From: Marcos Schieda (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 case. Player-by-player: 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 replaced. 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 opinion. 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.