As you read pegamequemegusta’s cat is bathing itself furiously and shooting recriminating looks at its master for the overflowing litter tray, yet such is our excitement that we cannot stop, for Diego Maradona is meeting with whatever members of his management team are not currently trash-talking on TV. The aim of this congress is to determine the 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup, which has to be presented to FIFA before 7 o’clock this evening local time (23:00 GMT). Although over the last few days many pundits have been insisting there will be no surprises, canchallena is reporting that as recently as last night there were a few changes.
But what is regarded as being ‘unsurprising’ in the oft-deranged world of Argieball? Well, one would presume that Champions League stalwarts and standouts such as Zanetti, Cambiasso and Milito would be shoe-ins. Yet they’re not. Although those three should be in the first 11, there is some doubt if they will even be in South Africa. While of the three pegamequemegusta reckons Milito’s the most likely to be included, he’s the only one of the strikers not to have been confirmed by Maradona in his heretofore frequent leaks to the press, despite the fact that 36-year old work horse Palermo will definitely be in South Africa.
Likewise, even though Argentina are notably short of full backs, the man with more caps than anyone in the celeste y blanco, the natural leader and multifunctional captain of potentially treble-winning Inter Milan, Javier Zanetti, has had to undergo the indignity of fat useless hacks wondering whether he has ‘earned’ his chance to take his place alongside Gabriel Heinze, Nico Otamendi and Clemente Rodriguez in the provisional squad. Maradona has thrown all sorts of people at this position, including Insúa, Zabaleta, Monzón, Emliano Papa, etc. and has finally decided to play without full backs. Fair enough, but why not have this legend on the bench? After all, as many football tacticians far wiser than this blog have opined in the past, when you do have to play against really good teams, teams with good attackers and which don’t allow you space, it’s the full backs that can make the difference. To ignore that is to imagine Dani Alves has not put in a shift or two for Barca over the last few years.
As regards Cambiasso, he doesn’t even look close to being in the provisional squad. Crucial to Inter’s success this season and perfectly suited to joining Masche in the uncompromising midfield Maradona has deemed necessary improvisational brilliance of Messi, Di María and Higuaín, his omission should be inconceivable rather than probable. Yet his only appearance in the Maradona era was 15 minutes as a sub in the friendly against Spain last November. Only in the last few days has any modicum of dissent been heard emanating from the gallingly neutered Argentine press, with Marcelo Sottile imploring the manager yesterday “Look, Diego, you said that it was a matter of taste, that there was nothing strange behind his repeated absence. Then bring him. The best players have to be at the World Cup. And Cambiasso is one of them. He has to be in the 23 man squad. how could he not be in the to 30?”
And who are the candidates to replace him? Well, we know the midfield that is likely to start on the 12th of June will consist of Mascherano, Verón and Jonás Gutierrez. Well failure and pretty boy Fernando Gago is likely to be there, while uninspiring Liverpool shuffler Maxi Rodriguez is battling for a place. Ever Banega, after a comeback this season with Valencia, is also a possibility. Yet some of the others may sound somewhat stranger to your waxless ears: Mario Bolatti, Javier Pastore, Juan Mercier, José Sosa. The first two were part are undoubtedly talented and earned moves to Italy after a hugely impressive with Ángel Cappa’s Huracán. The others, however, are inexperienced, unproven and downright nobodies even in the sphere of Argieball. It makes pegamequemegusta want to ban the Argentina manager from even living in the country during his term. Supporting the local league is fine, but when it comes to dicking up the World Cup, it’s absurd.
Meanwhile, up front Argentina are obviously blessed with a barrack of strikers. This is nothing new but the form of Messi, Higuaín, Tevez, Milito and Di María this season has been incredible. Yet these five are likely to be joined by Aguero, Palermo and Lavezzi. Yes, eight strikers for a system which allows for a maximum of three or four! If Maradona hadn’t confirmed Palermo already, I would expect he and Lavezzi to be dropped for the final 23. Yet he has and it looks like Argentina will be going to the World Cup conspicuously top-heavy and with a number of light-weights in defence.
Some time later. Here’s the final list:
- Arqueros: Sergio Romero, Mariano Andújar, Adrián Gabbarini or Diego Pozo.
- Defensores: Nicolás Otamendi, Martín Demichelis, Walter Samuel, Gabriel Heinze, Clemente Rodríguez, Nicolás Burdisso, Coloccini, Juan Insaurralde (Newell’s), Ariel Garcé (Colón), Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes)
- Volantes: Jonás Gutiérrez, Javier Mascherano, Juan Sebastián Verón, Angel Di María, Mario Bolatti, Javier Pastore, Juan Mercier (Argentinos), Maxi Rodríguez, José Sosa (Estudiantes), Jesús Dátolo, Sebastian Blanco (Lanús).
- Delanteros: Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Carlos Tevez, Diego Milito, Martín Palermo, Sergio Agüero, Ezequiel Lavezzi.