No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two […]
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, the Fool.
Pegamequemegusta would not be at all surprised to learn that all of these wretched scribblers – though we are all scribbling wretchedly for our one reader, Jebus – have a framed picture of famed tactics guru and Krang impersonator, Jonathan Wilson, sitting on their desks midst the piles of kleenex and take-away receptacles. Unfortunately, they lack the knowledge, writing ability and the class.
In his preview of the game, he argued that Argentina had the edge over Germany, and not just due to certain individual talents. Even in midfield, he reckoned Maxi and Di María should have been able to make up for their lack of energy against Schweinsteiger and Khedira with their movement: “And if Di Maria does start to drift left, threatening to unleash the crossing ability that proved so devastating at Benfica last season, then Germany really is in trouble.“
As it turned out, however, no matter where Di María drifted in the game he was going to be equally ineffective. We talked in our own preview about how important he was to the team. Following the abandonment of Maradona’s ‘Verón is my Xavi’ plan, and Jonás’s replacement by Otamendi to ensure greater balance and security, the Xavi-Iniesta tandem was entrusted to a deep-lying combination of Tevez & Messi. In this schema, with the real Lionel operating almost as a decoy, Di María was effectively supposed to take on the Messi role. (Not that Argentina were trying to ape Barcelona but certain aspects of their plan are best illustrated by a comparison with that team).
The new idea was quite sophisticated and received a great deal of kudos from pegamequemegusta and everyone who enjoyed watching Argentina in the opening games. All the time, however, they were carrying Di María, who looked as composed as a bag of snakes. We signalled in the preview that what we considered one of Maradona’s most astute decisions looked like it was going to blow up in his face.
He did up his game somewhat in the Germany match – at least this time he looked for the ball – didn’t know what foot he wanted to use and his execution was woeful. He is certainly well capable of the role but it appears the burden was too much for Real Madrid’s new signing. (Indeed, we wonder if that added sense of expectation wasn’t another contributory factor to his flaccid WC).
Pegamequemegusta doesn’t mean to blame Di María for a 4-0 defeat, though, not by any means. Besides the defence, which we never expected to be the most solid unit known to man since Diego Forlán’s six-pack, we reserve a great share of that for other favourite players of ours, and much more experienced ones, too.
Carlitos Tevez, for example, had an absolute nightmare. Olé gave him a 5/10 when the rest of his teammates averaged about 3/10. These extra points were down to his commitment and his fighting spirit, the old Carlitos clichés. We love Tevez but he talks too much. In 2006 he spent the entire build-up to the Germany match talking about how if it came to penalties he was going to take the first and blast it at Lehman’s head: “it’ll either be a goal or it’ll take his head off.” Funny, ballsy, delightful; but when it came to the penalty shoot-out he was absent. Ayala and Cambiasso stepped up before him; they missed and Argentina were out.
Likewise this week, his two goals against Mexico meant he was on the front cover of Olé last Monday and was shooting his mouth off all week. When it came to the match, however, he played like an angry mob. There was plenty of commitment alright but no control, plenty of gesticulating but no organising. He embodied the caricature that so many people had expected of this Maradona team. He completely abandoned his defensive responsibilities and failed to link up with any of his teammates, be it the midfielders or the attack. He bottled it so badly that even though Argentina were chasing the game, it would have been preferable to have hauled him off and put someone else in midfield. The failure was not a question of tactics, it was the personnel: Tevez had a job to do and all he did was a Steven Gerrard impression.
There have been many soothing words for Messi, too, and we aren’t going to pillory him either for the failures of the entire team. He could have done much better, though. Again we back Maradona’s plan: it wasn’t foolproof by any means but with all the pieces working in sync it could well have made the most of Messi’s ability. He was let down by Tevez in particular, as Carlitos was in the team primarily to associate with him and generate play.
Without the help of his teammates, far from being the Messi of Barcelona, Messi just ended up looking like a poor man’s Xavi in a team of Ibrahimobitches. His influence was diluted successively until it disappeared completely. Argentina looked as naive as Arsenal in the 2009 semifinal and they were torn apart. This time Otamendi starred as the unfortunate Kieron Gibbs, Muller as Ronaldo.
Yet, like Tevez, Messi cannot be absolved so easily of all responsibility to organise things. Maradona’s rhetoric may overstep the mark in terms of his demands for Messi to ‘become a man’, but he really is going to have to impose himself more in future. A measure of how ineffective he was is revealed by a factoid we read that he wasn’t fouled once in the entire game.
Pegamequemegusta giddily hoped after the first round that Messi would continue to hit the post with Higuaín & co. knocking in the rebounds so that he’d keep tilting towards goal for the full 90 minutes of every game. In hindsight, though, we can’t help but feel the lack of a goal just pissed him off and drained his confidence.
Higuaín was just hopeless on Saturday. Of course he didn’t get much service and the Germans defended surprisingly well. Still, his match was summed up by being caught offside three times in about five minutes. He looked distraught when it was still one-nil and there was half an hour to go. If Tevez lived up to his own caricature as a headless chicken, Higuaín could well have had a River crest on his jersey, so gutless was his performance.
With Tevez, Di María and Higuaín all performing so badly and with such a lack of discipline, Maradona’s plan imploded spectacularly on Saturday. Despite, as Jonathan Wilson says in his Sports Illustrated article, Argentina looking the more ‘threatening team’ after the opening 20 minutes or so, they didn’t create one decent chance. On Off the Ball tonight, he expanded on why Argentina’s approach should work, saying, in characteristic fashion, that “triangles always beat lines”. The only two times we remember the forwards actually making those angles they created two half-chances: the first when Messi put Tevez through; the second when Higuaín was caught offside. This was supposed to be Argentina’s great strength but they individuals failed spectacularly. They were impatient from the off. Frustrated with their own ineptitude, it wasn’t long before they began shooting lamely over the bar from 25 yards. A strike force that had promised to slice the German defence in a manner reminiscent of a mathematician’s wet dream, ended up looking but full of high sentence and more than little obtuse.