The honeymoon is over for Diego Maradona, and the marriage may never recover. Argentina went down 6-1 in La Paz to a vastly inferior team, and it may be entirely due to the Argentine manager’s complete lack of preparation and experience.
Undeniably, this was a game that Bolivia dominated and fully deserved to win and win big. The Argentine defence was non-existent. You can’t even claim that the altitude helped the Bolivians shoot at goal from outside the penalty box, as all of their goals came inside the box (Argentina’s, by contrast, was a long strike from far outside the box by Lucho González).
I think we can learn three things from this match:
* South American teams still have not learned how to cope with the altitude of La Paz. I favor using two separate teams on the week of playing in altitude. Literally, have a different eleven train and play in altitude while a first eleven plays the first match. Argentina tried this their last time around in World Cup Qualifiers and got a 2-1 victory thanks to a goal from Luciano Galleti. Teams like Argentina and Brazil should be able to easily field two separate squads from their 23-man team. (Some players would have to play in both due to the need for reserves).
I wouldn’t expect Messi to play much this coming weekend for Barcelona. I figure he’ll be exhausted from two matches where he’s been up and down the pitch constantly.
* Maradona’s tactical acumen is open to question. Clearly he did not plan this game correctly. You couldn’t possibly think you were going to go to Bolivia and dominate possession like you did against Venezuela in Buenos Aires. You had to look for a team that would run less and mark and defend hard.
* Argentina needs help in defence, particularly at centre back. I think Martin Demichelis is the way to go, but he does need a better partner. I think we can safely say that central defence is Argentina’s weakest point at the moment.
* Goalkeeper isn’t a sure thing either. I think Carrizo can do the job, and I don’t expect he’ll be at Lazio much longer. He does need to learn to keep his mouth shut once he gets a regular job.
Playing at altitude
FIFA banned matches above a certain height for world Cup qualifiers. They were careful though to make sure that it did not affect Mexico hosting matches at the Azteca in Mexico City, or it never would’ve passed. The limit was 2,750m (9,022 ft).
The ban has since been suspended.
One of the most vocal critics of the ban? Diego Armando Maradona.