Argentina head into the World Cup without two of their finest goalkeepers.
The 2014 World Cup has quite a few favourites. Spain being the primary one, alongside Brazil, the hosts. Then there’s Germany. And Italy. And maybe France.
But certainly not Argentina.
The commonality between the aforementioned teams termed as favourites is that they all have an outstanding defense. And to offer further protection, a world-class goalkeeper.
Spain has Iker Casillas. Brazil, Julio Cesar. Germany, Manuel Neuer. Italy, none other the legendary Buffon. France, Lloris. All world class or in the top bracket.
Argentina has Sergio Romero. His replacement Mariano Andujar. And Agustin Orion. Leave alone being in the top bracket – do fans even know who these guys are. They don’t play in top leagues or in top teams. For sure they do not have the experience that is needed to stay composed during high intensity matches like that of the World Cup. It is quite similar to Argentina going to South Africa, under Diego Maradona with Jonas Gutierrez.
Where is Willy Caballero? Or even Julian Speroni?
Week after week, match after match, Caballero has shone for Malaga. Yet it is a mystery as to why Sabella did not call him or even consider him for the all important footballing extravaganza in Brazil.
Quick reflex, good handling, one-on-one stops, handling of high balls – Caballero has proved time and again that he is one of the top goalkeepers in Spain and perhaps in Europe and at 32 has just reached the peak for a player in his position.
“I can’t do any more, which is to play like this and send a message [to Sabella],” said a dejected Caballero after a brilliant show against Real Madrid on October 19, 2013.
What is even more appalling is that even Oscar Ustari of Almeria (Spain) and Cristian Alvarez of San Lorenzo (Argentina) have received a few call-ups from Sabella, but neither Caballero nor Speroni.
Romero was on loan to AS Monaco last season, where he majorly played second fiddle to Danijel Subašić.
A look at Caballero’s past will further abolish any doubt that Caballero is a winner. He won the top award in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2001 and then the 2004 Summer Olympics. A counter argument could be that Romero too has won the Gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007, and also the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar, but how often has he played against top offensive players (Ronaldo, Messi, Di Maria, et al) and shone?
Caballero has. More than once.
What does Romero have that Caballero lacks? Perhaps a good relation with Sabella. Otherwise there is no plausible reason for him not to be in the squad for the upcoming World Cup.
As a matter of fact, Julian Speroni, who was one of the best players for Crystal Palace last season, finished a respectable 11th (ahead of teams like Swansea and Aston Villa), and won his fourth 2014 CPFC Player of the Year award was also given a cold shoulder.
With 12 clean sheets (just 4 short of legendary Petr Cech and Wojciech Szczęsny, and with a defense not even half as good), in a league as competitive as the Premier League, Speroni couldn’t have done anything else to stake a claim at the World Cup.
In an ideal world, Caballero, Speroni and Orion would have made the cut seamlessly.
In Sabella’s world that’s not meant to be. The above chart shows just how prejudiced (and perhaps bureaucratic) the Argentina selection process actually is.
Willy Caballero and Julian Speroni have together played 78 matches, 7020 minutes, conceded 97 goals and has kept 25 clean sheets.
All the other goalkeepers in the Argentina squad (Romero, Andujar & Orion) – 67 matches, 6048 minutes, conceded 85 goals and has kept 22 clean sheets.
So much for meritocracy.
While the South American team has a plethora of offensive talent, but they lack in the midfield and defense. However, Sabella’s selection is perplexing even in these departments.
Stay tuned for more on the Argentine national team.