Alemania v Maradona

Gonzalo makes the most of his chance to become Argentina’s number 9 in South Africa

While the Lahm-roasting I was hoping for was not to be, Argentina won well enough against a German team so stodgy and turgid it made me long to spend a day in the lungs of a tubercular poet. It took the intervention of the Cacau-el-cabrón to bring a bit of life to the proceedings – with not a little skill and more attitude than Bette Midler – exacting terrible vengeance on Mascherano for some harshly spoken words shortly before.

Besides Otamendi, who looked hopeless, Argentina’s defence did look alright:  Samuel was man of the match for me. Still, the limitations of such a negative approach, playing with four centre backs, are obvious enough. The most important fact of the match is that Germany were useless: despite having much more of the ball, they created next almost no decent chances. Compared to Germany, Ireland yesterday looked like… I don’t know, Brazil (oho).

Like Ireland, there was no-one to distribute the ball to Di María, Jonás or Messi. But surely that’s what Verón is there for: spreading the ball wide to lift what there was of German pressure. Except for one free kick, which he belted from an acute angle at the keeper with Burdisso rushing in for a flick, he spent the whole game sitting too deep, hanging back too far in general and contributing little or nothing. The strange thing, though, is that this was his job in the game: but why wasn’t he further forward playing more or less as a number 10? For some reason he was always behind Mascherano – that is, in Masche’s position, getting in his way and confusing things. 4-1-3-2, yes, but with Verón as the number 5 and Mascherano pretty much lost, unable to do what he does best.

So to sum up: in the first half Argentina played quite well and looked canny and smart, vivos as they say here. In the second half, though, they just looked out of ideas, bored (and boring) and without much inclination even to impress a very impressionable manager.

Not everyone can pull off this look

Speaking of whom, the best thing of the afternoon was almost undoubtedly el Diego in the press conference. He refused to be interviewed with a German player beside him! With a smile on his face, he said it “wasn’t normal for a manager to give a press conference with another player beside me… I’ll wait if you want… Over there [pointing to the side of the podium].” A man with a Spanish accent kept insisting that he stay but he ended up getting up and waddling off to the side where he signed a few autographs. The German player, Muller, stood there on the podium on his own with a morto look on his face.  After an awkward moment or two he set off towards Maradona… but walked right past him and out the door, whereupon the manager of the Selección waddled back up onto the podium.

In general he was in good humour, laughing at the interruptions of the fussy German’s translators (- Sorry but would you let me translate… – Well if you let me finish speaking, you can translate it afterwards!) and looking bemused, playing with his water bottles, as he waited for them to finish. He wouldn’t accept any comparison with the German team of ’86, nor with the supposed ‘dichotomy’ between the Barca Messi and the Argentina Messi, saying he just thanked God Messi is Argentinian.

As regards what he actually said, there wasn’t much: he said that Argentina were better than Germany in every part of the pitch, that they were comfortable enough defending Germany’s crosses, that he was chuffed with the clean sheet and that, “We wanted to show, against one of the powerhouses of football, that we’re alive and well.” The best frase maradoniana, all the same, and the most accurate, I reckon, was that “We both threw a load of meat on the barbeque and the weight and class of our players made the difference.”