Enough caviar, a bit of humility please
Have Argentina, the world’s biggest exporters of soccer players, lost their feeling for the national colours Diego Maradona wore with such pride and passion? Has the ever increasing exodus of players to Europe dented their edge, made them soft?
Fans’ opinions on websites after Argentina’s pale 1-1 draw with Bolivia, the first time their neighbours have taken a point in nine World Cup qualifiers this side of the border, suggest that’s what they are thinking.
Players are accused of being too comfortable with their high salaries at rich European clubs, allowing modest South American rivals to “paint their faces”, a local phase meaning to embarrass.
“A bit of humility, enough caviar,” a columnist wrote in the sports daily Ole. “The time has come for labourers.”
He went on to accuse the players of not bringing the commitment and fight required when wearing the light blue and white stripes.
Even Lionel Messi, who has played well for Argentina in recent matches while team mates have not, had a poor game.
The reality in South America is that Argentina and Brazil are the teams to beat. They are obliged to take the game to strong opponents who absorb the pressure and try to hit them on the break.
Argentina have some of the world’s best forwards but there has been a dearth of world class midfielders and defenders to replace the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme and Roberto Ayala.
When teams play Barcelona, they cannot afford to only keep Messi in check and expect their problems to be resolved. They must watch out for Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Daniel Alves, Pedro. There is a balance that allows Messi room to work his magic.
Few Argentine players inspire fear in South American rivals these days apart from Messi and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero and the unfit and out of favour Carlos Tevez, all essentially forwards.
Argentina have neglected the youth scheme that won a string of world titles under Nestor Pekerman and Hugo Tocalli between the mid-90s and mid-2000s.
Failure to qualify for next year’s London Olympics having won the gold medal at the last two Games is proof enough of the decline and at club level it goes a long way towards explaining the great River Plate’s relegation in June.
A dramatic reaction from Perfil newspaper, playing on the date of the match, was: “11-11-11…the end of the world?”
Nor are fans confident Argentina can turn things round in Colombia on Tuesday, having lost their previous away match in Venezuela, an unfancied opponent that had lost all 18 of their previous meetings.
PHOTO: Argentina’s Lionel Messi leaves the field after a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires November 11, 2011. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci.