The expectation with any South American tournament is that Argentina and Brasil will be central figures when we come to the end of the championship. However, in Cordoba this year both teams have failed to live up to pre-tournament expectation and fallen at the first hurdle. Both sides have a great history in this tournament and so many great players have graced this stage but sadly we will be seeing no more of the class of 2013. As this is Golazo Argentino we’ll focus on Argentina, so what happened?
Argentina got their only win of the tournament in the final match against Colombia but by then the damage was done and their fate already sealed. Defeat in the opening game against Chile despite Chile having 2 men sent off, allowing Paraguay to come from behind to claim victory, and then conceding a late penalty against Bolivia to only draw proved costly.
Before the tournament five players had been highlighted that were supposed to be next on the long conveyor belt of Argentinian talent – Juan Iturbe, Manuel Lanzini, Alan Ruiz, Ricardo Centurion and Luciano Vietto. All five are undoubtedly talented but the failure stemmed from Argentina not being able to find a system that brought anything near the best from these players. The preparation before the tournament was lacking as this group had not played too many games together and the understanding was evidently not there. It has also been suggested that there is some confusion within the AFA and the vision of Humberto Grondona and Coach Marcelo Trobbiani. This confusion has led to a mix of ideas and ultimately a confused and disjointed team.
Certainly the performances displayed a lack of cohesion. The opening fixture saw a number of attacking options, in the players mentioned above but Argentina still failed to create many opportunities. This brought about a change in tactics for the second game but not really an improvement on the field, coupled with defensive frailty was a recipe for failure.
Juan Sebastian Veron, in the aftermath, suggested the problems ran deeper and accused the AFA of cronyism. He didn’t blame any particular individuals but suggested that Argentina was falling behind other footballing nations because they are not coaching their coaches. Developments in this field around the world meant that Argentina were left standing still. I’m not sure that this is the problem and although perhaps there are other mistakes made by the AFA I still think Argentina are producing some gifted managers and certainly the full national side have seen an up-turn in their performances recently.
Partly the problem at this level could be the immense weight of expectation. The ‘Golden Era’ under Jose Peckerman and some of the great players that have played since have led to a pressure an unavoidable expectation that Argentina will succeed. It is very difficult to compare any of the current squad to players from recent years like, Esteban Cambiasso, Juan Román Riquelme, Pablo Aimar, Juan Pablo Sorin, Javier Saviola, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, and of course Lionel Messi.
For the players too this proves an unnecessary comparison. Too many dream of the big money moves to Europe that await them off the back of good performances in tournaments like this. All too often moving to Europe too early and seeing their careers flounder when they could have been playing every week in domestic football. Despite Argentina’s poor showing Ricardo Centurion is still strongly linked with a move away and I wrote on my twitter feed earlier that Anzhi Makhachkala have made an offer of 7.5 million Euros which is likely to be accepted by Racing.
So after yet another disappointment perhaps it is time for Argentina to regroup and try and address some of these issues. The bar needs to be lowered so as not to drown these players under the weight of expectation. The other South American teams are improving and so any underestimation is dangerous. A football loving nation like Argentina will always produce talented players and it is important these are nurtured.