CAPE TOWN - Diego Maradona's Argentina,
having promised so much at the World Cup, find themselves back
at square one with the same problems which plagued them in the
South American qualifiers.
Argentina's four wins at the finals, scoring first in them
all, hid frailties subsequently exposed by Germany in their 4-0
rout in Saturday's quarter-final at Green Point Stadium.
The attack was unable to bail them out. In fact, in 13
competitive matches under Maradona, Argentina never came back to
win after falling behind.
FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi, touted as the
potential player of the finals, retreated deeper into midfield
in each of Argentina's five matches.
A puzzled Maradona, who is regarded as having almost
singlehandedly won Argentina's second world title in Mexico in
1986, said: "It's different now ... I think players used to play
much more for themselves and today players are more practical,
more team oriented ...(that is) the new fashion.
"We had players who would carry the team on their
On Saturday, Germany coach Joachim Low had the answer to
"Argentina are a team divided between the defence and the
attack. That was the key to be able to control the midfield and
from there build our victory," said Low, a contemporary of
Maradona's, not in the same league as a player but clearly more
than his match as a coach.
Behind after three minutes, Argentina were under constant
pressure from the flanks with fullbacks Nicolas Otamendi and
Gabriel Heinze, both central defenders at club level, struggling
to cope with Germany's pace.
The goals Argentina's talented forwards scored in the group
games and the second round against Mexico also hid the fact that
the midfield lacked bite.
Maradona, who was regularly found wanting from the touchline
during the qualifiers, provided no answers from the bench except
to boost his attack when Argentina were ahead.
Having dispensed with Juan Roman Riquelme or even Esteban
Cambiasso or Fernando Gago as a central midfield partner for
Javier Mascherano, the team's captain was horribly exposed on
his own in the middle.
Why did Maradona not play Juan Sebastian Veron, the one man
in the squad who could have given Argentina more ball holding
and depth of passing?
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger controlled midfield doing a
job that Veron might have done for Argentina, even taking the
free-kicks like the one that led to their opening goal.
When former coach Alfio Basile quit suddenly in September
2008, a candidate for the Argentina job was Sergio Batista,
Maradona's former 1986 World Cup team mate, who had steered the
under-23s to their second successive Olympic gold medal.
The job went instead to Maradona, who opted against what
would have, in retrospect, been a wise choice in taking Batista
as an assistant.
Maradona returns to Argentina to ponder his future, knowing
his family will urge him to carry on, since that the job has
done the former drug addict so much good on a personal level.
He has an agreement with the Argentine Football Association
(AFA) until next year when Argentina host the Copa America and
he said in a television interview shortly before the finals he
was also building towards that tournament.
AFA president Julio Grondona is unlikely to stand in
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