Batista breeze replaces Maradona whirlwind

September 10, 2010

Argentina have not suddenly become world champions after beating Spain 4-1 nor have the Spanish lost the sheen of their World Cup victory.

For Argentine fans, though, the performance more than the result gives them hope for a fresh start, possibly with Sergio Batista at the helm right through to Brazil 2014.

So forgotten was Diego Maradona on that sunny late Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires that there were no chants of “Maradoooooo, Maradoooooo”.

Whenever things went wrong with the national team, that was the chant that rang out at the Monumental. Until they went wrong with Maradona himself in charge.

A poor match could have brought back the ghost of the 4-0 thrashing of Maradona’s World Cup team by Germany.

A good match revived the belief in Argentines that they are not, and never were, that far from this Spain team in playing style.

Esteban Cambiasso and Gabriel Milito, recalled for the friendly after missing the World Cup, were part of the team that enthused fans in Germany in 2006 with a Spanish-style performance that handed Serbia and Montenegro a 6-0 thrashing.

Nestor Pekerman was the coach of that team, beaten on penalties by Germany in the quarter-finals but unbeaten on the pitch.

Pekerman spent almost a decade as coach of Argentina’s juniors who won the Youth (under-20) World Cup five times in seven tournaments between 1995 and 2007.

Cambiasso was in the 1997 title side in Malaysia along with Juan Roman Riquelme. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero were in the 2005 side, Aguero again in 2007.

There has been a clamour in Argentina for a reorganisation of how the national set-up is run, arguing quite rightly that Spain did not build their world-beating team in a day.

Argentina have had a sound base but the transition to the senior team is not easy when the majority of the best players are thousands of kilometres from home playing for European clubs.

Argentina lost their way at senior level with an interruption in 2004 to the four-year World Cup cycle initiated in 1974.

By the time Maradona took the job in 2008 he was the third coach in four years.

Maradona was questioned during his tenure for the nature of his team practices. Players were quoted as saying after a week with Batista that they had “intelligent practices that left us with things”.

The World Cup underlined the importance in the modern game of a well oiled team. Maradona himself recognised after the Germany defeat that Messi was not like him, “picking up the team and carrying it on my shoulders”.

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