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 Saturday’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.
Falcioni’s predecessor Claudio Borghi, appointed coach of Chile’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 – which ended in defeat.
Falcioni’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.
“I was hired to make decisions and today I think this is the best team Boca can present,” Falcioni told reporters. “This team always gave of its best for me on the pitch.
“On Sunday people will talk about Saturday’s result. If we win they’ll say I was right, and if we lose that I’m a donkey.”
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 – Riquelme hit a post — but failed to put them away while succumbing to Godoy Cruz’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 Boca’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 – to send him to the bench was unthinkable – arguing he was not entirely match fit yet.
“I don’t like one bit not playing on Saturday. Any player would feel the same way,” said Riquelme, adding “I love this club, I want to end my career here.”
Walter Erviti, another skilled ball player whom Falcioni brought with him from Banfield where they had played major roles in the club’s only league title in December 2009, is also out as what the sports daily Ole called “collateral damage”.
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 Falcioni’s decision. Boca may have won at Racing but they were a more attractive side against Godoy Cruz, they were just out of luck – and balance.
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