Argentina: World Cup Dream XI
Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest player ever, doesn't have the coaching experience or mental stability to be the head coach of a youth team.
Nonetheless, he was handed the keys to one of the most talented footballing nations, Argentina. It was a great day for Argentina's rivals(Brazilians were doing the samba like it was Carnaval). But it was a somber day for neutrals, because it deprived us of watching a deeply talented team featuring the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, performing to its capability.
Maradona has capped over a 100 players in a year and a half as coach. I repeat, over 100 players!
For a game played with only 11 starters, that's a lot of players, especially when you have plenty of established stars playing across the globe.
Inevitably, Argentina barely scraped through the qualifying rounds to even make it to the World Cup, as the lack of cohesion showed in the team's play. A national team has barely enough time to gel into a cohesive unit, and Maradona ensured that La Albiceleste would be playing together like a group of random strangers in South Africa.
To top it off, his selection has been puzzling at best. Maradona's clashing coaching style has cost Argentina its best passer, Juan Riquelme. In a squad oozing with strikers, he selects 36-year-old Martin Palermo, a man well past his prime. In the year where Inter Milan defeat two league champions, Chelsea and Barcelona, on the way to the Champions League Final, he drops Javier Zanetti, the classy Inter captain.
Now no one knows what form Argentina will be in. Can Messi carry them like he did Barcelona this season? Who knows, but you are guaranteed to see some histrionics on the sideline from Diego.
So here is my dream Argentina XI that should be heading to the World Cup and would have given nightmares to opposing coaches.
Manager: Johan Cruyff
What do you do when God has placed a talent such as Lionel Messi in your laps?
Build the team around him as Barcelona did on their way to a stunning six trophies last year.
The perfect coach to do this is Johan Cruyff. Cruyff, also one of the greatest players ever, managed to translate his greatness into coaching unlike Maradona. He instituted the "Total Football" playing style, which he perfected while playing for Netherlands, into Barcelona when he led them to 11 trophies in his time there, the most by any Barcelona coach in history.
The playing style has been installed in the entire organization at Barcelona, including the youth teams where Messi honed his skills.
If any one man (other than Barca's coach Pep Guardiola) could get Messi to replicate his Blaugrana form for Argentina, it is Johan Cruyff.
GK: Sergio Romero
Goalkeeper is an often overlooked position for Argentina because of the assembly of talent in other positions.
Sergio Romero established himself at the 2008 Olympics when he replaced Oscar Catari and helped lead Argentina to the Gold Medal. He cemented his position when he helped AZ Alkamaar win the Dutch Eredevisie in 2008.
Substitutes: Oscar Ustari, Mariano Andujar
LB: Nicolas Burdisso
Nicolas Burdisso has been a rock during Roma's challenge for the Serie A title, as the league goes into the final weekend.
Pablo Zabaleta would have been a contender, but he has been riding the bench on Manchester City after all the new recruits have pushed him out after he played 41 times for them last year.
Although he plays RB for Roma, Burdisso has the versatility to play both flanks and CB.
Subs: Emiliano Insúa
CB: Javier Zanetti
The classy Inter captain has led his team to the Champions League Final, and even at the age of 36, he runs a marathon every game. On national teams, picking teammates that know each other is key due to the limited time they have to play together, and his understanding with Inter teammate, Walter Samuel, would solidify Argentina's backline.
Zanetti should also be captain, as his stabilizing presence would offset Maradona's chaos.
Subs: Ezequiel Garay, Martin DeMichelis
CB: Walter Samuel
If there's one common thread between Jose Mourinho teams, it is a stifling defense, and Walter Samuel has helped shut the vaunted Chelsea and Barcelona attacks for Inter on the way to the Champions League Final.
Subs: Garay, DeMichelis
RB: Jonás Gutiérrez
Every great team has one: a marauding wingback charging down the flanks. Brazil has Maicon, Spain has Sergio Ramos, England has Ashley Cole.
Though not a natural defensive player, Gutierrez has helped Newcastle re-enter the Premier League from the wings. He would be the perfect player to deliver balls into the area from the right-side, just like Dani Alves at Barca, as Messi often forays into the box from his right-striker position.
Sub: Clemente Rodriguez
Defensive MF: Javier Mascherano
Javier Mascherano is Maradona's captain because he's got Maradona's aggressiveness and temper on the pitch. While that makes him a bulldog defensive midfielder, it doesn't empower him to be a great captain, as you never know when he'll be kicked out of the game.
Sub: Esteban Cambiasso
Esteban Cambiasso is the hard-luck loser in this battle, as Mascherano plays in the same position, and Mash's tenacity makes him the winner.
Central MF: Juan Riquelme
There's no doubting Riquelme's talent and pedigree when it comes to distributing the ball. His sublime passing skills came in handy when he captained Argentina to the Gold Medal in the Beijing Olympics.
He's not even on the roster now, as he couldn't stand Maradona's positional strategy, which is a shame, as he's the perfect player to spray the ball to all the Argentian attacking talent.
Subs: Juan Sebastian Veron
Attacking MF: Lucho Gonzalez
Lucho Gonzalez was Porto's star when they made surprisingly deep runs into the Champions League every year. His performance earned him a $18 million move to Marseille, and he hasn't disappointed, leading Marseille to their first league championship in 18 years this year.
A versatile attacking midfielder who can score and distribute, he would be the yin to Riquelme's yang in the heart of the midfield.
Subs: Javier Pastore
Pastore has helped Palermo into a surprising 4th place in Serie A, serving as the trequartista.
Left Forward: Ángel Di María
Angel Di Maria has been tipped as the next Argentinian superstar, and it's been his performances for Benfica in the Argentian triumvarate along with Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola that have the caught the world's eye.
Rumored to be sought by Chelsea and Manchester United, he can serve sublime crosses, run by defenders, and score dazzling goals.
Sub: Kun Aguero
Aguero, a great striker in his own, but Maria's willingness to cross would serve this team better than Kun, who is a goal-poacher.
Striker: Diego Milito
Milito just beats out Gonzalo Higuain to this spot. The difference: Milito's ability to hold the ball and keep it from defenders with his size. He would also be a large body in the box in a team laden with short attacking players.
Not to mention his form with Inter, which has seen him score 27 times for the side, often playing as the only striker when Mourinho goes into ultra-defensive mode.
Finally playing on a big team, the world is able to see this clinical finisher who has averaged a goal every two games in his 11 year career.
Sub: Gonzalo Higuain
"El Pipita", Gonzalo Higuain has established himself as a vital part of the New Galacticos in Madrid even with all the new attacking talent brought in. 29 goals this year has seen him grow from wonderkid to star, but he still misses some easy opportunites. But he has a shown the knack for clutch goals, which would come in handy as a sub in late situations.
Right Forward: Lionel Messi
There's no explanation needed to justify his presence. The whole world will be watching the new "Maradona" every time he touches the ball.
He was left on the bench in Argentina's quarter-final loss to Germany by Jose Pekerman in the last World Cup in one of the biggest coaching mistakes ever, so he'll be eager to make up for lost time.
Maradona has already heaped a ton of pressure on the little genius, but Diego also is playing him out of position and not building the squad around Messi's strength.
Imagine if Messi had this XI behind him at South Africa and Cruyff instituting the Barcelona playing style.
Sub: Carlos Tevez
On any other team, Carlos Tevez would walk into the starting XI on the heels of his 29 goal performance for Manchester City this year. His boundless energy and his predatory instinct make him the most dangerous substitute at the World Cup.