

"Sometimes, yes, we can come together and we can harm the team, but to improve it is necessary to work on this and we already are doing so."

http://www.tribalfootball.com/article.php?id=14378

D'Alessandro was also one of the players asking for Aimar to go to Zaragoza saying that it was his dream to play with him.
I say that if they can work out the logistics with the Zaragoza team why couldn't they apply it to the national team. I also almost wonder if Aimar might be more effective if he has a support player. I can't remember if he had support in 2002 but I want to say that Ortega filled that role. When he and Riquelme played together Riquelme would push back and they were very effective. That makes me think that he might do better if he shares the responsibility (which also makes it harder for the opposition to defend because the attack isn't going through one player which was an area of weakness during the WC, especially during the Mexico game).
I don't know if Insua would benefit from the same formation (having 2 playmakers) since I haven't seen enough of him to judge but part of me thinks that it would help him as well because there isn't as much pressure. Stick another playmaker in there and it becomes more of a cooperative relationship with both players sharing the responsibility. Of course for this to work communication which means more practice is key.
One question though, has Argentina ever played with two playmakers? I guess Pekerman did a couple of times with Riquelme and Aimar but he didn't really seem comfortable with that formation. Anyone know why? Is it just that we really like our iconic #10 super playmaker?

-argentinafan

John said...

Argentinafan,

Actually RIQUELME and AIMAR did played together at youth level. They were part of the team that clinch the 1997 World Youth Championship here in Malaysia.

John
Malaysia

Anonymous said...

I know they did but I never knew why Pekerman didn't favor that pairing in this WC, the only time they played together was towards the end of the Mexico game and I thought that that injected some much needed creativity. Remember that disallowed goal at the end, the beautiful through ball from Riquelme to Aimar who then passed it to Messi who scored. It was such a pity that the lineman was trigger happen and miscalled the offside. Was it just a matter of Aimar not being fully fit (he had just recovered from viral meningitis) or was it because neither defended much. Part of me thinks that it was the latter and the pairing would put too much strain on the defense. However I really wish that rather than take out Riquelme against Germany, that Pekerman had been brave enough to play the two together (particularly since the two played together in the Confederations Cup and where very successful). Imagine that and then adding in Messi...I know it's in the past but one can still dream can't they?

-argentinafan

P.S Thanks Ingi for the Vickery article. It's intereting, Gago is a good choice but I want to see him work with another player in the midfield for the national team before making him sole playmaker. While the guy is AWESOME (Boca fan here, hehe), I think he has some temper issues that he needs to control and so would benefit from working with a calmer player (too bad Riquelme isn't here anymore) though Insua could work since they played together at Boca...I wouldn't suggest D'Alessandro since he also has a temper.
I have to say though that I'm not enthusiastic about that possible return of Veron. Yes he is pretty good for Estudiantes but I think he is too inconsistent. When they played against Boca last month, he was completely shut down. That and I think he causes problems within the team. He seems like too much of a troublemaker. One of the reasons I liked Riquelme in the influential spot is that he was so chill. Granted Maradona was never what I would called 'chill' but I feel he was more liked within the team than Veron. Granted it's just my perception, someone might know more and be able to correct me, but at the moment I would rather keep Insua or Aimar or try out someone new before resorting to Veron. Sorry Brujita.

alwin said...

Veron..returning, well sound spicy and i would be one of the happiest man alive. I really liked the way he played and although he had a lot of critics of the game, i still think his passing ability is excellent and would give a different dimension to the midfield.

He might not be in the next world cup squad, but he has loads of experience that other can gain from him. I would really like to see Seba Veron wear the Albiceleste again, some might disagree but then i think if given another chance im sure La Brujita will relish it.

Cheers,
Alwin
Malaysia

andaman said...

I like Fernando Belluschi (Boca fan as well but this kid impress me) He stole the scene from Gago in the Superclasico. Anyway he should be given a chance to try out. I agree with argentinafan about Riquelme's chill style of influence. Mr. Iceberg is more like it! But when you can play football like that you can be anything you want I guess

Just want to ask. Diego Milito is the older one and Gaby the younger?

alwin said...

Andaman,

Yes Diego was born in 1979 and Gaby born in 1980. That makes Diego 31 yrs old in 2010. I think he will be featuring more and i hope he will make the World Cup squad as he will be matured and finely moulded by Victor Fernandez providing he keeps his form and not get injured.

Cheers,
Alwin

andaman said...

Thanks Alwin. If Diego can still deliver even at 30 something like Crespo, I don't see why he can't be part of the team. He should have been part of the WC06 team if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link for Tim Vickery's column, which focuses on South American soccer:

www.theworldgame.com.au

Ingi
Papua New Guinea.

Seba said...

I enjoy reading VICKERY's column on the BBC website. I agree with him in almost everything he says. He obviously knows about South American football.

Thanks INGI to bring it up.

As for Diego MILITO, he gave an interview to OLE (Argentine sports newspaper) and he says he always work with Argentina on his mind and trying to score as many goals to have another chance for our national team.

In other news, another product of Racing has scored a brace for Porto against Hamburg in the Champions League: Lisandro LOPEZ.

He is another great forward who needs to get a good run of first team appearances to get to his very best form and become another viable option for Argentina in attack.

Lucho GONZALEZ also scored for Porto today.

Saurabh Bhattacharjee said...

Tim Vickery has consistently demonstrated an avid interest in and deep knowledge of South American football. In fact, prior to the happy proliferation of weblogs, his writings were easily the most authoritative insights on Latin American football.

Thanks Johhn. India had an easy win against England but we had been beating them in all world level cricket competitions in the recent past.

But for me the happiet moment was how Indian spectators supported Pakistan yesterday against Sri Lanka, as if they were the home team. It was amazing given the ugly history between the two nations.

In fact, one of the ultra right wing leader had urged Indians to boycott the Pakistan games. It was a fitting reply from sports lovers of this country to such hate mongers.

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