It’s incredible how badly Argentina has fallen. Yet just as remarkable is the fact that a win on Tuesday would put them back on course for qualification.
One win in five matches. One win (which could ultimately prove to be decisive) against Uruguay has kept Argentina afloat in World Cup qualifications the past few matches. What happened against Brazil was not accidental. The 3-0 result, which easily could have been more had Brazil not fluffed their chances in front of goal, was coming.
Brazil’s been on the rise and Argentina has taken an opposite trajectory. But the results involving the other teams in South America went Argentina’s way. While Brazil and Uruguay are drifting away from everyone and have half a foot in for Russia, the other three teams ahead of Argentina are still very much within distance. So much so that a win for Argentina against Colombia on Tuesday (combined with results going in their favor) can see Argentina move up to third place behind Uruguay.
The three teams ahead of Argentina (along with Brazil and Uruguay) are Ecuador, Colombia and Chile. Ecuador have a home match against Venezuela where they are expected to get three points. Chile are at home against Uruguay where they can very easily drop points and Argentina are at home to Colombia. A very likely scenario can see Ecuador winning with Chile getting a draw against Uruguay. A win for Argentina would see them leapfrog both Chile and Colombia and go into fourth place. But just as much, both Ecuador and Chile can win and Argentina can draw or even lose to Colombia.
Pablo ZABALETA and Lucas BIGLIA cited that psychologically speaking, it’s getting to the players. Edgardo BAUZA doesn’t seem to have a very strong tactical plan (if a plan at all) and many of the players shouldn’t be starting for the team. In a match, you look for your goalkeeper to make a key save. Sergio ROMERO did not do that. Pablo ZABALETA (who’s been a strong servant for the National Team) is not getting any younger and was getting toyed with more than once. The center backs were clumsy, the left back spot is up for grabs, the midfield has no creativity or balance and the attack, well, the less said, the better.
In short, the team is in need of a massive overhaul. Many have been banging on the drums since the end of the World Cup. The teams needs new faces. Young, dynamic players who are hungry to play. Currently, it’s a squad consisting of broken down and slow players. Argentine coaches are always very scared of introducing young players into the squad. The last one to regularly do that was Jose PEKERMAN over a decade ago. Since that time, coaches have been hanging on to the players they know for the longest time. And it is continuing to cost the country and the fans.
On current form, there would be absolutely no harm in starting Geronimo RULLI over Sergio ROMERO. With the way things are going, there’s no reason why Leandro PAREDES and Manuel LANZINI should not be in the squad. With the way he’s been playing, Angel DI MARIA should not even be anywhere near the team as Argentina has more than enough capable players to replace him. Good or bad, we know what Gonzalo HIGUAIN and Sergio AGUERO can bring to the team. What we don’t know is what a Mauro ICARDI or Luciano VIETTO can add to it.
Simply throwing names in there and starting them mean nothing if the team doesn’t have a plan. And that’s when the coach comes in. BAUZA says one thing and does the other. He states that MESSI is very important to the team and that he should not be isolated when on the pitch. Yet come kick off, DI MARIA is all the way on the left losing the ball and HIGUAIN is offside and offers little to no movement. MESSI’s options? Passing it to Javier MASCHERANO or Lucas BIGLIA.
There was an instance near the end of the match where MESSI received the ball and dribbled past a few Brazilian players. Got inside the area and crossed it (the ball was blocked). But in the area was AGUERO who had just gotten there and a Gonzalo HIGUAIN who wasn’t anywhere near the area. There’s simply not enough support among the forwards.
And the supporting cast isn’t helping. The squad does not have enough players who can score from distance. Not enough players who are willing to track back but also good on the ball in moving forward. What’s been happening is MESSI is receiving the ball in the middle of the pitch and has no passing outlet. If MESSI is going to be played in midfield, he needs dynamic players around him willing to get the ball and make the runs. Otherwise, he’s being marked out of the match and the other players stand there without any idea of what to do.
The midfield against Brazil was completely overrun and overworked. When they did get the ball, they were very slow and predictable in their decision making. Very static in everything. For BAUZA, it’s one thing to go with three central midfielders in a World Cup Qualifier to try and grind out a result. But it’s another when it’s your actual gameplan for every match.
Against Colombia, it could very much be a different kind of match. This team has proven in the past that it’s capable of winning. But it’s also shown us that they are capable of reaching rock bottom time and time again. Which Argentina shows up will depend on not only the tactical plan of the coach but the mentality of the players.