Argentina Climb the Table, Drop their Game

It was a paradoxical night for Argentina as they climbed to 3rd place in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, beating a tough Chile side 1-0 courtesy of a controversial Messi penalty. However, it must be said that for most of the game they were forced on their back foot and tortured to scrape the win by the skin of their teeth.

Edgardo Bauza’s input to this team falls extremely short of convincing. After 7 games, he has managed only 3 wins, with the other 4 including two embarrassing 2-2 draws against much weaker opposition (Venezuela and Peru), a shameful defeat at home to Paraguay and a humiliating 3-0 thrashing by Brazil. It is also worth noting that his fortunes have been more down to the availability of a certain Lionel Messi who has been forced to sit out so many games due to injury during this World Cup qualifying campaign.

One would think that a team like Argentina would do fine without Lio, supposedly boasting the world’s most formidable forwards like Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, Dybala, Lavezzi and co. But that has not been the case. With 13 games played in the qualifiers so far, Argentina have only managed to score 15 goals. Only Paraguay (13) and Bolivia (10) have scored less. Compare that with Uruguay’s 25 and Brazil’s 32 and it just highlights how horrible Argentina’s performances have been.

Despite everyone’s impression of Argentina as a strong team due to their attacking talent, so far it is their defense that has kept them somewhat alive. They are second best in the table, conceding 12 goals in 13 games (Brazil with 10 goals conceded). Although it sounds scary that they concede at least a goal per game, when you consider the close competition in CONMEBOL, it’s quite understandable.

However, to put things into perspective, it is worth realizing the dangerous impact their attacking impotence may cause at the end of the campaign. After 13 games, only 3 points separate 6th place (Chile) and 2nd place (Uruguay). At this stage, one would expect a greater separation between the teams, but the CONMEBOL qualifiers is a vicious jungle. Messi’s penalty may have climbed Argentina up to 3rd place, but had Alexis Sanchez’s free kick been just 1cm lower then Argentina would have found themselves in 7th instead, two positions behind any chance of making the World Cup, despite being tied on 20 points with Ecuador (who are better on goal difference). Argentina’s current +3 goal difference is bad, very bad! Had this been the last round of the qualifiers, Argentina would have been out of the World Cup, just like that! And considering how things are going, goal difference may very well be what it all comes down to on the final match day. If they don’t start scoring more goals, then their attack could be their downfall.

Argentina World Cup standings

Argentina are currently in third place in the South American standings.

So clearly, Argentina are still in trouble. They might have won against a tough Chilean team, but their performance continues to be far from convincing, even with Messi on the field. They continue to lack any identity, being completely disjointed between defense to attack, and constantly fail to string more than 3 passes together in midfield. Granted, even under Sabella they gave up the possession game, but they were still more balanced and knew how to hit on the counter. Under Bauza they have been disastrous, even in defense. Of the 12 goals conceded, Bauza has conceded 8 of them in 7 games, the other 4 coming under Tata Martino in 6 games against stronger opposition.

He has taken the team backwards and has failed to address any issues evident in the team. The midfield needs to improve and find a link up with the attack and the forwards need to find a more compatible setup among themselves. Aguero is not a number 10, and will never be one, he is a pure forward. Di Maria may be quick and tireless, but ruins almost every final touch that comes his way, be it a shot, pass, or dribble. Messi is not being utilized properly, playing in the least dangerous areas of the field where he can make a difference, and is continually lost for options when opposing defenders close him down. The number 9’s up front (Higuain and Pratto) see very little of the ball all game.

Clearly, the 4-2-3-1 system is not working for him, and the “Fantastic 4” idea has been forced down our throats way too long with disappointment. Aguero and Higuain are two number 9’s and can only play one at a time. Di Maria should be benched and introduced in the 2nd half. Dybala will be a constant starter in the team up front alongside Messi and so Bauza should find a way for them to complement each other. More importantly, the midfield needs a more pivotal player to link up with the attack. So far the best player qualified to do so is Banega. However it’s obvious that he cant do that on his own. Therefore Messi’s free role would allow him to interchange that role with him during the game, and Dybala as well. If all 3 of them can be on the field together i’m certain they can play a more fluid game, and im hoping to see that against Bolivia (if Dybala is fit).

Speaking of the Bolivia game, playing in La Paz is always tough. All we can hope for is a good result, obviously a win. A draw wouldn’t be so bad. Other than that, it will be difficult to judge the team performance if they play badly, as the extremely high altitude will definitely be a factor or an excuse. To make things harder, Argentina will be without 3 key players due to suspension: Otamendi, Mascherano and Higuain. In addition, one of the few good players against Chile, Gabriel Mercado, seems to have picked up an injury, as well as Emmanuel Mas (according to some reports). So there will be a lot of player tinkering in this game and it will be interesting to see what the subs can do.

So far Bolivia have played 6 games in La Paz, losing 3 of them to Uruguay, Colombia and a weak Peru. I’d like to think if they can do it, then Argentina can. If there’s any game i accept playing ugly and winning, it’s this one.

So Bauza, show us you can do that again!

12 Comments

  1. Profile photo of GabGab

    The last time I actually enjoyed watching Arg play was the 2006 WC. I mean who could forget how good that team was. It was soon after Pekerman retired that Arg football started dying a slow and painful death!

    My point is I don’t enjoy watching Arg play and haven’t for approx. 10 yrs. I really don’t see the point of Arg qualifying for the WC if Arg continues with Bauza, this stupid fucking double pivot system, and the same old team selections!

    One would think that if Arg failed to qualify, only then would we see the desired changes made….Bauza gone, all of our aged players gone, failed system of a double pivot which does not allow goals to be scored Gone! But then again, The scary thing is what would it be replaced with given AFA have no money? It takes a very good coach to build a team from scratch which is what the impending coach would face

    ARG football is now a semblance of the ARG failed economy and govt. It was only a matter time that the money ran out! As the saying goes, you get what you pay for….or in Argentina’s case, don’t pay for at all LOL

    It’s a very sad state of affairs for ARG football and it’s a situation that is going to perpetuate fo a long time unfortunately.

    I apologise for the morbid post but it’s truly reflective of the state of affairs.

    I can only hope I’m wrong!

  2. Profile photo of Debasish DuttaroyDebasish Duttaroy

    Chile plays Venezuela at home and will win the game. They will end round 14 with 23 points and +4 goal difference at least.
    Colombia will play Ecuador. This is the critical fixture. At least both will not go above Argentina. Best for us will be a draw.

    If Argentina wins, well and good. I don’t see that hapenning with Mascherano etc. Also, it seems Argentina is the only one who gets affected by height, depth, pitch, weather, time, sunlight etc.
    If Argentina draws, we will end at 23, with +3 goal difference. We will be 5th if either Colombia or Ecuador wins and 4th if they draw amongst each other.
    If Argentina loses, we could be 4th or 5th.

    Good thing is Paraguay plays Brazil so they are not going to come up anymore.

    Our remaining 4 games after this are

    1. Away vs Uruguay – L
    2. Home vs Venezuela – W
    3. Home vs Peru – W
    4. Away vs Ecuador – L

    So, we can think of getting 6 more points. Taking us to to either 28-29 points.

    Brazil and Uruguay have qualified.
    Colombia can get upto 9 points, taking them to 30.
    Chile can get upto 9 points too, taking them to 29.
    Ecuador has the toughest fixture left. The next game is super critical. If they lose the next one or draw, we are more or less safe to be 5th. The other critical game is Chile vs Ecuador.
    Paraguay has a very difficult fixture too, they will not catch up.

    So, basically I will be rooting for Colombia and Chile to beat Ecuador and take them out of the equation. What a pathetic state!

  3. Profile photo of Debasish DuttaroyDebasish Duttaroy

    If you read Bauza’s comments – he says he played a brilliant game. Not OK, good, but BRILLIANT!

    One change I am seeing in media and people across the world is that, everyone is saying this team is crap. We are keeping close details here, but the people around the world who are not Argentina fans used to think this is great side with Messi and many other big names in it. This is the first time I read everywhere from journalist, to media, to non-Argentina fans that this is a crap team, who is super lucky.

    My question/request: Can anyone please share a summary of what Argentine media and people are saying?

  4. Profile photo of Argentina2018Argentina2018

    I can’t believe how some people still fancy having Icardi in the team anytime soon. The problem is with Messi, the guy has refused including Icardi and wanted his buddies to play with him. All starters are accepted and approved by Messi. Argentina will be back for WC 2022 when Messi retires. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, winning a WC with this bunch of old slow fart idiots? Higuaín, Aguero, Diva maria, Begilia, Maschrano, Lavezzi, Banega, rojo, Romero are all a group of losers, it has been proven again and again. Now add to that mix a trashy coach like Bauza, you get a complete recipe of awaiting disaster.

  5. Profile photo of SabellistaSabellista

    I don’t think the performance is even worth rating players. The whole team was pathetic. . Same old Messi dependency shit. Bauza needs to be fired before WC even if the team qualifies. Argentina has been surviving without a midfield and the team doesn’t know how to press the opponents and recover the ball in crucial areas when possession is lost. One can not call himself a coach when your team goes whole second half without creating a single chance. It’s funny that people who watched the game are discussing some positives. Really? The only good about that forgettable match is that Argentina won 3 points very ugly. But unfortunately this is the type of football that gets the team knocked out early in tournaments. L’Albiceleste needs a rescue from Bauza. I’d prefer the team to be without a coach than Bauza. How can he be proud of such a silly sorry ass performance?

  6. Profile photo of Debasish DuttaroyDebasish Duttaroy

    Romero – 2
    1. As mentioned by mundo, not convincing at all when he has to do something.
    2. I have said this 100 times probably. Since Romero does not do anything. Defense is literally inside the penalty box always. This forces Mascherano and Biglia to stay close to defense. Hence the gap between midfield and forward. He basically drags the whole team down to him.

    Mercado – 7
    1. One of the rare player who did well.

    Otamendi – 6
    1. Defect enough

    Rojo – 6
    1. Decent enough

    Mas – 4
    1. This guy is really poor

    Muscahio – 5
    1. Was solid

    Overall Defense: It is not easy for 4 defenders when you have soak is so much pressure, even at home. It is also very hard for the 4 defenders when they know their GK is pathetic. Remember many defensive mistakes are historically covered by a good GK. These defenders don’t have that luxury. They are playing a game to stop any shot at goal.

    Mascherano – 7
    1. Good as always. Looks like he is our creative midfielder also. He has developed his game well enough.

    Biglia – 3
    1. Really don’t understand what he brings. Runs like a snail. Only back passes and side passes.

    Overall midfield: Very poor. No existant. Its a 6-0-4. Need 4 midfielders.

    Dimaria – 4
    1. Not much value. Not a smart player. He needs clear direction from manager.

    Aguro – 3
    1. Cannot do anything. He is not really required as a starter. Might as well play him in goal.

    Messi – 6
    1. Scored a goal. And gets attention from opposition.

    Higuain – 4
    1. Worked hard. Had about 15 touches. Feel bad for him.

    Forward: Cannot do anything with no midfield. Long balls. Bad field. Just run and chase.

    Bauza: -10
    This is the worst ever. No team. I don’t think there is any practice. People cannot make 3 passes.

    Team: 0
    where is the team?

    1. Profile photo of martin jeanmartin jean

      Dude unless you are biais, i can honestly say that you don’t know jack about football. The best argentinians players on the field were Mercato and Biglia by far. Overall the defense played well.Other than that,everyone else was garbage.

  7. Profile photo of GonzaloGonzalo

    What is central midfielder who makes difference. Paulinho with hat-trick. Chinese league footballer…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-k6i2KGa5Y

  8. Profile photo of RichardRichard

    Excellent post!
    Great addition by MustB-Albiceleste!

    For many years I have always looked forward to a WC, but now I fear we will be humiliated in the first round (if we make it to the WC). Even teams like Iceland and Wales will give us a hard time. The big European teams will steamroll us. The 4-0 nightmare defeat against Germany in 2010 will get sequels. Poor Messi will quit in despair and never return.

    Bauza did the impossible, he made his predecessors look smart.

  9. Profile photo of MustB-AlbicelesteMustB-Albiceleste

    [Post-match Analysis]

    Positives for this game…

    – Despite our lackluster performance we won 3 points.
    – We are back in TOP 3, means we are eligible for direct qualification.
    – Even though we played poor but can’t say we allowed too much chance to Chile to score.
    – Estadio Monumental was never stopped singing for their home team.

    Now the biggest concerns are not that we played poor but concerns are

    – While watching the game looking at the ground condition, within first few minutes I was thinking how on earth a top team like Argentina can play football in such ground. The field is so wet, slow, uneven, heavy and not even suitable for making any pass. Generally small team used to keep such ground so that opponent cannot play their usual game. But for it’s unfortunate that this ground was waiting for our guys to play home match. Is this is the reflection of current situation of AFA?

    – The importance of having young fresh legs in the team. Average age of our team was 30 and in the final 30-35 minutes all these guys were barely able to walk. Best age of footballers are around 25-26 and all our guys are around 30 and in 2 years they all will be 31+. As our Bauza has no intension to include young players in the team god knows how these oldies will compete with young players after 2 years in Russia.

    – Any top teams have quality wing backs. As Zabaleta is aging, we simply lack quality in this area. But in last 4 years our coaches called make-shirt Rojo & Mercado, Mas, Roncaglia and Orban (earlier). Why can’t our coaches explore this area? A team cannot win world cup with Mas or Roncaglia as wing back.

    – Why our coaches are not willing to change the core bench of players? I believe this is enough of Mascherano and Bigila in midfield. What’s special in Bigila? Spain and Germany kept the same bunch of players for years but remember they selected a very young team initially and when they matured they gave result. In WC 2010 Germany selected a complete young team with Muller, Ozil, Kross, Khedira were hardly in their 20s but after 4 years the same team gave Germany world cup. Whereas our guys (other than 1 or 2) are already in their 30s, past their prime, will not improve anymore.

    Let’s have a look at player’s performance.

    Romero:

    A virtual spectator for most part of the game. Called into action 3 times and failed to convince every time.

    – An offside goal by Chile. Romero not even able to collect the ball fortunately that goal was ruled out for offside.
    – Sanchez free-kick that hit the post. Romero was just unmoved, clueless as usual.
    – Another one in the 2nd half. He again failed to gather the ball in his first attempt but somehow cleared the danger.

    Not at all convincing performance from him despite him kept the clean-sheet but thanks to our defense. He was not even a starter for some low/mid-level clubs but god knows how he is an undisputed started for us. If someone says he is always good for us and did nothing wrong for Argentina, I would request him to watch how he conceded goals for the last few matches. He was clueless and remained unmoved.

    Mas: I don’t seen him helping in attack nor in defense. Just a body in the left wing nothing else.

    Mercado: Our best defender. He was better than the rest. Played much better but still he is no world beater. He lacks skill and speed to play as wing back in the World cup winning team.

    Rojo: I was happy to see him as a Center back considering his recent impressive performance for Manchester United. But unfortunately he failed to impress in his usual position. Gave away few unnecessary fouls but luckily Chile failed to capitalized. Below par performance. Even when he moved in full back position he was equally not impressive. Probably 1 or 2 banana might have helped him.

    Otamendi: He was our busiest defender throughout the game. Missed the easiest chance of the game in the dying moment of first half. But in the 2nd half he played really well. He cleared almost everything came in his way in the 2nd half and was rock solid.

    Musacchio (sub): Replaced mas in the 2nd half but played in the middle of the defense. Nothing noteworthy in his performance.

    Mascherano: Looked very shaky initially. Made plenty of miss passes but grown as the match progressed. Did well to break Chile defense with couple of good throw passes and one of them leads to Penalty won by Di Maria. Also marshaled the defense well.

    Bigila: I will not say he was poor, infact he was better than the last 2 games. But still nothing special and I don’t know what Bigila is adding to the game that Pizarro, Kranevitter or Pardes cannot add. Plus those guys have age in their favor.

    Di Maria: He justified his chicken-head name 🙂 Countless time received the ball from Mas or Mascherano, dribbled in the tightest corner of the field and lost the ball. But in the entire 90 minutes of football 2 moments he did well,
    – Won the penalty
    – Had a great turn to beat 2 players and passed the ball to Rojo and Rojo also did well to pass the ball to Messi [but Messi should have done better]

    Aguero: Can we say this is end of Sergio Leonel “Kun” Aguero’s journey for Argentina? Looked bright initially but within 15-20 minutes he was completely out of the game. I would blame Bauza also who dared to play Kun as no # 10 🙂 Worst player of match by some margin.

    Messi: Great first half. Created 2/3 chances in the first half but our guys failed to take their chances especially Otamendi’s miss was unpardonable. Gave Argentina lead with his brilliantly taken penalty. But looked extremely tried and exhausted in the 2nd half still towards the end of the game, he was pressing Chile’s left back for blood. What does Leo saw? He was alone in the opposition half. Nobody was even trying to offer support. Bousejour can’t deal with him and the assistant ref calls it a foul, by Leo ON Bousejour. He was fuming, shows how much he was looking for this victory.

    Higuain: Only positive is he tried to help defense. Clearing the Chilean corners but in attack neither he got any chance to score nor he tried. All I saw that, he was trying to win the ball and referee signaled foul. Disappointing performance.

    Banega: I had high expectation on him after some series of good performances with Inter off late but today again he disappointed us. Rarely had any moment in the game.

    Finally Lord Edgardo Bauza:

    In the post-match interview when he said that he will give 10 on 10 for this performance nothing much to say about him. Kun as no # 10. Lol. What was his actual tactics? Rather can I say does he had any tactics?

    Team Selection: I can understand he didn’t get any chance to experiment with his players as all the matches we played under Bauza are WCQs but why can’t he select some young players (or some other bunch of players at least)?

    Now against Bolivia – With so many players are suspended it’s good that Bauza decided to call few new players including Alario. All I want Bauza to start with some hard working players who can run for 90 minutes like Lavezzi and try to win (or at least seal a point from La Pez).

  10. Profile photo of ManuelManuel

    i would Play messi and dybala much more central behind one Forward…i would call up icardi…bench higuain and pratto for 2nd half purposes…bring banega as playmaker and two Numero cinquos…Play masche as central Defender and find two good young wing backs….sit deep and Counter attack with fast vertical Play…a hard Task to find some good Solutions…we lose more and more Talent the farer we go back in this Team on position

  11. Profile photo of NukleuzNukleuz

    I am always optimistic since Sabella era but this Bauza, trash talking all the time like Donald Trump and yet he can’t deliver anything. At least, Tata knew what he was doing at his time. This time is completely in chaos. Forward are pressing, midfield back passing and defense creating chances. Seriously, what the hell this Bauza thinking?

    It is like Erikson from England playing in 2004 euro. No tactic at all.

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