23 to represent 38 millions (May 15th)


A few days ago a friend of mine told me to get my hands on the latest issue of FourFourTwo, a great football magazine published in England. Hailing from its cover you could see the likes of Lionel MESSI, Juan Roman RIQUELME, Hernan CRESPO and Juan Pablo SORIN, all of them behind the suggestive headline: ‘ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!’

Well, now that we know the 23 players PEKERMAN is taking to the World Cup, I think the headline in that magazine is spot on: 6 attacking players, a very offensive-minded midfield (with Cambiasso and Mascherano as the only two defensive midfielders by definition) and then the defenders, because Pekerman has to take them to Germany too, hasn’t he?

Being a fan of attacking football, I’m quite happy with this list. But I’m also a little bit concerned about the lack of defensive options if things go wrong during a game or the entire tournament. Here’s the list and my two-line opinion about each player:

1. Roberto ABBONDANZIERI (Goalkeeper, Boca Juniors -ARG-): Never played for Argentina as good as he does it for Boca. But he’s a great keeper and excels in penalty shoot-outs.

2. Roberto AYALA (Defender, Valencia -ESP-): One game away from the century of caps. Proven defender with experience but I think he is past his prime.

3. Juan Pablo SORIN (Midfielder, Villarreal -ESP-): PEKERMAN’s captain. Can play defense or midfield but he is also always present in the opposition box as a bonus forward. Let’s pray he is not our ONLY option up front (like he ended up being in 2002).

4. Fabricio COLOCCINI (Defender, Deportivo La Coruρa -ESP-): After seeing him failing to cover Adriano in the Copa America’s final (specially in that last play when Adriano sent the match to the penalty shoot-out), I just hope we don’t face Brazil with him in our starting lineup.

5. Esteban CAMBIASSO (Midfielder, Internazionale -ITA-): Had a great season for Inter. Experienced young player, great combination of tackling, positioning and passing. Playing under Pekerman since he was 15.

6. Gabriel HEINZE (Defender, Manchester United -ENG-): Coming back from injury but a great option considering he can play in every position in defense.

7. Javier SAVIOLA (Forward, Sevilla -ESP-): The victim under BIELSA (he was cut-out of the 2002 World Cup squad and players like Claudio LOPEZ made the trip!). Had a great season for Sevilla (top scorer in the winning UEFA Cup campaign) and always found the back of the net (River, Barcelona, Monaco…).

8. Javier MASCHERANO (Midfielder, Corinthians -BRA-): He runs and runs and rund bossing around in midfield. He’s everywhere and he makes the big pitches in Brazil look like a little garden. Europe…here he comes!

9. Hernan CRESPO (Forward, Chelsea -ENG-): Finally he is going to a World Cup as the main option up front. Always in BATISTUTA’s shadow he now has the chance to show his scoring credentials and convince the doubters in Argentina.

10. Juan Roman RIQUELME (Midfielder, Villarreal -ESP-): He’ll be wearing the mythical number 10. He finds in Pekerman his greatest admirer after suffering under BIELSA’s reign never being called up. Failed to score that crucial penalty against Arsenal in the Champions League but is poised for a great World Cup. If he fails…Argentina will fail too.

11. Carlos TEVEZ (Forward, Corinthians -BRA-): I can’t believe how can a small guy like him be so incredibly strong! I wish he starts up front with CRESPO and MESSI. If he does so, he’ll be one of the World Cup’s 3 best players.

12. Leonardo FRANCO (Goalkeeper, Atletico Madrid -ESP-): Established as one of the best keepers in La Liga. Won a Youth World Cup with PEKERMAN and tells great jokes. You’ve got to take him!

13. Lionel SCALONI (Defender, West Ham United -ENG-): Crucial under PEKERMAN at Under-20 level, but struggle to become a first team regular in Deportivo and just started to fight for a place at West Ham. ZANETTI was a better option in my eyes.

14. Rodrigo PALACIO (Forward, Boca Juniors -ARG-): The only field player who plays in our local league. Has a great combination of pace and skill. He could torment a few defensive lines coming from the bench. Could use his surprise effect given he is not well known in the rest of the world.

15. Gabriel MILITO (Defender, Zaragoza -ESP-): Would have loved to go to Germany with his brother (Diego, forward for Zaragoza too). Solid performer, strong, fast defender who could easily be on Ayala’s heels to push for a starting place.

16. Pablo AIMAR (Midfielder, Valencia -ESP-): Was one of the big question marks when PEKERMAN took the team to a retreat and Aimar wasn’t part of the group. But is one of PEKERMAN’s talismanic players and adds a quality option in the creative aspect of the game.

17. Leandro CUFRE (Defender, AS Roma -ITA-): A surprise on this list. Walter SAMUEL is not being considered by PEKERMAN and in terms of pure form in recent campaigns, he has a point. CUFRE can play in different positions and also won a Youth World Cup with Jose. But I would have taken Martin DEMICHELIS so to have another option at defensive midfielder.

18. Maximiliano RODRIGUEZ (Midfielder, Atletico Madrid -ESP-): A road-runner who can cover defensive positions in midfield and can arrive very frequently to scoring positions. Has a knack for scoring and I fancy him getting a couple of goals in Germany.

19. Lionel MESSI (Forward, Barcelona -ESP-): The best young player in the world (beating Wayne ROONEY to the prize). He has a devastating pace and magical control. Could tear the top defensive units apart. Could be Argentina’s super-sub if PEKERMAN is not brave enough to use him as a super-starter.

20. Julio CRUZ (Forward, Internazionale -ITA-): It would have been very unfair if he was left out again. In a team (Inter) in which ADRIANO played more minutes this season, Julio ‘The Gardener’ CRUZ scored one more goal than the mighty brazilian. That says it all. A great back up for CRESPO.

21. Nicolas BURDISSO (Defender, Internazionale -ITA-): After overcoming a family problem, he returned to Inter and played greatly. He is another player who can perform in every position of the backline.

22. Luis GONZALEZ (Midfielder, Porto -POR-): As quiet as he is talented. Have just won the double in Portugal (League and Cup) and was Porto’s top-goalscorer in the Superliga. A significant feat considering he has just arrived and he plays in midfield.

23. Oscar USTARI (Goalkeeper, Independiente -ARG-): The best prospect of a goalkeeper we have in Argentina. Has a future in Europe and will gain experience by joining the team in Germany.

As I mentioned before, I’m quite happy with this list, even though if it was up to me, Javier ZANETTI would be playing his third World Cup. Other than that, I feel sorry for Martin DEMICHELIS who is an established player for Bayern Munich and the young Sergio AGÜERO who will be a star in South Africa 2010 with 4 seasons in Europe’s top level. You’ll see!

Now mis amigos, it’s time to ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!