Diego Maradona is on a learning curve. It makes him unpredictable in his coaching decisions and his country's fans nervous. The less than convincing victory over Colombia was not enough to assuage those fears.
Qualifying from the South American zone is sometimes just as tough as winning the World Cup. Both Brazil and Argentina have had harrowing experiences in the past, yet it appears as if Maradona consciously underestimates his opponents. Either that or in Maradona's romantic notion, Argentina's individual talents are perfect substitutes for haphazard tactics, if they can be charitably called that.
Why would any one start with three central defenders? The imbalanced defense was stretched to contain the gamboling Colombians. In attack, Maradona started Leo Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Carlos Tevez, all great players but their lack of size made the attack one dimensional. Aguero is not a center forward, he plays in the slot. Juan Sebastian Veron's long balls were immediately challenged by the Colombians. Veron of course, has never been noted for his change of pace or accelerating runs. Fernando Gago started in the unfamiliar role of wing back. The changes led to a tentative attacking display lacking imagination and energy. All Messi managed was a free kick that clanged off the crossbar.
Two changes that restored convention led to an improved second half display as Aguero was substituted by Diego Milito, a real center forward and more importantly, Gago was taken off and Zanetti bought on to return to a normal complement of center and full backs. Thereafter Zanetti asserted his organization and leadership skills.
It was a defensive lapse that cost the Colombians the match and no feat of imaginative skill. Off a Veron corner, both Yepes and Demichelis jumped for the ball, which ricocheted off, rolling towards defender Daniel Diaz who volleyed into goal.
As this article (In Spanish) makes clear, the goal achieved the desirable objective of a win, but this purpose in itself is narrow. Maradona will have to establish a set of sound tactical decisions if the Argentinians are to proceed forward with any grand conviction.
Argentina meets Ecuador who beat Peru, 2-1 in Quito's forbidding altitude on Wednesday. Success will go a long way in quelling the whisper campaign which seems to be taking root amongst fans and football pundits.