Well, it’s a story of love, deception, greed, lust and unbridled enthusiasm
You are a bad man, Mr Quemegusta, is a line oft heard in the rag and bone shops that are this city’s heart. It may have to do with our, to some, controversial way of earning our living. Others insist, however, that it is owing to our insufferable use of the royal we. Yet if a childhood midst the sensual delights of Zemblan palaces, and twenty years worth of doctors’ receipts, do not entitle one to at least JT-levels of delusion, we we we… we don’t know what does. Neither, in any case, will be changing any time soon.
Indeed, like all such chancers of the vanguard, such as Bertie Ahern, we know we will be vindicated in future years. For Maradona this time appears to have arrived. In fact, the last few days have seen a departure from the Uncle Diego persona he has so successfully cultivated recently and a return to the spiky Maradó of the wilderness years.
Although he has been nothing like the foul-mouthed loony of Montevideo, he did make use of the few days following qualification to the last 16 to put his big pot of grievances back on the hob. If he didn’t settle scores in his usual inimitable manner, the word ‘respect’ was used with the lack of thriftiness we had come to expect from el Diez. Success gives you the right to make these comments; class, however, usually advises against it.
Nevertheless, Diego has not lost his rag and pegamequemegusta was busy hailing his icon yesterday when news began to come through of what the team would be for the Mexico game. By golly, he hasn’t made one bad decision yet! Although he got his squad horribly wrong, it’s as if once the dreaded fax shuttled off to Zurich Maradona was blessed with a newfound lucidity; as if the sending of the fax functioned as some kind of exorcism of the fetid phantoms that had so assaulted his soul and clouded his vision until then.
Many will point to the Jonás experiment with derision ‘pon reading those lines, but pegamequemegusta reckons it was worth a go. It didn’t work, however, and Maradona made use of the Greece friendly to try out alternatives. Learning from one’s mistakes is key to the ant-like hoarding and gathering of experience that characterises an inductive scientist such as Diego, of course.
In the past, however, his experiments were not given enough time to judge the results. Even the few that were worthy of greater attention were abandoned rashly as he chopped and changed like a transvestite lumberjack. These days he is striking an admirable balance between changing the team whilst maintaining the team spirit that has been credited with transforming their performances.
Even players widely considered to be undroppable have been cut with a practicality and ruthlessness few considered probable. Today there will be no Jonás and no Verón. Instead, Otamendi comes in as the flat back four is re-established, and Maxi Rodriguez will aim to get forward when he’s not nipping at the heels of nippy Mexican giles. This should make Argentina both more solid at the back and, arguably, make them more dangerous going forward.
After all, Verón’s principal strong point, his passing, was conspicuous by its rubbishness in his games so far. He takes a mean dead ball and racked up a million passes in front of the ten-man Greek defence, but most of them were more Pinewood than Hollywood, in Gilesy’s phrase, and he showed little or no aptitude for going forward. Moreover, in what is likely to be a stretched game this afternoon, Maradona wisely deemed he’d be found out.
Jonás, meanwhile, in theory was supposed to make up for a possible lack of solidity at the back with hungry darts to the by-line. When it became clear he was doing neither, however, the man who had been put on the same pedestal as Macherano and Messi in terms of importance to the team, was rightly dropped in favour of someone who can at least do the former, Nicolás Otamendi.
Pegamequemegusta hears your scoffs, oh dear handsome readers. After all, is that all you’ve got? Jaysus, a back line where Inter cast-off Burdisso is supposed to be the stand-out man among a panicky gaggle of stooges? Where Javier ‘booking’ Mascherano is supposed to anchor an oil tanker that looks like it’s been spilt down the middle by an iceberg? Where you’re counting on a guy who couldn’t even get first team football with Atlético Madrid to inspire fear in a Mexican team with a thirst for vengeance not seen since Yahweh stomped out a short-lived fondness for Ba’al? Where one of your supposed game-breakers, Di María, is flopping so hard he looks like a sated sea-lion, and the other couldn’t buy a goal even if he did underwear ads until well into his eighties? And where your main striker needs to be one-yard out against a one-eyed keeper in order to have a chance of scoring?
Luckily, however, the same, and worse, could be said about the Mexicans. They were roundly beaten by Uruguay and struggled against a South Africa team so piss poor they must have a potato stuffed up their collective urethra. Pegamequemegusta has heard all the talk of there being plenty of money and so forth in the Mexican league but we’re pretty sure it’s as useless as Argieball (and that the money may have something to do with the headless lads that are fast making the Sonora Desert the new Butlins).
Just as there’s no reason to believe Maxi Rodriguez will repeat his vaseline advert of 2006, we have no reason to believe Mexico will suddenly become a cohesive, counter-attacking unit, not to mention a pressing, quick-passing, possession-retaining outfit of the likes not seen since… Argentina plastered Mexico 3-0 in 2007. Moreover, for all the talk of Argentina’s wonky defence, no-one has got behind it consistently in the World Cup so far and it has only received one goal.
Bullish doesn’t even begin to describe us: you could add ‘arrogant’, ‘insufferable’, ‘boring’ and ‘foul-smelling’. Yet taking Mexico seriously would be a wimp’s way out, a sick, consensus-building throwback to the scandal-less nineties, when even the communists just gave-up. Being wise before the events beyond one’s control is as useless as being wise afterwards.
Maradona has got everything right so far: from his team selections, formations, to his man-management and substitutions. Gone are the days of speculating as to who should be in the squad, long gone indeed. In twenty minutes a new World Cup begins and we feel more confident of scoring than a bull before the advent of artificial insemination.
If our waxwings are slain today, it won’t be down to any false azure in the windowpane. It could only be down to some thoroughly horrendous twist of fortune or because Yahweh finally decides that we have been worshipping a false idol. Pegamequemegusta reckons, however, He will smile on our fatty offerings this afternoon.