Argentine team to play Germany

“We mustn’t forget that we’re a team. I don’t want all the pressure to be on him. I want to build a team where Messi is the icing on the cake.” Ahem.



Otamendi              Demichelis       Samuel         Heinze


J. Gutierrez         Verón

Messi        Di María


From what they’ve been saying on TV here and in Olé, it looks like Maradona has decided his stop-gap set-up against Uruguay: four centre backs, protected in turn by Masche and the combative Jonás; the other four given free rein to attack. It’s a very Trappish line-up really, and if it didn’t go too badly for us, then, one could argue, it should be fine for Argentina seeing as instead of Duff, McGeady, Doyle and Keane, you have some of the best players in the world. Just don’t give the other team any space when they attack and let the geniuses sort it out.

It’s a lame, short-sighted, stodgy cop-out of a strategy, though. It shows a complete lack of faith in the abilities of players who play at the highest level. Argentina have quick young defenders who know how to keep the ball, so there’s no need for such a negative approach. Unfortunately, none of them are in the squad for this game, nor, according to all the information that has come out so far, are they even in consideration: Nico Pareja (Espanyol), Gaby Milito (Barcelona), or Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid). Instead, Walter Samuel is back after several years in the wilderness to partner the proven band of panic-stricken bottlers: Heinze (thug), Demichelis (has botox in his arse) and the thus far unfortunate Otamendi who proved himself so hopeless against Brazil.

Samuel is probably a good call actually, but he would surely need someone with a bit of pace alongside him lest there be a repeat of his hacking down of Kalou. It also begs the questions as to why he was never even mentioned during the farcical qualifying period that saw debuts for Dominguez, Angelieri and the 36 year old Schiavi, among others. Samuel’s teammate at Inter, with the record number of appearances and, until recently, the captain, Javier Zanetti, has been discarded for similarly mystifying reasons.

In midfield, again, there is a real lack of pace. Nonethless, Verón is going to play so there’s not much point banging on about it any more. He should provide some good set-pieces and hopefully some leadership. Both those things were conspicuously absent from all the matches he played so far, however.

Think about how lovely it would be, however, to see Masche play with Cambiasso and Banega, both on fire this season. Skillful, efficient and ruthless, it would be a better midfield than England’s (what? Gerrard, Barry, Lampard and Lennon?) and Brazil’s (Gilberto, Melo, Elano, Kaká?), and not too far behind Spain’s. Alright, it mightn’t have that much pace either, but it’s still more skilful and will definitely keep the ball.

Neither Cambiasso nor Banega look like they’ll be going to the World cup, however, with the remaining places apparently being divvied up between Pastore, Maxi Rodriguez and Dátolo.

At least he’s got the strikers right. Well, almost: Higuaín, Messi, Milito, Tevez, Aguero… and Palermo. But what’s the point if the team is basically going to be divided in two parts with almost no relation between them except perhaps on the odd corner. Despite having said last year – before the infamous Bolivia match – that he’d have to bve a “moron” not to play Messi in the same position he plays in at Barcelona, and that “We mustn’t forget that we’re a team. I don’t want all the pressure to be on him. I want to build a team where Messi is the icing on the cake,” there’s nothing to suggest that Maradona has moved away from his narrow-minded, disastrous tactic of ‘just give the ball to Messi’.

Maradona’s main strategy, of course, his ace in the hole, his masterstoke, his mind-bogglingly brilliant brainwave, an idea so golden it led to a massive surge on Wall St and a national day of rest in Cuba, is that the Argentine jersey is a mystical garment that responds to tired rhetoric on the economic woes of a battered people and, if put on in the correct fashion, will impart skill, resilience and common sense to erstwhile directionless footballers.

Even Trap’s Ireland, for all our limitations, is a lot more sophisticated than that.

And for the record (!), supposing anyone reads this, I’ll now lay my own cards on the table:


Pareja           Samuel       Garay

Zanetti                   Masche              Jonás/Cambiasso


Messi                       Di María