FIFA World Cup 2010: Argentina Coach Diego Maradona Got It All Wrong
The clash of Argentina against Nigeria was expected to be the first high scoring game of the tournament, but it hasn't turned out to be so.
Argentina scored in the initial phase of the game but as the game progressed they squandered chances after chances and gave more than a reasonable opportunity for Nigeria to equalise.
The match finally ended with a 1-0 scoreline and a narrow victory for Argentina. But the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story. It wasn't as close a game, and Argentina should've scored more than three goals.
It was lacklustre finishing and poor midfield play that lead to a close finish.
Traditionally, Latin American teams take the breath away with their free-flowing football with creative midfielders controlling the tempo of the game, but that exact aspect wasn't visible in the game against Nigeria.
Argentina's major worry is the lack of midfielders who could take the game to the opponents. The end-result of this game would've been very different if they had a Riquelme.
The player who was supposed to control the midfield was Veron, a player well past his prime. He did give an impression that he couldn't match with the pace of his team-mates, in particular, Messi and Tevez.
His only contribution was the corner-kick which lead to the first goal; a brilliant header from Heinze darted past the obstacles into the top corner.
The player least expected to, scored the only goal of the game.
And the player who had the maximum number of chances squandered it all.
Gonzalo Higuain's performance up front was so poor that he shouldn't play the next match given the quality of strikers who can replace him.
Higuain wasted regulation chances in the first half and continued his poor show in the second.
Maradona was waving his hands in agony everytime Higuain missed glorious opportunities to give Argentina an unassailable lead.
However, Maradona did little to change the complexion of the game in the second half. He should've replaced Higuain and Veron a lot earlier than when he eventually did.
Sergio Aguero would've been a better bet than Higuain considering his flawless finishing and ability to swirl the ball past the goalkeeper into the net from free-kicks.
Maradona's 3-4-3 at times wasn't really impressive. Jonas Gutierrez at right back struggled to keep the Nigerian attackers away from the box.
His positional awareness was terrible and gave a lot of freedom for the opponents to attack from Argentina's right wing.
Taiwo almost scored from that part of the field when his shot whirled past the goalkeeper Romero, but just wide of the post.
Moreover, Gutierrez is a midfielder and it could turn out to be a nightmare if Maradona sticks with him at right back in big games against tougher opponents.
Messi and Tevez were brilliant. Some of the individual performances were brilliant, but as a team, Argentina isn't up to the mark.
Angel Di Maria too disappointed when expectations were sky-high.
Maradona should field a more balanced team in the next game. He should switch to a more traditional 4-3-3, but then again lack of creative players hamper the chances of Argentina coming out with flying colours with such an attacking formation.
Maradona must be regretting his stubbornness when he decided not to mellow down a bit with Riquelme, who could have single-handedly changed the whole complexion of Argentina's midfield.
As of now, the writing is on the wall. Maradona must try and delay the exit from the tournament for as long as possible.
He should field classical finishers like Diego Milito and Aguero and strengthen his right flank.
It remains to be seen how Maradona can inspire his squad in the forthcoming games.
The classical Latin American style is long gone with Maradona in charge.
He should formulate a new style that could take Argentina all the way just like how he did it in 1986.
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