With a little more than a week to go, Argentina defeated Angola 2-0 in our only friendly match before the World Cup.
It was a positive test and the most important thing is that we had no injuries to regret and some of our key players seem to be recovering their form.
Angola are not the rivals that will put you under a real, dangerous, tricky test. We won’t be facing a team as weak as Angola in the first round, let alone the following stages in Germany 2006, so it was not a matter of Argentina using Angola to create antibody to use against Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro or Holland. Angola was more of a sparring partner than anything else. Argentina needed to see if Gabriel HEINZE was 100% recovered from his knee injury, to see if Lionel MESSI was ready to run at defenders the way he used to and at the same time, to see if the rest of the team is in good form.
Based on what Argentina showed tonight, I can say that we have more than a few positive aspects and very few worrying things.
On the bright side of life we saw a solid defensive line that can adapt to different situations during a game and play with three or four men (with SORIN playing as a midfielder, leaving BURDISSO, AYALA and HEINZE behind when Argentina is in possession).
A couple of restless retrievers in MASCHERANO and CAMBIASSO in midfield, and the ever-present Maxi RODRIGUEZ running up and down the right hand side of the field.
RIQUELME is supposed to be the axis in which all the clever football and the through passes are supposed to come to life. Unfortunately this time he was not a factor and he couldn’t finish none of the attempts he had against Angola. His critics talk about his lack of speed but that’s exactly one of the things I think can be counted as RIQUELME’s attribute. We can name 100 players with lots of pace and stamina, but RIQUELME can be lethal when Argentina are winning and need to keep control of the ball or simply when what you need is someone to rule the pace of the game and dictate the way your team should attack by discovering the opposition’s weaknesses. He was unable to do it against Angola, but he is capable of doing it any day of the week. Plus, there are people saying Argentina rely only on RIQUELME, and the fact that PEKERMAN’s team was able to overcome a bad night by the Villarreal’s playmaker is another positive sign.
SAVIOLA and CRESPO didn’t score, but they played well. But the best news came in the second half when Lionel MESSI had the chance to play a few minutes. He is recovering from an injury sustained against Chelsea in March and I’m happy to see that he appeared to have shaken it away. He was mercurial tonight and when AIMAR came close to him, we were able to witness some sensational moves and a potential partnership to be used during the second half of each game at the World Cup.
Carlos TEVEZ is another of the strong weapons Argentina have up front and he only played 15 minutes tonight, but don’t count him out.
Angola might not be as strong as Ivory Coast, but if on June 10th at Hamburg, Argentina manage to play the level of football we’re capable of playing there should be plenty of chances to earn all three points in our World Cup debut.