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How did Argentine football get in such a state?
Diego Maradona says that on the compact Rosario central pitch Argentina will pin Brazil against their goal. They do up to a point, with masses of possession, but Dunga’s men demolish them in lethal counter-attacks with Maradona watching in glum silence and Argentina return to River Plate for next month’s key World Cup qualifier against Peru.
“Coco” Basile is all grins, throaty one-liners and “I know the dressing room inside out” at his official presentation as Boca Juniors coach on July 1. Last weekend it was his empty look the cameras caught as he walked off the Bombonera pitch after another defeat.
Nestor Gorosito welcomes the three musketeers Ariel Ortega, Marcelo Gallardo and Matias Almeyda at the start of a new campaign last month. Last week he went sprawling in the mud on the side of the pitch when a Lanus player slid into him in pouring rain during a 1-0 defeat that put River Plate out of the Copa Sudamericana, and the crowd cheered.
Argentina’s big teams, the national side that have won two World Cups and the multi-decorated Boca Juniors and River Plate, are not well and fans and media are struggling to understand why.
Former Argentina captain Roberto Ayala said recently in Spain he saw a “surprising lack of rebellion” in Argentina’s players against their situation as Maradona’s side hovered dangerously close to World Cup elimination.
The coaches may not have the answers but players who week in, week out make the European headlines for their clubs, the likes of Messi, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Diego Milito, are failing to deliver for Argentina.
Does at least part of the answer lie in the fact that Argentina, who won the last two World Youth Cups, did not even qualify for this year’s tournament kicking off on Thursday in Egypt?
Yet it was the very World Youth Cup that made world junior champions of Maradona in 1979, Juan Roman Riquelme and Pablo Aimar in 1997, Andres D’Alessandro in 2001, Messi in 2005 and Aguero in 2007. There is no questioning their quality.
Argentina may be lacking a midfield general, the kind of traditional No.10 who strolled the pitch spraying telling passes, the most recent of which was Riquelme.
Captain Javier Mascherano is not that man. Apart from the fact he is off his game, he patrols the area in front of the back four as Americo Gallego did for Cesar Menotti’s 1978 world champions.
Maradona’s Argentina now rely on Juan Sebastian Veron — suspended against Peru after being sent off against Paraguay — to dictate play but he is being asked to play further upfield than he does to greater effect from deeper for Estudiantes.
Argentina bunch up in the middle of their opponents’ half, the forwards often get in each others’ way and the defence is left thin and open to the counter-punch.
Sadly, River Plate and Boca Juniors, twoof the country’s traditional player production lines, have dried up in that department. All the most recent major exports are strikers.
Former River Plate midfielders Pablo Aimar, now at Benfica, and Andres D’Alessandro, who is in Brazil with Internacional, are on people’s tongues again as the sort of No.10 Argentina need.
Maradona as a player was that and much more. He appears unable, though, to inject his team with the passion he showed in an Argentina shirt or, as their coach, a strategy that brings the best out of them.
PHOTO: Argentina’s Lionel Messi pauses during their World Cup qualifying defeat against Paraguay in Asuncion, Sept 9, 2009. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci