Argentina-Canada: Maradona's Last Tune Up Before the World Cup?

John Tilghman Correspondent IMay 23, 2010

In a celebration of the country’s bicentennial, Argentina will take on Canada on Monday, May 25 at the Estadio Monumental in Nunez.

After a match against The United Arab Emirates fell through—much to the dismay of manager Diego Maradona—it could be the team's last friendly before the World Cup Finals begin next month.

There have been attempts to schedule a match against World Cup hosts South Africa, but to no avail. It seems likely that the failure to lock down the match in the Middle East means that the next time the National Team takes the pitch will be June 12th against Nigeria in Johannesburg.

In addition to the scheduling conflict, Maradona is bothered by the fact that he will not be able to count on three players who took part in Saturday’s Champions League Final. Starting central defenders Walter Samuel and Martin Demichelis will not be ready to play against Canada. Even more troubling, the pair will not have had any match time together before the World Cup begins.

Just a week ago, Maradona was very adamant that he already had chosen his starting eleven. It seems now that El Diez could deploy a more attacking formation against the Canadians, with Carlos Tevez coming into the side to form a potent attack trident with Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain.

Maradona’s attacking options have become even more complicated given the recent form of Diego Milito, scorer of both of Inter’s goals in the Champions League Final. The former Racing star will be unavailable against Canada, but will jump into the fray later in the week.

Across the back, Maradona could use tireless worker Jonas Gutierrez at right back. Nicolas Otamendi and Nicolas Burdisso will replace the absent duo of Samuel and Demichelis. At leftback, Marseille’s Gabriel Heinze, a player Maradona feels epitomizes the fighting spirit needed to win a World Cup, retains his usual spot.

Captain Javier Mascherano will sit in front of the backline. However, it is uncertain if Juan Sebastian Veron will be ready for the match after featuring in a Copa Libertadores match for Estudiantes against Inter last Thursday. Should Veron not win the race against fitness, Maxi Rodriguez should start in his place, as he did in training Saturday.

Winger Angel Di Maria—recently voted the Best Player of the Portuguese Super Liga—will play on the left, but with the freedom to switch to the right flank in order to link up with Messi, Tevez, and Higuain as he sees fit.

If the experimental front three does indeed succeed against the admittedly undermanned Canadians, Maradona may have to rethink his counterattacking approach. An Approach he was steadfast on using only days ago.

Given the events of today’s training, it is believed El Diego will implement a more attacking formation in the group stage against organized defensive teams like South Korea and Greece. However, he will revert to his more defensive game plan that earned tough victories against Uruguay and Germany during the knockout rounds.

In addition to giving Maradona a chance to try out a new formation, the match will allow him to try some fresh blood in the team.

Palermo’s Javier Pastore —voted the Best Young Player in Serie A— is a serious candidate to receive second half playing time. Additionally, Estudiantes man Clemente Rodriguez, the only true attacking fullback on the roster, should be given a run out as well.

Predicted Formation: Sergio Romero; Jonas Gutierrez, Nicholas Burdisso, Nicholas Otamendi, Gabriel Heinze; Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Juan Sebastian Veron; Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and Gonzalo Higuain. 


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