Dont Cry for Argentina

They played well throughout the tournament except for 1 match, which happened to be the finals. It has happened again isn’t it? Last time was in WC 2006 when they were the best team on display in Germany. The way they knit passes together before striking the final blow was mesmerising to say the least and if the semi-final against Mexico was anything to go by I would have bet on Argentina to win by 3 goals to none against a Brazil side which was patchy and lucky.

Brazil played to their strengths and dislocated the Argentinians one by one. They marked Riquelme the midfield-master and came down heavily on the two young guns who had set Europe on fire last year – Messi and Tevez. There were 36 fouls by the Brazilians!!! Must be some record for Brazil who hardly play this way. But they knew that if they give space to the better skilled Argentinians, the result would have been different.

One of my friends, Vicky, who is a great fan of Argentina came up with a well thought through analysis…I thought it deserved to be put up here…so I am copy pasting his thoughts…

Here’s why i feel Argentina lost:

1. Strategy and Execution : they were simply NOT playing to their strengths, and they were NOT allowed to by Brazil. How have Argentina typically played so far? A typical move consists of patience – a series of passes averaging in the 12-15 range, waiting for a play to develop. This did NOT happen throughout hte game. Why? (a) Brazil ensured that they disrupted the pattern/flow ,ensuring that no series lasted more than 5-8 passes , by good and water-tight marking of key personnel, and some good fouls at good moments. (b) Argentina then started playing right into Brazil’s hands by trying to play like them. Within those 6-8 passes Argentina’d try to force the issue and try to go as forward with the majority of our players as possible. Upon losing it, Brazil has the speed, skill and personnel to counter-attack with elan…which brings me to point number 2.

2. Slow defense – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our NT defense is very slow. Heinze got owned in the first goal. Ayala and Heinze had trouble keeping up with the Brazilian speedsters throughout the game. Mascherano was ineffective. Hell, in the last goal, Argentina had Riquelme (thats right RIQUELME) back trying to defend!!!! World class speed players such as kaka, C. Ronaldo will run circles around our defense all day. (think back to 1998- this has been an issue all the time. Remember how michael owen made the defense look like snails??)

3. Lack of patience in Attack/Wrong attacking strategy: Why in the world were Arg crossing so often to the centre -hoping for headers? Arg have messi and tevez leading hte attack for god’s sake. Juan and Alex look like Yao Min and Shaquille O’ Neal in front of these two and won every header and more. It looked ridiculous.If Arg had a Crespo in the centre, this might have made sense.

4. Numerous wasted free-kicks and corners- Riqueleme is great at dead ball situations and set-pieces. But sometimes, its just NOT your day. Accept it and let someone else have a shot – or try a couple of variations.

5. Brazil – These guys come up trumps in the last few times Arg have faced them. Sign of changing times and strategy. They looked extremely European (good tackles and marking, timely fouls, disciplined play, great speed and counter-attacking skills). It was always going to be tougher for Argentina to face such a team and Arg knew it. Brazil, Uruguay play very different from the rest of the S.American teams these days. Accept it and try to out-think them. Riquelme and Messi operate best in space. The rest of the teams gave them acres of charity football field space for them to run amok. Brazil WONT do it. The european teams WONT do it. THIS is how it’s going to be against the best/effective teams. What kind of strategy works best against such teams? I am not sure yet. I was hoping Mr. Basile would figure that out though!!

6. Luck – it was just not with us in this game. No complaints though. There are no ifs and buts in a game. Arg got a little lucky with Mexico (they had few great chances which hit the woodwork). Arg didn’t here. Winners find a way to win and create their own luck. Arg DID NOT. Arg came in as strong favourites and didnt live up to it in the finals. There was way TOO MUCH hype and articles and what not going around. A CURSE!!! grrrrrrrrrrr 

That’s my rant. I am proud of the way Arg played in the tournament-with the finals being an exception. Arg are at the cross-roads right now. It remains to be seen who goes out, who comes in, will their game-play change, and how will Arg handle it. Personally , I don’t blame the players. It’s more of a mind game and a mental thing in these knock-out games. Winning is a habit and Arg need to cultivate it. I expect a few personnel changes on the defensive front- I expect a few new players to break through. I expect tighter strategies from Coach Coco . His strategies will work in open games against south american teams where there’s tonnes of agricultural land on the pitch, but not against the top teams. Looking good is one thing. Winning is another. Winning while looking good finally – is a dream. Arg should still try to follow the dream. —————————————————————————————

At times I think the Argentinian team and the Arsenal team are similar in the way they play. But I should say that the Argentinians finish of their moves better than Arsenal did last year. They create so many chances. They build those nice traiangles around opposition players, wait patiently for the chance to evolve out of this passing and then score. But what we have seen earlier with Arsenal and now for the last 14 years with Argentina is that there is something missing in this beautiful game that they play. They need to win those crucial matches and score goals in pressure situations. Lets hope they learn how to do this. Else the world will be stuck with teams like Chelsea and Greece which will score one goal and defend with 11 players for the rest of the playing time.

The future of Argentina is safe. The current under-20 champions have qualified for the  semis with Chile, Czech and Austria.

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1 Comment

Filed under Argentina, Brazil, Copa America

One response to “Dont Cry for Argentina

  1. Vicky

    The future of Argentina isn’t that safe either.

    In the last decade and a half, Argentina has excelled(won) various U-20, U-17 and Olympics tourneys. This success however hasn’t transitioned into glory at the senior level. Somewhere along the way, they lose that winning mentality (?) or the edge. So, when the whole world is watching and saying, “wait a minute…we could have a fascinating team here”, the senior team promptly end ups laying king-sized eggs at the biggest stage of them all. I have a couple of theories behind this:

    1. Many players end up developing and maturing after their mid 20s, where as S. Americans typically seem to reach their peak by then. This is especially true for most strikers and attacking midfielders. How many times have you seen a kid being labelled as the “next maradona”, the “next pele” etc. How many of them actually translate to consistent winners? At the U-20 level , the south americans can typically get away thanks to their inherent talent and flair. But the modern game plays catch up and kicks them in the groin later. Think Aimar, Denihlson, juninho, saviola, etc. I can name many more. They are a case of players whose actual success doesnt match the potential they held.

    2. Physical game- believe me on this. The modern game now is much more phyisical than you’d imagine. The chances of a talented player succeeding also depends on his physical make up. Sounds lame at first? Well here goes – I’d say that C. Ronaldo has a better chance of succeeding long term than Messi. How successful was Aimar? Tevez has openly stated that the emphasis on his body strength upon joining the EPL has reached new levels. A majority of the south americans (especially argentines, chile etc) lag big time in this regard. I honestly don’t think that Pele and Maradona would have been AS successful if they had played for a signficant portion in this era.

    3. Strategies – this has evolved big time – and is slowly starting to mirror sports like basketball, American football etc. The need to change and adapt to situations – this is where the emphasis is . The game unfortunately might look a little more mechanical. But its upto the best of coaches to find the right balance IF they want to win. A coach like Basile who hasn’t kept much track of how the game strategies have evolved is unlikely to plan argentina to a major tournament victory. Hell I’d say he’d have a tough time strategizing against a bunch of MLS players.

    In summary, the strategies, physicality of the game, and the players at the senior level are now vastly different. While performance at the junior level is good, I don’t that that the correlation between their performance and that of the senior team is as strong as we’d imagine it to be.

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