The AFA’s bizarre decision to appoint Diego Maradona as national team coach has thus far yielded suitably bizarre results. Over 100 players later after a last-ditch victory over Uruguay last October, Maradona stood defiantly as he told his detractors, in no uncertain terms, what he thought of them in a press conference display that would earn him a two month ban. Indeed there is plenty of unrest in the Argentina camp, with the coach’s questionable psyche threatening to tarnish the reputation of the national side, their best player and his own standing as the greatest footballer of all time.
The Argentine looks to have finally settled on a back four, though it comprises of four centre-halves. Otamendi and the ageing Heinze lack the speed and attacking impetus so vital to the modern full-back role, and while the idea is to provide rigidity to the backline, the questionable selection of Demichelis could put paid to that notion. Samuel’s inclusion, his first for a major tournament since the 2005 Confederations Cup is a welcome one, with his strength and experience essential attributes if Argentina are to avoid any embarrassing hiccups (see 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Bolivia in qualifying.)
In midfield the selection policy is all the more baffling, with Gutierrez, inconsistent at second-tier Newcastle, said to be one of Maradona’s certainties to start alongside captain Mascherano. The Liverpool anchorman has been in exemplary form for troubled sides this season, but would benefit from the presence of a Cambiasso beside him in the middle; another player inexplicably omitted from Maradona’s plans. Much coveted winger Di Maria has finally found consistency at club level and has cemented a place on the left, where he is likely to torment porous Nigerian, Korean and Greek defences throughout the group stage.
Perhaps the most perplexing issue for the Albiceleste with the World Cup just weeks away is that of Messi. The FIFA world player of the year is coming off the back of another stunning season for Barcelona, scoring 25 league goals to date and proving himself to be a contender for El Diego’s mantle of ‘best ever’. The perception at home is that Messi is yet to replicate his club form for his country, though it could be argued Maradona has not replicated the conditions under which Messi has so thrived in Cataluña; even without the luxury of a Xavi or an Iniesta, Argentina possess gifted passing midfielders (Banega, Gago, Lucho) who are not even in consideration. While Veron has struck up a seemingly good relationship with Messi, the side as a whole is not geared toward getting the best of the diminutive genius…