By Mariano Tomás De Micheli
When it comes to World Cup, top National teams have different qualities to be confident about: the Brazilians have their five World Cups, the Spanish squad has its awesome team chemistry, the Germans have their known tendency to never give up, and the Italians are famous for their toughness… But only one squad can be very sure that its strength is unique: the Argentinean National Squad relies on Lionel Messi, the world’s number one player.
Photo from fOTOGLIF
Messi has just finished a spectacular season with Barcelona FC, in which he scored forty-seven goals, making him La Liga’s top scorer and best player. Although Messi is Argentina’s biggest hope for the World Cup, the rest of the team, which is full of great players, does not seem to know how to play nicely. After a much suffered qualifier round, the team coached by Diego Armando Maradona has to show its best football in order to ensure that they will bring home the Cup. Even the team admitted their low performance. Maradona gave a list of twenty-three players to represent Argentina. This list does not include some of the country’s best players like Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, two of Internazionale’s stars and, according to their coach Jose Mourinho, the base of his team. Among the players called, there is defender Ariel Garcé (Colón de Santa Fe), a slight surprise. Garce’s performace cannot be compared to Zanetti’s in any way. His calling took Garcé by surprise and he confessed that he had already bought the tickets to South-Africa. As there is no use to looking back, Argentina will have to give them all a shot, like they did in 1986. Of course that Argentina’s 1986 squad had Maradona, the best player ever, but as some say, Argentina’s 2010 squad has Messi. Without players like striker Lisandro López (Ligue 1 best player), Gabriel Milito (Barcelona) and Ever Banega (Valencia), the list has no interesting aspects to analyze. But now let’s focus on Argentina’s team strengths and weaknesses: Strenghts: Incredible forwards
Messi, Higuaín and Diego Milito have accomplished the best season of their careers so far, having scored at least 25 goals each. As we have already mentioned Messi’s performance, let’s say that Milito’s one has been more than impressive (he scored 27 goals in his first season at Internazionale) and Higuaín had to fight face-to-face with forwards like Raúl, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, so you couldn’t expect something very good from him but he surprised us all by scoring 28 goals for Real Madrid (he was his team’s second top goal scorer, behind Cristiano Ronaldo).
The other forwards chosen were Carlos Tevez (29 goals at Manchester City), Sergio Agüero (Atlético Madrid) and Martín Palermo (Boca Juniors).
Juan Sebastián Verón (Estudiantes) and Ángel Di María (Benfica) are the only ones that can help Lionel Messi, as Javier Mascherano (Liverpool FC) and Jonás Gutierrez (Newcastle FC) are going to have more marking priorities and will find it difficult to help in attacking moves.
Verón, former Manchester United, Chelsea and Internazionale’s player, has a beautiful free-kicking and long-passing precision.
Ángel Di María showed what he is capable of playing for Benfica, who won the Portuguese league. He is fast, clever, left-footed, and Real Madrid has already shown interest on his abilities.
If any of these cannot play, Maradona has called Javier Pastore (Palermo), who would play if Verón is out of steam, Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina) as a substitute for Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez, who had an awful season but suddenly entered the 23 list.
Argentina lacks player who are able to play in such a defensive system, so they will find it hard to win the possession of the ball.
Messi is used to play a striker and attacking-midfielder for Barcelona, a team that is in the possession of the ball from the beginning to the end of the match and it also attacks more than it defends itself, so Lionel will find it hard to play in a team like Argentina, which plays waiting for the counter-attack.
If Messi is not having a good day, the team will have to look for other options when it comes to commanding the team. Only Juan Sebastián Verón is capable of doing it, but because of his age he won’t be able to keep running and thinking all over the pitch. José Sosa, former Bayern Munich’s offensive half (actually at Estudiantes) was the best alternative to help Messi and Verón, but Maradona didn’t include him on the list, even though he had called him for several friendly games.
The Argentinean squad comes to South Africa with a lot of problems, but as we have already discussed, everything will change if Barcelona’s number 10 is inspired. Maradona’s counter-attacking strategy is not a bad idea, if the team can get used to it in any unusual circumstances. But using it as the only way of making difference will turn the Argentinean’s very powerful team into a predictable one, who will have to pray for the ‘Messiah’ salvation.