03 July 2010

Germany 4 x Argentina 0

The last time Argentina were so convincingly beaten in the World Cup was when they suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the feet of Czechoslovakia in 1958. Argentina had refused to participate in the World Cups of 1938, 1950, and 1954. Their rude re-introduction to international football was a national embarrassment, the defeat figuring heavily in the national consciousness for decades. The utter thrashing that Maradona's side suffered today will never be forgotten and has permanently altered the historical trajectory of El Pibe de Oro.

Argentina never came together as a whole team during the reign of Don Diego. The attack had nothing to do with the defense and vice versa. His team selections were based as much on personality as capability, and those who didn't fit in with Diego's worldview (Riquelme, Camibasso, Zanetti) were dropped or refused to play for him. Their absences were cruical to today's result. There was no one to distribute the ball through the center of midfield as Mascherano was busy trying to catch Schweinsteiger. The initial dependence on Veron for creative attacking gave way to...nothing. Riquelme!

Otamendi had performed better than Gutierrez on at right back, but today, all four goals came from Germany's left flank, where Zanetti (captain of Inter Milan) would have shut down the same Germans he faced in the Champions League final. Otamendi caused the first foul, then was beaten on the goal after TWO MINUTES! The injury to Samuel didn't solidify an already shaky defense, but Heinze? Come on. Two of the goals resulted from his reckless tackling. Zanetti must have been chewing his own liver in disgust.

Even as they were getting taught a lesson in tactical (spatial) awareness, Argentina had chances. Higuain ruined almost all of them. By my count, there were seven times when he had the ball at his feet, going forward and either gave it away easily on a dribble, made the wrong pass, or was too slow in making a decision. Diego Milito must have been beside himself with frustration. Higuain may be the worst player in the history of the World Cup to score four goals. A shocking performance.

From a tactical perspective, Argentina never had a chance. The only way to restore some of the balance in midfield was to have Messi or Tevez (or both) retreat into midfield to relieve the overwhelmed Mascherano. Messi played as well as possible when there is someone else in your shorts, another person in your shirt, and two others on your shins. When he received the ball (sometimes 55 yards from goal), there was nowhere to go but into two rows of Germans. Diego Maradona is the only person capable of ruining Messi's genius.

As I was watching the game in relative isolation with an Argentina jacket on, the room began to fill with Brazilians. By the end, they were celebrating as much as if Brazil had been winning. I hung my head, and left the restaurant as quickly as possible to the chants of "Auf Weider Zehen!"

It will take some time for the dust to settle in Argentina. The Diego Experiment is hopefully over. The confidence of the albiceleste, and the public confidence in the AFA, must be wearing thin as the team has not won a senior-level international tournament since the Copa America in 1993. Fortunately for the Argentines, the less one wins and the more one suffers, the more valuable your passion becomes.


Manu said...

Well.. I agree with part of what you say. For me, the game was over after the 2-0. There were 20 min left, and the dynamics of the game were completely altered after that. Those 20 min were a mess, and Germany played smart soccer, scoring twice and not leaving any room for hope.
In the 70 min before, Germany was also better than Argentina, clearly. But it wasn't a complete dominance, as Argentina could have tied the game either in the last 15 of the first half, or in the first 20 of the second half. Messi, Higuaín, and Di María had good chances, and if any of those had gone in, who knows what could have happened. Of course, Klose could have also klosed the game in first half if he hadn't miss that unbelievable chance. Anyway, in those 70 min, Argentina did not play that poorly. Germany dominated the first 20 min, and then it was Arg doing most of the damage until the 0-2.
All this to say that as bad a coach as Maradona can be, he was at his best (which isn't very good) at this world cup. In this game, he was outcoached just as much as Argentina was outplayed. And being 0-2 he decided (and I agree) to go for it and either lose 0-4 (which happened) or magically try to score twice in 20 min. against a team that was scored twice in 430 min (4 games + 70 min). DAM isn't a good coach, and never will be. I just hope this is it for him coaching la selección.

Manu said...

Then individually, what can I say? I feel bad for Otamendi. He is an average young player, playing out of position. He had a tough game, but he isn't to blame for losing this game. I disagree with you Chris regarding Higuaín. He was very poorly assisted throughout the game, and he still had some chances, a couple which were created by himself. I think he is a good player and a dangerous forward, and I don't think he had a bad world cup. Milito had a couple of very good months in the last year, but I've seen him play a lot, and he is an average player who works hard. That's it. DAM could have used him more, as he was clearly in great shape, but I think Higuaín is 10 times a better player than Milito.
Tévez had a bad game. Even playing well, he reminds me of what we call "autitos chocadores" (bumper cars?). He is a bull, only this time he was crashing against a german wall, and bouncing each time. In a sense, I think he is the root of many tactical problems for Argentina. He is a great player, too good to be sitting on the bench. But he is not a striker, and he is not a winger, and we already have Messi, so playing Tevez means that Argentina ends up having 3 players without any defensive duties/skills (Messi, Tevez, and the striker, in this case, Higuain), plus one external midfielder who in this case can't play defense, like Di María. This means that Mascherano ends up playing by himself in the middle (or with Maxi or Verón, the equivalent to playing by himself), which is heroic in every game and can make you win games against bad teams (Greece, S. Korea), or even mediocre teams (Mexico). But playing in this way you will ALWAYS lose against elite teams such as Germany. Basically, playing in this way, Argentina cannot be an elite team.
Messi is great, and he didn't have a bad game or a bad world cup. He wasn't spectacular and he didn't play to his potential, but he was good and had many chances in every game. Germany defended him perfectly: no fouls, no man on man. Just surround him with 2-3 players and hope he has a "human" game, which he did.
Who else? Di María played his best game in the WC2010. Obviously that wasn't enough. Again, If against Germany you are going to play Messi, Tevez, and Higuaín, you can't also play Di María... Anyway, I expected more out of him.
And Maxi Rodríguez is a mediocre player who played a game according to his skills.
Romero was ok in general... The goals weren't' his fault. De Michelis, Burdisso, and Heinze (yes, el boludo de Heinze) did what they could. None of them is particularly fast, and you can't have a defense made up of 4 slow players against an elite team. Samuel would have been better, and yes, Zanetti coulda shoulda woulda. But even Clemente Rodríguez or Jonás (despite having a couple of bad games, this was a game for him) would have been better.
Oh well. Looking forward, at least it's nice to know that Di María, Messi, Higuaín, Romero, Kun Aguero, and Pastore (who should have seen more action and who's a GREAT player) are younger than 23. It's also nice that Tévez and Mascherano are 25-26 and have one WC left in them. And it's even nicer to know that Heinze, De Michelis, Burdisso, Maxi, Verón, Palermo, and--yes--Milito, are DONE.
Before the WC I had VERY low expectations for Argentina. Game after game I started getting excited with the team, although knowing that we had played bad/mediocre teams. Still, unfortunately, I was hopeful for a while, and I thought we could have made it to Semifinals. I still think the game against Germany (the 70 minutes I'm considering "a game") wasn't as bad and could have yielded a different result. Oh well. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And against Germany, we generally lose.

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