Argentina doesn’t want to win the World Cup.
Why else has the Argentinean FA allowed the shambolic reign of Diego Maradona to continue?
They played the best football at Germany 2006, with Esteban Cambiasso’s goal against Serbia after 24 passes a highlight of the tournament.
Many of those players are still around. The defence may have lost mainstays such as Juan Pablo Sorin and Roberto Ayala, but still boasts Gabriel Heinze, Martin Demechelis, Javier Zanetti, and Walter Samuel, amongst others.
In Cambiasso and captain Javier Mascherano, Argentina has two of the best holding players in the world.
Further forward, they can call on the likes of Lucho Gonzalez, Maxi Rodriguez, Juan Sebastian Veron, Pablo Aimar, and Sergio Aguero—some of the most technically gifted players in world football.
In attack, players such as Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez, and Gonzalo Higuain would walk into numerous other national team lineups.
Then there is the small matter of Lionel Messi, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or holder. The Barcelona player has been in imperious form yet again this season and is arguably the best player in the world.
With this embarrassment of riches, Argentina should be touted as World Cup favourites along with arch rivals Brazil and European Champions Spain. Instead it has been the performances of La Selección that have been the embarrassment.
After the departure of Alfio Basile, the Argentinean FA made the bizarre decision to appoint national hero Diego Maradona as manager, despite his well-documented personal issues and his lack of managerial experience.
Maradona proceeded to oversee a chaotic qualifying campaign in which over 100 players were called upon. A place in the finals was only secured with a last gasp win against Uruguay in their final game.
During a turbulent reign punctuated by clashes with officials and foul mouthed tirades directed at the media, Maradona has managed to alienate inspirational player maker Juan Roman Requelme, encouraging the 31-year-old to retire prematurely from international football.
Overseeing a succession of poor performances, Maradona has succeeded where the majority of Spanish and European defences have failed by limiting the impact of the usually unstoppable Messi.
Naïve, ineffective leadership and lamentable personal behaviour would have been enough to remove any other manager long ago.
The greater crime of failing to get the best out of the best player in the world is one that only Maradona, as the greatest hero of Argentinean football (and indeed the nation itself) would have been able to survive.
The Argentinean FA has continued to back their former superstar despite all the evidence against him and It looks very much as if he will be permitted to lead the squad to South Africa.
The Argentinean public, although still in thrall to the memories of Diego on the pitch, will surely be watching the tournament through the gaps in their fingers at the performances of a disorganised, fragmented squad.
Although fortunate to receive a favorable draw in the group stages, Argentina are unlikely to progress when they meet an opponent with even a modicum of skill and organization.
Maradona the player was able to perform miracles on the pitch, carrying an average team to the trophy in 1986. Maradona the manager has thus far proven incapable of replicating this galvanising affect from the bench.
For most countries, choosing to replace the manager two months before a major tournament would be unthinkable.
For Argentina, sacking Maradona now and allowing a new man to restore pride and direction to a gifted squad is the best chance they have of salvaging a World Cup finals campaign that will otherwise be doomed before a ball has been kicked.