Argentina · South America · World Cup 2010

Go Palermo! … and take Diego with you

Argentina’s current plight has posed a very difficult question for me. What’s worse: for Argentina to miss the World Cup Finals in South Africa; or for them to qualify — thanks to Diego Maradona and Martin Palermo — and then fail miserably at the Finals?

Palermo’s (very) late goal versus Peru somehow put Argentina in control of their own destiny, as far as qualification was concerned. Unfortunately, it’s the worst possible team to control Argentina’s destiny. I’d feel safer if the whole thing was in the control of Bolivia or somebody else.

The Bolivians can at least assure themselves of one thing, they don’t lose at home, having beaten both the Argentines and Brazil there. In Argentina’s match against Peru, that was far from certain and only Palermo’s miraculous finish kept the Peruvians from exacting their revenge and reviving the ghosts of ’78.

It would be terrible indeed for Argentina to miss out of their first World Cup Finals since 1970, but it’s hard to see how this team, under Diego Maradona, could possibly generate any kind of challenge in South Africa.

At first, when Maradona was given the job, I reasoned that perhaps he would raise the morale of the players and give them confidence, and that this would overcome any tactical peccadilloes on his part.

But the opposite has been true. Maradona has somehow managed to combine tactical inefficiency with confidence-destroying lineup shifts. In his 9 games in charge, he’s used more than 30 players and has never repeated his lineup once. Constant new callups together with banishments from the squad have put every player on shaky footing. And the 3 players he claims to be assured of a spot in the World Cup squad (should there be one) are three of the lowest performers, including two, Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi who are world-class at their position (the third, Jonás Gutierrez, is hardly justifying his selection either with Argentina or the Championship’s Newcastle United).

I do want Argentina to qualify, no matter what. But if they do, they need to find a new manager. Allowing Maradona to fail to make him see that he is incapable of managing Argentina is too big a price to pay for the rest of us who love the albicelestes and want to go into every tournament we play with a chance to win.

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