Argentina v Mexico – Waxwings & False Idols

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?

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.

Maradona Interview 24/6/’10 – Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

Olé: You speak about the players’ potential. And people say Argentina is a great team thanks to them alone. Does that make you feel proud or under-appreciated?

M: Proud. I’d love to be the last person to kiss the Cup as the players would have won it. Let’s get that clear. I just want to be one more happy, jersey-wearing Argentinian.

Olé: In any case, can you perceive a respect for Maradona the manager that wasn’t there before?

M: I never believed what some people were saying about me. I knew what I was capable of, what I could do. And since I didn’t believe them in the first place, it’s not such a massive leap now from what they were saying about me during the qualifiers. I’ve always been the same and I knew this moment was going to arrive [yawn], that I was going to have the Mascherano I have now and not the Mascherano who had half his head in Madrid and half in Barcelona. I knew I was going to have this Messi, this Tevez…

Olé: Are you enjoying the World Cup as much as you imagined you would?

M: No, I knew it was going to be like this. For a while now i’ve been saying it to anyone who wanted to listen. We had a ten day training camp to work out certain matters, to figure out what the team would be. If that work hadn’t manifested itself on the pitch afterwards, we wouldn’t have had much to say for ourselves, but thankfully we had plenty of chances in the three games we’ve played so far. So we’re fully justified in enjoying the moment right now and can look forward with great optimism.

Friday nights in out-patients, who said I lied to her?

Oh, who said I’d lied? – because I never, I never

Who said I’d lied ? – because I never

Pegamequemegusta has spent the last two weeks feverishly trying to think up reasons as to why the hell we’d get out of bed when there’s a tv, a bucket and a scratching post in the room. However, today’s promise of a juicy interview with Diego Maradona in today’s Olé saw us blinking and shuffling our way down the street to the local newspaper stand.

As always with Maradona there are some good lines, some silly exaggerations and some glimpses of that sublime, strategic, footballing intellect that conjured up assists like Burruchaga’s third in ’86 as well as a couple of hints of the manic media whore, subdued these days, but always lurking beneath the surface.Some of the interview appeared in the Guardian earlier today but we reckon it’s shoddy enough to leave so much out so we’ve undertaken to bring you the whole thing. Also our translation is different in several parts: if you don’t like it or have anything else to say, pegáme que me gusta.

  • Olé: Is Messi ready to be the Maradona of 1986 or should we be thinking of Maradona in ’82?

  • Maradona: Messi’s broken the mold. Enough with the comparisons. He’s proved he’s fit to wear the crown.

  • Olé: Lionel said he’s playing as he is now thanks to you.
  • M: I appreciate the comment but Lío’s where he is because he wants to be there. He looks happy, content. He’s having a good time; he wants to play. For all those who said that Messi didn’t sing the anthem, that he looked unhappy… Well, who likes losing? And we were losing games in the qualifiers. Now everything’s changed and we all take pride in making Messi happy. Even his teammates. You know, you see him around the place these days and he’s cracking jokes with Pastore, with Garcé, with lads he’d never bumped into in his whole bleedin life. Or he speaks to Verón. I spy on all of them. La Bruja [Verón] is a football intellectual: he knows a lot more about football than Lío does but they have long conversations and the chiseller talks back, you know. It’s nice to be a part of those chats.

  • Olé: You were worried about Messi and you went to Barcelona. Is that where the transformation started? Besides his position, what changed?

  • M: It never occurred to me to play Messi in one fixed position. I want him close to the ball. When he gets it there’s always the possibility of a counter attack, of keeping the ball, of creating a chance or putting another player through on goal. He hasn’t been able to score yet but don’t forget that I only showed up in the quarter finals in Mexico ’86. When he gets it we’ll all go running to embrace him.

  • Olé: Did he tell you where he felt most comfortable on the pitch?

  • M: No, no. I went to tell Messi that no-one told me where I had to play [bangs one fist on top of the other]. So I didn’t have to tell Messi where he had to play. He had to decide to play wherever he wanted [keeps on clapping for emphasis]. And anyway he was already grown up and man enough to have the balls to say ‘this ball is mine, boys, i’m the one who knows best how to sort this out’. I had to do it once and now it’s Messi’s turn.

    Messi's growing up
  • Olé: So the message to Lionel was ‘I’m going to back you but you have to rebel, to be yourself’.

  • M: Things change, you know. The 18-year-old Messi is not the same guy as the Messi who turns 23 today. He’s become more and more mature as that’s how things are; because the world makes such demands on him, because that’s what Barcelona wants, what Argentina wants, what the Arabs want, you know [laughs]. And you’ve got to be prepared, just like Lío is. I love it when he comes to me and says ‘I want to play’, as he did before the Greece match. ‘Go on, go on, go on, let me play’, he says. It’s marvelous. I was going to play him anyway [laughs]. But I want people to know how much Messi wants the ball and how much he loves the jersey.

  • Olé: Is your management style characterised by letting the players get on with it?

  • M: Yes and no – the only players you give free rein to are those capable of doing it. You don’t give Messi the same kind of freedom you give to Bolatti, Jonás or Burdisso. You have to take into consideration who’s able for it. That depends on how I see things on the pitch. And I have to know who gets on well with whom, which players understand each other, who’s up for it. Just as you have to be solid at the back and in the middle and a lightning bolt going forward.

  • Ole: Another difference with Messi these days is the expression on his face, on the pitch and in interviews. He used to speak while looking at the ground but now he goes around with his head held high.

  • M: He’s a man, he’s a man. And it’s beautiful to be by his side at this point in his life; to be able to talk to him – not to give him advice, that’s what his family’s for – but to be around him.

  • Olé: Leo said that he wasn’t himself in the qualifiers. Is it the same for you?

  • M: I’ve got more time now. And if you have time to work, things will get better. Especially with these players. You have room to invent, to let your imagination run for a free kick with Messi and Verón, for example, even though ultimately they work it out for themselves. If there are two in the wall and you’ve got two standing over it: Messi rolls it to Verón, the whole defence goes after him and Messi gets space; and one on one Messi is lethal. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that?

  • Olé: You speak about the players’ potential. And people say Argentina is a great team thanks to them alone. Does that make you feel proud or under-appreciated?

  • M: Proud. I’d love to be the last person to kiss the Cup as the players would have won it. Let’s get that clear. I just want to be one more happy, jersey-wearing Argentinian.

  • Olé: In any case, can you perceive a respect for Maradona the manager that wasn’t there before?

  • M: I never believed what some people were saying about me. I knew what I was capable of, what I could do. And since I didn’t believe them in the first place, it’s not such a massive leap now from what they were saying about me during the qualifiers. I’ve always been the same and I knew this moment was going to arrive [yawn], that I was going to have the Mascherano I have now and not the Mascherano who had half his head in Madrid and half in Barcelona. I knew I was going to have this Messi, this Tevez…

  • Olé: Are you enjoying the World Cup as much as you imagined you would?

  • M: No, I knew it was going to be like this. For a while now i’ve been saying it to anyone who wanted to listen. We had a ten day training camp to work out certain matters, to figure out what the team would be. If that work hadn’t manifested itself on the pitch afterwards, we wouldn’t have had much to say for ourselves, but thankfully we had plenty of chances in the three games we’ve played so far. So we’re fully justified in enjoying the moment right now and can look forward with great optimism.

  • Olé: You’re the only manager who goes around kissing your players; you have quite a unique style. The other day an English journalist mentioned it.

  • M: I’ve always been the same. If you want we can train morning, noon and night but if there’s no connection with the players it’s useless. The players write the story. Let no-one be under the impression that there’s some kind of magician behind all this. Here the magic comes from the guys in the shorts and that’s how it’ll be until the last ball is kicked in this world. Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Menotti, Bilardo, Basile, there are loads of managers who’ve done things in football. But they’ve all done it through their players.

  • Olé: What marks you out from those managers?

  • M: That i’m here at just the right time, and with a group of players that have come together to bring a little happiness to the people. I’m the lucky hoor who’s got all of them at the same time. Maybe other managers are missing one or two, or someone got lost along the way. Thanks be to God my group is intact and and they’re all fit. What else could I ask for?

  • Olé: The players are the ones who get the result, obviously, but there are managers who contrive to total their Ferrari. Do you feel you’re in the best possible state to avoid crashing it?

  • M: Maybe. I matured like a Formula 1 car ’cause the World Cup requires you to make quick decisions. All the same, this has been a long process. I knew that once we got it into their heads just what the Argentina jersey means, what a World Cup is, we knew things were going to work out. Just as I was saying about Messi earlier…

  • Olé: Have you seen anyone that’s come close to him?
  • M: In this world Cup I haven’t seen anyone who even approaches even one-third of Messi’s performances so far. Maybe tomorrow they’ll say i’m arrogant, but I haven’t seen anyone that’s been 30% of Tevez either. When Carlitos plays, it’s bloody moving, you know. I love my team. The favourite everyone was banging on about, with Xavi and Iniesta, lost 1-0 to Switzerland. And it’s not as if they didn’t have the ball. I’m going to steal the line el Negro Enrique used: if the goals were at the side of the pitch instead of at either end, Spain would’ve won 10-1, you know. And it’s true. They keep the ball, keep the ball, keep the ball, but when the hell are we going to attack? When I said we didn’t deserve to lose against Spain [2-0 in a friendly last year], they fell around the place laughing in Buenos Aires because they had the ball the whole match. Di María nearly tore them a new one on more than one occasion – if he had we would’ve pulled away and good night.

  • Olé: Do you say Argentina aren’t favourites in order to avoid triumphalism at home?

  • M: You’ve got to let others be the favourites and let them knock their heads together. We go from game to game. Next up, Mexico, in the last 16.

  • Ole: Who works out the free-kicks on the blackboard?
  • M: Me, Mancu and el Negro [Enrique]. We watch games and come up with ideas. Although it’s usually me who comes up with most of them [laughs]. My ideas are the most outlandish. Heinze’s goal against Nigeria came about because we saw that they liked to hold on to their opponents. So I said ‘Alright lads, if these guys think they’re so bloody strong, i’m going to put a couple of strong lads along the six yard box and they’re not going to be able to get out. I’m going to put three human barriers [lit. ‘walls’]: Samuel, Demichelis, Tevez; and the dark lads won’t be able to get out. We’ll stick el Gringo [Heinze] on the penalty spot and he’ll tear the net in two.’ We did it in training and our own defenders couldn’t handle it, they couldn’t get out [of the six yard box]. I knew we’d break the deadlock that way. That’s why when we scored I wasn’t shouting ‘Goooal’, I was saying ‘It worked! The move worked!’

  • Olé: As a player you distinguished yourself by having a particularly strategic mind. When did you make the leap from player to manager?

  • M: The thing is you have to cross that river of questions and sort them out at home, think the whole team through; forget the critics and think about what the possibilities are with this group of players. I spent the whole time watching players. That’s why it was so difficult to narrow it down to the final squad.

  • Olé: Who has influenced you most as a manager [lit. ‘Who have you taken most from?’]

  • M: I like Mourinho a lot. Apart from how [well] he treated me. We talked for hours about football. He’s the kind of bloke you’d love to have on your night-stand just to ask him things. I have his phone number so I might ring him yet [laughs].

  • Olé: Would you really ring him up during a World Cup?

  • M: Yeah, if I had a doubt about something, i’d give him a call.

  • Olé: But you wouldn’t copy his tactics from the second leg against Barça.

  • M: Nooooooo, definitely not. But grand, that’s what he needed to get the result. He won the Champion’s League, again. Think about it: we’d look like a right pair of eejits if we came out and said that. ‘Ah, those eejits say they wouldn’t do the same thing.’ He’d just say: ‘What do I care?’

  • Olé: With regard to styles, when did you change from the idea of the four centre backs to this more attacking team?

  • M: I had the idea knocking round my head for a good while but I didn’t have the players available to do it. Some were tired, the other had his own problems, some wanted to leave the clubs they were at… There were a good few obstacles that were quite serious. But when I got them together, free of all their mental baggage, I told them: ‘Go forward, you know how’. It’s not all about defending.

  • Olé: In that respect the team is quite similar to the ’94 team, as regards keeping the ball so the opposition doesn’t have it.

  • M: I repeat that premiss every single day: if we have the ball, they don’t. And this team is much more capable of keeping the ball than any other team in the world, they’re all so comfortable. They all know how to play. You see Demichelis bringing the ball out from the back and you say to yourself ‘If I play him as a striker he’s capable of turning a few defenders.’ You look at Jonás and you say ‘Check out this gangly-lookin’ rake’, but he gets to the byline and cuts the ball back.

  • Olé: Is there any team in particular you’d like to come up against?

  • M: Nooooooooooooooo, we’ll take them as they come. There’s no team in particular we’d prefer to meet.

  • Olé: Earlier you mentioned Spain.
  • M: If we have them on the edge of a cliff we’re going to push them over. In a World Cup there are no second chances. But it’s the same for them, eh: if they have us at the edge of a cliff, they’ll push us off too. They’re hardly going to stretch out a hand to bring you back up. They’re going to step on your fingers so you fall. That’s just how it is.

  • Olé: What would you give to be world champion?

  • M: An arm. I’d give an arm for that trophy.
  • Olé: You know it’s pretty cold these days to go running naked round the Obelisco. Did you think it through?

  • M: Yeah, it is, but I never said when exactly I was going to do it [laughs].

Argentina v Greece – Plan B, Mink Winklepickers & Colombian Cartels

You see, it turns out Diego Maradona, the world’s best ever football player, knows a thing or two about football. And it also turns out that Diego Maradona, a big game player if ever there was one, and Argentina’s cheerleader in chief over the last few years, knows a thing or two about getting his players in the right frame of mind for important games. The garrulous rogue from the Buenos Aires slums has channelled all the nervous energy that saw him fritter away his extensive gifts into a lightening rod to draw attention away from his players. Somehow or other, the erstwhile looneytune, whose Wile E. Coyote-like dedication to pressing the self-destruct button was matched only by his childlike lust for saying the wrong thing, has has left behind the brood of vipers that stalked him in the desert and stumbled upon an oasis of lucidity [in an arbour of mixed metaphors – ed].

Yes, oh my dear handsome readers, pegamequemegusta is insufferably optimistic. This is the kind of positivity ions dream about. You won’t see a more reckless trade in rose-tinted glasses this side of Mardi Gras. We make Mormons look like Frenchmen. An ounce of our exuberance would keep a Colombian cartel in mink winklepickers for a decade.

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 3:10

Pegamequemegusta is giddy, giddy with the kind of unbridled joy usually associated with schoolgirls. Since the spoilsport authorities have repeatedly stated we are not allowed to share said unbridled joy with said schoolgirls, we turn to you in our unbridled joy to convey our schoolgirlish giddiness.

You see, it turns out Diego Maradona, the world’s best ever football player, knows a thing or two about football. And it also turns out that Diego Maradona, a big game player if ever there was one, and Argentina’s cheerleader in chief over the last few years, knows a thing or two about getting his players in the right frame of mind for important games. The garrulous rogue from the Buenos Aires slums has channelled all the nervous energy that saw him fritter away his extensive gifts into a lightening rod to draw attention away from his players. Somehow or other, the erstwhile looneytune, whose Wile E. Coyote-like dedication to pressing the self-destruct button was matched only by his childlike lust for saying the wrong thing, has has left behind the brood of vipers that stalked him in the desert and stumbled upon an oasis of lucidity [in an arbour of mixed metaphors – ed].

Yes, oh my dear handsome readers, pegamequemegusta is insufferably optimistic. This is the kind of positivity ions dream about. You won’t see a more reckless trade in rose-tinted glasses this side of Mardi Gras. We make Mormons look like Frenchmen. An ounce of our exuberance would keep a Colombian cartel in mink winklepickers for a decade.

As you know, Argentina won their first two games and look set to qualify for the second round, where they’ll most likely play Mexico or Uruguay. Of course it won’t be easy by any means. Many’s the oath that will no doubt pass through the bandages covering most of pegamequemegusta’s botched botox face job. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say, fairer than a flaxen haired youth on midsummer’s day, that none of the teams on Argentina’s side of the draw are particularly intimidating. They should be able to make the semi finals (and may even go on to continue their glorious losing streak against Brazil).

Even the prospect of playing Germany, more potentially ominous déja vu, no longer frightens us quite so much as it did last week. We grow bold, we grow bold, we shall wear the bottoms of our short-shorts rolled. Germany were at home. Lahm should have been sent off. The goalkeeper got injured. Pekerman made bad decisions. It was a fluke. It was a fluke. It was a fluke. It was a fluke.

But Mr Quemegusta, one of the few street children not to get a blast from our crutches yet, asks, ‘qué pasa con la defensa? El señor Demichelis es malo. Muy malo.’ ‘Aye pibe, he is,’ we intone with the gravitas our position of gringo requires, ‘but there are signs that things might change are afoot.’ We toss him a cigarette for his troubles before moving on to the realm of pure thought.

As you’ll no doubt know by now (pegamequemegusta walks the line but we ain’t the wire), especially if you follow us on twitter, the Argentina team for today’s final group game against Greece has many changes. There are seven in all: Otamendi for Jonás, Burdisso for Samuel, Clemente for Heinze, Bolatti for Mascherano, Verón for Di María, Agüero for Tevez, and Milito for Higuaín. So the team will look like this:

Most people have put the seven changes in the team down to suspensions and player-appeasement. However, pegamequemegusta reckons that the changes constitute an alternative line-up that we may well see again in the competition. Todays experiment, if successful, could well become orthodox theory.

The great worry so far, for example, has been the defence, and in particular, right back. Owing to Jonás’ suspension, Nico Otamendi will play there today. He’s really a centre back (AC Milan were reported to have offered about €10m for the 22-year-old last month) and we’d be withholding the full truth from our shareholders if we said we were happy when Diego first mooted this plan. Nonetheless, putting a robot programmed only to head and kick would be preferable to continuing with the set-up used so far. Maradona may not want to drop Jonás but a fine performance by Otamendi today would surely give him grounds for a change, especially since the latter was originally expected to be a starter.

Likewise Clemente Rodriguez, a player pegamequemegusta wouldn’t have had near the squad even if he hadn’t handed back that video of us with the giraffe. Ostensibly the man with Zanetti’s jersey – Garcé has not been picked; that decision was made before Diego had his 5th Act moment of clarity –  the two-footed Estudiantes full back starts today on the left of the defence. Unlike Otamendi and Heinze, who’s carrying a booking, Clemente’s strong point is getting forward. In a lopsided team, such a characteristic could prove highly valuable. Despite all our misgivings, it will be interesting to see how he does today.

What gave pegamequemegusta hope for change and stayed our hand from slapping the insolent child earlier, was the possibility of Demichelis losing his place. For if the Otamendi/Clemente experiments prove successful, and Burdisso acquits himself competently at centre back, as with Jonás, Maradona will be justified in organising a defensive rejig not seen since Moe stopped giving those jive-dancing lessons.

Again, this seemingly temporary change in line-up could consolidate itself this afternoon and form a genuine alternative for a team that for all its strengths and impressive showings thus far, is still lacking in experience and a plan B. Lest we forget, and despite what we said above, this was arguably Pekerman’s undoing in 2006.

A major part of the construction of this plan B is of course the midfield. As with the defence, it’s not so much a question of which player will fit better into a strict tactical system rather than the shape of the team being determined by the particular characteristics of the players. For example, Verón’s absence in the last game due to injury saw the introduction of Maxi Rodriguez. He brought greater mobility, more going forward and more protection to Jonás at right back. Should be a lock. Verón is a very important player for Maradona, however, on and off the pitch. Indeed, for this game it appears he insisted on playing so as not to lose further ground on the starting eleven.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration but in any case this will be the first game where we will see a more or less orthodox 4-3-3. Previously it had been claimed that Di María was forming part of that midfield three but really he was closer to the front four. We wondered at length last week what Diego would do about the misfiring Di María: drop him or work to get the best out of him. Diego put his arm around the young man’s shoulder and he delivered an improved performance.

We don’t know what to make of the situation: we had high hopes and really felt he could shine, especially considering the amount of focus, and defenders, that was going to be on Messi. We’re only two games in, of course, but already in pegamequemgusta’s asbestos freedom tower, we reckon he might be best employed as an impact sub.

El Kun starred in yet another under-20 WC win in Canada 2007

Pegamequemegusta recalls an interview with Agüero after Argentina’s win in the under-20 WC in 2007 where he said the same thing about himself. When asked what his ideal starting line-up would be, he said with Tevez and Messi. You wouldn’t include yourself, asked the journo. “No,” he said, “i’d come on with twenty minutes to go to run the tired defenders ragged.” Interestingly enough, Higuaín refused to travel to that tournament since he reckoned he should be in and around the first team squad. Yet he ended up making his debut much later than el Kun for that very reason. The latter starts today and is worth his place considering his contribution on Thursday, which fulfilled his prophecy to the letter. However, failing a four-goal masterclass in piss-taking, we reckon Carlitos will be back for the last 16 game. What Milito does with his chance will also be scintillating, of course.

So today we will see a vastly changed team, an experimental team and one led by Messi for the first time. It’s not just a tiny-screws-in-space experiment though. With FIFA’s ingenious decision not to wipe out yellow cards until after the quarter finals, it is quite possible that some players, especially Mascherano, will miss at least one game through suspension if Argentina continue to progress through the rounds. In this respect, as we’ve discussed before, the strength in depth of Maradona’s squad will come under more scrutiny than pegamequemegusta’s navel. Bolatti playing centre mid is not just a wry joke. He might well play there in the quarter finals. Otamendi might well be entrusted with quelling Germany’s rainbow attack.

In less than two hours Argentina will no doubt win 3-0 and advance to play Mexico in the second round, with their youngest ever captain scoring his first goal in this World Cup. The make-up of their challenge for the rest of the tournament is still very much a work in progress, however. Today’s experiment could change the whole face of the team for later games. Let’s hope it answers more questions than it raises.

Maradona’s got nothing wrong so far, not even the press conferences. Pegamequemegusta is as giddy as a schoolgirl.