From: Marcos Schieda (
Date: 2002-06-12
Subjects: Argentina's World Cup - My Analysis 

Where to begin? I think there's so much to say about this Argentinian
performance in Korea/Japan. The truth is, Argentina never played well
(except a little in the second half vs. Nigeria), and Sweden and
England were better, and especially smarter.

But I'll start my considerations writing about what I thought about
this squad before the WC (that is, the Qualifications). I want to say
that I thought this way a long time before the WC, so I'm not just
analysing after this defeat.

Argentina was extremely solid. Period. Never played a beautiful game,
in my opinion, but was terribly effective, scoring twice in four or
five very clear scoring opportunities. And they didn't face really
tough teams (Perú, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, even Ecuador...). But as
they won lots of matches, the press started to overrate them and to
consider them as future World Champions. Their argument was based on
the team having already a WC experience in 1998, and having played
together a lot with Passarella.

Anyway, Argentina did have some strengths: the pressure, a quite solid
team (except at defense), the feeling that the players know each other
quite well, the feeling that there was a clear starting lineup
(although Bielsa was full of doubts during the WC).

This was the situation before the WC. An overrated squad. A squad that
was quite decent, but not excellent. And Bielsa commited all his
mistakes during the tournament. First, including injured players among
the 23 (Caniggia). Then, not taking quality players like Riquelme,
Saviola, Solari or Cambiasso, and taking second or third class players
(Husain, Chamot). And finally, not admitting changes to his tactic
(sweeper, 2 stoppers, defensive midfielder, 2 wingers, playmaker, left
forward, right forward, striker). Batistuta and Crespo just played
together against Netherlands in 1999 (3rd or 4th Bielsa match).
Riquelme and/or Saviola were rarely tested. He never wanted to play
Verón as a defensive midfielder (I don't like him there, but he only
tried it once - vs. Cameroon, 2002). So, he stuck the players in one
small portion of the field. A clear example is Ortega, a player that
can't play just as a right forward, without having the slightest
possibility of going to the left from time to time.

For those reasons, and because some key players played really bad,
Argentina is out.

First, it was Nigeria. Argentina played a very good pressing during
the whole match, and Nigeria barely had scoring opportunities.
Aghahowa and Ogbeche were absent, and Okocha only had a couple of
chances (one of them ended in a superb save by Cavallero). Argentina
didn't have too many ideas during the first period, with Verón doing
his "long-pass-to-nobody" tactic, and Ortega doing his usual
"carrousel" tactic. Batistuta was quite dangerous in his best match of
the WC. During the second half, we saw the best of Argentina during
the WC, with Kily González replacing Claudio López, with Sorín and
Zanetti playing great, with Batistuta scoring, with Ortega finally
doing something useful. Shorunmu was one of the best players during
that match, and probably Argentina deserved another goal.

Against England, Argentina played awful. England played that game as a
WC final, and our players looked like they were playing a friendly.
They know our tactics really well, and adjust their defense, and as
Bielsa didn't want to change them, we were predictable. Ferdinand and
Campbell marked Batistuta. Mills and Ashley Cole were González and
Ortega's defenders. Nicky Butt, Scholes and Sinclair did a great work
at midfield. And then, Michael Owen, as in 1998, was they main
offensive card, doing whatever he wanted with our soft defense (except
Samuel, of course). As we were desperate, we just cross the ball in
order to get a header. This isn't our way of playing football. And
this isn't a great tactic at all against a team that is terribly used
to play like that. Seaman is excellent in the air (and he showed it).
Ferdinand and Campbell rejected every ball that was near them. And
only a couple of headers by Pochettino and Samuel were our most
dangerous plays. And England could have scored more goals (with Owen a
couple of times, with Sheringham), but Samuel and Cavallero saved us.

Against Sweden, Argentina was better, but again, they just crossed the
ball, trying to find the heads of Batistuta or Sorín and score the
first goal of the game. And Sweden, with a defense that had a very
poor performance against Nigeria, appreciate that. Apart from Mjallby,
who is pretty solid, Jakobsson (just a decent defender) played well,
and Mellberg/Lucic weren't abused as they were against Okocha,
Aghahowa and company. Anders Svensson was amazing, and Henrik Larsson,
Andreas Andersson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed to create a couple of
scoring opportunities (Andersson and Ibrahimovic entered in the second
period. I do think Argentina should have scored at least once during
the first half. But: 1) We didn't know how to score during the whole
WC. And 2) Hedman just had ONE save during that period (Sorín's
header), which means we didn't create lots of chances, and that we
weren't effective. In the second half, again, we tried to cross balls
against a defense that is used to do that. And Hedman, again, just had
2 saves (Zanetti, and the penalty). And we could have lost the match
by a larger difference (Ibrahimovic hit the post after a great save by
Cavallero - Pochettino almost scored an OG, again saved by the
goalie). Crespo scored (in a goal that should have been disallowed),
but that wasn't enough. Argentina is out, because they weren't as good
as England and Sweden, but especially, because Bielsa was too stuborn
with his tactics that he never changed them. Everybody knew how
Argentina was going to play, and we didn't have a plan B, just in


1.Germán BURGOS. Luckily, he didn't play. It would have been awful.

2.Roberto AYALA. Injured. Even though I don't like him very much, he
would have been a much better option than Placente, Pochettino, and
especially Chamot

3.Juan Pablo SORÍN. A decent World Cup. Key player against Nigeria,
and our true striker vs. Sweden during the first half. His problems
were with England, when he was injured and didn't show his talent, and
with Sweden during the second period, when he was absent and then

4.Mauricio POCHETTINO. In my opinion, a disaster. Slow. And worst of
all, he fouls like there is no tomorrow. An animal against Nigeria, he
fouled every opponent he had in front of him. With England, commited a
VERY silly penalty. Decent with Sweden, but the Swedes didn't attack
too much during the first half.

5.Matías ALMEYDA. One match (Sweden), and a not-so-good one. Commited
a couple of very stupid fouls, like the one that ended in the free
kick that Anders Svensson executed wonderfully. And I think he's not
great in terms of tackling and stealing balls.

6.Walter SAMUEL. Overall, the best player Argentina had during this
WC. He was impossible to surpass. Without Samuel, Argentina's defense
would have been chaotic. At least, he was there to save
Pochettino/Placente/Chamot when they made mistakes.

7.Claudio LÓPEZ. A disaster vs. Nigeria. Not good vs. England. One of
the best against Sweden (which means we weren't that good). I hope we
don't have to stand this guy in 2006, if we qualify. In fact, I don't
want to see this guy with Argentina's jersey anymore. Doesn't know how
to score, doesn't know how to pass, doesn't know how to cross balls.
He just runs. Obviously, that isn't enough.

8.Javier ZANETTI. One of the most solid members of this squad. He
didn't shine, but he wasn't that bad either. Pretty good vs. Nigeria
and Sweden, started well vs. England but then he disappeared.

9.Gabriel BATISTUTA. I don't know how to rate him. He didn't have a
good tournament. But he didn't stink. Especially because he was never
assisted properly. Against Nigeria, he was pretty dangerous because he
had a couple of chances during both halves. But against England, he
never received a pass, being his only chances a difficult header that
was easy for Seaman to catch, a long range shot that was out of
target. Vs. Sweden, he barely had opportunities. He will be missed, as
he retired from International football.

10.Ariel ORTEGA. A carrousel. He loves to be spinning around, and
around, and around with the ball, and then do nothing. Doesn't know
how to pass the ball. In fact, he just doesn't pass it. And he makes
our offense slower, wasting time with useless fantasies instead of
making quick, intelligent assists. He is talented, but he shows it
once in a while, and when he does, it isn't always productive. And
besides, he's childish (1998, Van der Sar incident), and a born diver,
a thing I can't stand.

11.Juan Sebastián VERON. A disaster. Long balls tactic with Nigeria.
Pathetic with England. Didn't do anything with Sweden. In fact, he
didn't have enough charisma to kick the penalty in the last game
instead of Ortega, when Verón is our penalty taker. The problem with
Verón is that he's overrated as hell, and that he's not a playmaker.
He was decent in France 98 because he didn't play there. He usually
plays long balls, balls that are awfully predictable. And that is his
main tactic. If he had used it as an alternative, I would have
accepted it. But it was his only way to feed Batistuta, López, Ortega,
or Crespo (My god! Long, high passes to Ortega! How useless is that!).
I said we didn't have a playmaker before the WC, and we didn't have
one during that tournament until Aimar appeared.

12.Pablo CAVALLERO. One of the best players in this team. A superb
save vs. Nigeria, in a match in which he commited is only mistake in
the WC (bad timing in a couple of crosses). He saved everything
against England, except a penalty. And vs. Sweden, he wasn't
responsible of that Svensson free kick. Besides, when Ibrahimovic hit
the post, it was because Cavallero saved the shot. And he also saved
Pochettino from an OG. In conclusion: 2 goals received in 3 matches (a
penalty, and a free kick impossible to avoid).

13.Diego PLACENTE. Great vs. Nigeria, a disaster vs. England. He was
so pathetic he didn't play against Sweden. He's not a stopper, that's
the problem. He's a left back. And Bielsa, again, tried to put a
player in a position he's not used to.

14.Diego SIMEONE. Overall, a bad WC. Wasn't the defensive presence we
need at midfield, neither vs. Nigeria, nor vs. England. You couldn't
notice that against the africans, as they didn't attack that much, but
England had a very good first half, and part of the blame is on
Simeone. He was pretty injured, and he didn't play at 100%. Didn't
play vs. Sweden.

15.Claudio HUSAIN. Didn't play.

16.Pablo AIMAR. The second best player of this squad, just because he
only played one full match. Aimar should have played more minutes vs.
Nigeria, and vs. England (even though he played the whole second half
against the Europeans). He was the difference. The talented one. The
one who could create scoring opportunities by himself with perfect
assists. Probably his only problem was that he never tried to score by
himself, but anyway, this was a good WC for him, in spite of
everything. I would like to see him alongside another talented player
with playmaker skills (Gallardo, Riquelme), and not alongside
carrousel Ortega, or runners like Kily, López, Sorín or Zanetti.

17.Gustavo LÓPEZ. Didn't play. A shame. Should have played at least
against England, replacing Ortega when he was stinking.

18.Kily GONZÁLEZ. Not a good performance. Good vs. Nigeria, a thing
that allowed him to start vs. England. There, he had a decent first
half, and a bad second period, so he was again relegated to the bench
vs. Sweden. Barely played against the Swedes, being a non-factor.

19.Hernán CRESPO. He didn't start, but he did play more than 30
minutes vs. England and Sweden. But his best match was against
Nigeria, when he played EIGHT minutes. That says it all. Against both
European squads, in more than 60 minutes, Crespo only touched ONCE the
ball (the goal vs. Sweden). Batistuta was better than him, in my

20.Marcelo GALLARDO. Again, like in France 98, coaches didn't think of
him. This time, he didn't play a single minute.

21.Claudio CANIGGIA. An idiot. After being injured the first 2 games,
he insulted the ref Ali Bujsaim in his face right after Bielsa said
"He's right, let's not argue". The 4th official, Jamaican, speaks
Spanish, so this stupid guy was ejected. I would have liked to see him
play in the WC, but he's as childish as ever.

22.José CHAMOT. As much as I hate Chamot (He's not good since 1994),
he did play a decent game vs. Sweden. The problems were in the second
half, with Mattias Jonson surpassing him easily, as Chamot is as slow
as my grandpa. In fact, he was already slow in 1998. Anyway, the whole
defense was awful except Samuel, who is a world class player.

23.Roberto BONANO. Didn't play.

So, our best players, in order of importance, are: 1) Samuel, 2)
Aimar, 3) Cavallero. Sorín/Zanetti were so-so. The rest, failed.

Well, it's been a long post, but I wanted to say a couple of things. I
would like to know what you think about this. Now that Argentina's
out, I'll root for other teams that I liked even before the
tournament: Ireland, Denmark, even Sweden and England...

Marcos Schieda.