Falcioni takes tough choice
Rex Gowar in Buenos Aries on a tough decision taken by Boca Juniors’ new coach.
Boca Juniors coach Julio Cesar Falcioni has taken a brave decision leaving Juan Roman Riquelme out of his team for this Saturdayâ€™s home match against modest All Boys.
Boca lost 4-1 at home to Godoy Cruz in their Clausura championship opener two weeks ago with Riquelme in the team and won 1-0 at Racing Club last weekend without him.
However, to focus solely on the results is to oversimplify a serious problem for any coach in charge of a squad that includes a gifted player like Riquelme and more so if he is at Boca and even more still if he is new.
Falcioniâ€™s predecessor Claudio Borghi, appointed coach of Chileâ€™s national team this week, lasted 14 matches at Boca in the Apertura championship with Riquelme injured and out of action for all but one â€“ which ended in defeat.
Falcioniâ€™s decision is based on fielding a team with balance and staying faithful to his favoured 4-4-2 formation which bore fruit in friendlies the summer recess when he was taking his first steps as Boca coach.
â€śI was hired to make decisions and today I think this is the best team Boca can present,â€ť Falcioni told reporters. â€śThis team always gave of its best for me on the pitch.
â€śOn Sunday people will talk about Saturdayâ€™s result. If we win theyâ€™ll say I was right, and if we lose that Iâ€™m a donkey.â€ť
Riquelme, who had knee surgery last May, was for to return for the Clausura and Falcioni, with the home crowd at the Bombonera in mind, fielded an attacking side that created a string of chances â€“ Riquelme hit a post — but failed to put them away while succumbing to Godoy Cruzâ€™s counter-attacks.
Goalkeeper Javier Garcia was blamed for the first two goals and had a torrid week fending off questions about his performance yet was retained and was Bocaâ€™s best player at Racing, even laying on the winning goal with a long clearance to scorer Pablo Mouche.
Riquelme returned to Boca from Spain’s Villarreal in 2007 and almost singlehandedly won their sixth Libertadores Cup. He is a hugely talented player but decline comes to even the best and he is slowing down.
At 33 he still has a lot to offer but Falcioni is asserting his position as boss and did not even include Riquelme in the match squad â€“ to send him to the bench was unthinkable â€“ arguing he was not entirely match fit yet.
“I donâ€™t like one bit not playing on Saturday. Any player would feel the same way,â€ť said Riquelme, adding â€śI love this club, I want to end my career here.â€ť
Walter Erviti, another skilled ball player whom Falcioni brought with him from Banfield where they had played major roles in the clubâ€™s only league title in December 2009, is also out as what the sports daily Ole called â€ścollateral damageâ€ť.
Erviti and Riquelme were joint playmakers in the 4-1 defeat, then Eriviti missed the Racing game through suspension. He starts on the bench on Saturday.
Neutral lovers of good football, however, are not too happy with Falcioniâ€™s decision. Boca may have won at Racing but they were a more attractive side against Godoy Cruz, they were just out of luck â€“ and balance.
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