Argentina – Too Messy, Even For Messi?

Sports News - March 01, 2010

Argentina has always been regarded as a factory line for the next big thing in the world of football. In fact, it would seem obvious considering they have a team which has won the most number of international youth titles, been the most successful in Copa America tournaments, and in recent times, the Olympic gold medalists in football. It comes as a bit of a rude surprise, then, that the Argentinians haven’t won football’s greatest prize – since the day Maradona hoisted aloft the World Cup.

This year’s qualifying rounds have been a horror show for the Argentinians, with them barely making the cut. The qualifying results clearly suggest they were poor travelers and except for one defeat at home to Brazil, the rest of their defeats were away in relatively ‘foreign’ conditions.

There is a silver lining to the whole thing. Lionel Messi has peaked at the right time after a slow start to the 2009-2010 season, and is in the form of his life, seemingly all set to inspire Argentina to World Cup glory. The options which Maradona has for each of the positions are endless. The talent at his disposal is just the right blend of youth and experienced players who can lead this team to the success, but with the squad selection surprises Maradona threw at the footballing world during the qualifying campaign nothing is a certainty.

Goalkeeper

This place is up for grabs with Maradona giving all the available goalkeepers a chance to guard the posts. The most experienced of all the goalkeepers available at his disposal, is Roberto Abbondanzieri. The other keepers who will make it are Romero and Andujaar as they have proven themselves worthy in recent times, with Romero most likely to be the Argentine No 1 during the WC campaign. Andujar seems more of a technically sound keeper and in the long run could become a permanent choice after the FIFA World Cup 2010.

Defense

An Argentinian squad with 6 strikers in form means the chances of only 7 defenders being selected to the squad are very high, with extra focus on the flexibility of a defender to play in multiple positions.

Maradona’s pick for Left Back is pretty straightforward with Gabriel Heinze assured of the spot thanks to his vast experience, but the opposition might try to exploit his lack of speed. The other contenders are Ansaldi, Papa and Insua who needs regular playing time at Liverpool to improve his chances.

Fan favorite Zanetti would be top dog as far as grabbing the Right Back spot. His flexibility in playing at different positions is a plus, too. For 2nd choice Right Back Maradona will have to choose between Zabaleta and Clemente Rodriguez. Zabaleta had made this position his own at Manchester City keeping England prospect Micah Richards at bay, but Rodriguez has been in the good books of Maradona and is capable of playing Centre Back as well.

The Center Back positions have a number of contenders vying for them and Martin Demichelis is likely to be the first name on the sheet for Maradona. Walter Samuel will mostly likely join him in the heart of the defense. Backups for the Center Back role are Burdisso, Coloccini and Otamendi.

Midfield

The team with the best forwards need an equally capable midfield which can link the defense with the forward line, and Riquelme was the ideal player to organize and deliver from the midfield. He had a public spat with Maradona and has not played for his national team since. This leaves the in-form and experienced Veron to lead the midfield. With his current form he seems to be the ideal player in playmaker position, but he has no viable backup should he be injured.

Veron will be backed up by Bollati, Pastore or Banega, each of these 3 players have their strengths. Of them, Maradona might consider Bolatti or Pastore, with Bolatti being the most probable call up after his recent performances.

Also with such a strong forward line, defensive midfielder Mascherano is going to play a vital role in breaking up the opposition attacks and providing impetus for the counter-attack. His backups Gago and Cambiasso are also decent. With Gago not getting enough playing time in the packed Real Madrid midfield, Cambiasso might pip him as Maradona’s backup for defensive midfielder.

The choice of wingers selected will depend on the formation Maradona plans to adopt for the World Cup. The first choice winger will be Angel Di Maria, who has already caught the eyes of several top European clubs, and if he can inspire his side to World Cup glory the odds of him signing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe will skyrocket. Lucho Gonzalez, Maxi Rodriguez, Jonas Gutierrez, Datola are Maradona’s other options.

Forward

Maradona is certainly spoiled for choices as far as selecting his forward(s) goes.

Lionel Messi is a shoo-in, with his recent performances for Barcelona cementing his position as the best player in the world. The other striking options Maradona has are the immensely talented Higuain and the hard-working Carlos Tevez. If that wasn’t enough, Maradona can also call upon Diego Milito and the promising Sergio Aguero.

The former has been in fantastic form for Inter this season, and the latter is on the summer wish list of clubs like Chelsea FC.

Squad

Romero, Andujaar, Abbondanzieri, Henize, Ansaldi, Clemente Rodriguez, Javier Zanetti, Martín Demichelis, Otamendi, Walter Samuel, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso, Veron, Bolatti, Lucho Gonzalez, Jonas Gutierrez,Ángel Di Maria, Datalo, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito

The team consists of 3 Goalkeepers, 7 Defenders, 8 Midfielders and 5 top class strikers. Maradona has an option of choosing to go with only 7 midfielders and adding another striker. Which means Jonas Gutierrez might miss his place in the squad with Lopez or Palermo coming in instead.

Starting XI:

Romero

Zanneti Samuel Demichelis Heinze

Veron Mascherano Di Maria

Tevez Messi Milito

  • Luis

    I don’t think Veron will ever start a game. He is no match with the kind of pace all the young Argentinians have. Javier Pastore has played some real good football for Palermo this season and I see him starting. I think Messi would play how Maradona used to play, floating all over the places(read on both flanks switching with Tevez) and not as a CF. Also, I think with the kind of form Demichellis is, Burdisso could get the preference over him. And Cambiasso can be recalled as well.

  • FFS Higuin as the striket above anybody.

  • Shady

    I guess people are forgetting that Maradona has already given enough surprises during the qualifiers.

    I would rather expect Burdisso over Samuel rather than Demichellis. Cambiasso or gago is something which will be answered based on the squad composition.
    Veron is in great form this season and Pastore and Bolatti both will not make the squad. Higuain might become the main striker if Messi is given the floating role. Which is a very interesting formation but with Di Maria on the wings Maradona might be tempted to play him in the center which means Messi will have all the support he needs for scoring goals and also the attack flow can be maintained. Mascharano will surely play a huge role to break counter attacks with the entire midfield’s focus on attack.

  • Gutierrez is, in all probablity going to start. Maradona seems to have a lot of confidence in him and he has done quite well at Newcastle this season. It’ll be interesting to see the formation Maradona employs. He has preferred a 4-2-3-1 in recent times with Messi playing through the centre. The way Argentina lined up against Catalunya and Germany, Maradona might have taken a leaf out of Guardiola’s book and played Messi more as a decoy, a false ‘9’ per say, than an attacking threat. It is not the best way of playing the little magician but it creates space for everyone else on the pitch.

    What is worrisome for Argentina is the lack of a quality full back. Zanetti is world class but is 36 and lacks pace. Heinze is a liability and the only reason he starts is because Argentina have no alternative. This puts a lot of pressure on the two wingers and it is something that has tended to happen with Argetina. Di Maria likes to cut in but with no help on the over lap, the attack becomes predictable. Maradona will have to think up something if Argetina are to progress.