Nicholas Otamendi for Javier Zanetti? Maradona needs to get his head examined
Tim Vickery in his Sunday column for the Beeb posits the theory that Diego Maradona was too “emotional” for the team’s good. It clouded his judgment.
Instead of starting Juan Sebastian Veron, he went with Carlos Tevez. With the Estudiantes midfielder missing, Leo Messi drifted deeper and deeper in ball retrieval mode, rendering him ineffective. With Veron in the team, Messi looked much sharper, more assured of service as Argentina built their attack around this axis.
According to Vickery, Maradona should have stuck with a 4-4-2 formation against Germany that brought them success in the group stage and against Germany in the March friendly. Instead Maradona abandoned caution to the winds and went in with Tevez against Mexico, a match that was won through El Tri’s mistakes. Abandoning that strategy was brutally exposed against Germany, a team; aside from the match against Serbia, been proved flawless.
Veron’s influence on the pitch may have been felt but Argentina’s weakness on defense was far more crucial. The absence of Walter Samuel really hurt Argentina.
Argentina was found wanting as Inter’s players were unavailable through injury and omission:
All German goals came from the left flank.
Without Samuel, Maradona had to shuffle Nicholas Otamendi to right back and bring Nicholas Burdisso to pair up with Martin Demichelis. Right away there was a level of inexperience in the right back position exploited by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Mueller, and Mesut Oezil.
The first goal would not have occurred if Otamendi had been quick to front Mueller, he was too slow to react and the Bayern Munich striker was able to get to Schweinsteiger’s free kick first.
Burdisso is no Samuel and the center pairing was therefore soft and susceptible to the incisive passing of the Germans.
The second goal which killed off Argentinian endeavour came from a nice bit of hustle by Schweinsteiger who goes to ground but manages to stick out a leg and pass to Podolksi racing down the left.
The FC Koln striker looking across saw an unmarked Klose in front of goal and threaded the ball between both Burdisso and Sergio Romero to find the Bayern Munich man who walked the ball in. One of Walter Samuel’s great strengths is this great positional awareness and ability to get horizontal blocking out passes and shots.
But Maradona had set himself up much before that by not including Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso.
There was an outcry in Argentina when he omitted these two players from the team. This was right after Inter’s monumental CL campaign where waves of Barcelona attacks were repelled by Zanetti, Samuel, Lucio, Maicon, Thiago Motta, and Cambiasso. Inter’s bread and butter had three Argentinians and three Brazilians. One of the greatest expositions of defending and Maradona chooses to overlook the duo?
In Cambiasso, you had a far more mobile and creative holding midfielder than Javier Mascherano who struggled at Liverpool last season and had very little say in the match against Mexico and Germany.
We also know Cambiasso’s scoring capabilities. Against Chelsea, his superlative strike stopped a Blues comeback and ended their CL aspirations. He can create too. The last highlight of Inter’s season was provided by Diego Milito– a goal scored against Siena initiated by Cambiasso and relayed through Zanetti. Three players who were not on the field against Germany.
Argentina was undone by Maradona’s “emotionality” but it was also undone by Maradona’s failure to take the right players to South Africa. Walter Samuel’s injury absence was far more important than Juan Sebastian Veron. If it was not for Samuel, Massimo Moratti might have grounds for believing Maradona bears a grudge against his club. Maybe he does, maybe he does, you never know from those days at Napoli.