This is my first post on Mundo since forever, and obviously there is no better time to return than now! Roy has basically been running the show alone here and he's been exceptional... great energy and commitment, thumbs up buddy! I will try to pitch in as much as possible myself during this exciting period.
So, with the World Cup fast approaching, we are all geared up with excitement and nervous on many fronts: Who will be in Sabella's final selection? What form are our star players in as they head into the end of club season? Who's injured, and who might get injured and miss the World Cup altogether?
Just a reminder: At senior level, Argentina havent won a single trophy since 1993's Copa America... yes, that's 21 years ago! Really hard to imagine isnt it, given the immense talent that came and went in the past two decades! Sure, we had some moments to celebrate with the youngsters at the World Youth Cups and at the Olympics, but we all agree their importance comes no way near World Cup glory, or the Copa America at the very least.
Argentina's last appearance in a World Cup final was back in 1990 when they lost to a West Germany penalty. Ever since, we havent even seen Argentina reach the World Cup semi-final, despite going into every single competition as one of the favorites (if not THE favorites). As for the Copa America's, some went very bad, and others went excellent until final defeats to the eternal nemesis: Brazil.
Anyway, all that is in the past now and summer of 2014 is upon us, it's World Cup fever again! Every four years, we live this excitement. All those qualifiers and friendlies we woke up for in the middle of the night to watch (well, many of us anyway), all those debates we had among each other, all the drama... four years of waiting, anticipating, hoping and praying; It all boils down to this summer's show piece in Brazil, and as emotionally battered Albiceleste fans, we want nothing short of victory. We deserve it!
Enough frustration and heartache... it is time for Argentina to step out of it's darkest period in history and re-open that dusty ol' trophy cabinet. World Cup 2014 is ahead and so are Copa America 1015 and 2016 (yes, two Copa America's in a row coming up).
This time around Argentina have a competent coach, the world's best player at peak age and a generally balanced, star-studded squad. As we'v learned over the past few years, international football in South America has become way more balanced than in the past, with even the likes of Venezuela showing ability to compete with the best. So Argentina finishing comfortably at the top of the Conmebol qualification table was impressive, especially given the fact that in addition to boasting the best scoring record, they also finished with the second best defence behind Colombia, though before conceding 3 against Uruguay in the last matchday with a B team, their defence was joint best with Colombia.
Following the 2007 Copa America final defeat, Argentina entered a long, dismal 4-year period under Basile, Maradona and Batista, only managing to qualify for WC 2010 on the last matchday after a roller coaster ride and failing miserably to impress in the 2011 Copa America despite hosting the tournament on home soil.
However the genius behind Argentina's resurrection has been Sabella. Since day one he has addressed Argentina's key weaknesses: strengthening the defence, balancing the squad, linking midfield with the attack and most importantly getting the best out of Messi, who has finally started scoring regularly wearing the Albiceleste shirt.
Ezequiel Garay has fulfilled his potential of becoming a world class defender while Federico Fernandez has matured a great deal since Sabella gave him his confidence. Together their center back pairing has paid off with a much more solid line of defence, a big relief considering what we experienced under the previous coaches. The fantastic 4 up front (Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and Higuain) have gelled together to form a lethal offensive partnership that can strike against both defensive opposition as well as free flowing opposition on the counter attack.
Though Sabella may not stress on keeping much of posession, he has rearranged the midfield to be more effective and fluid. Their passing game has improved and most importantly he has formed a good connection between the midfielders and attackers, a characteristic that was desperately lacking from his predecessors' disjointed displays.
Few can argue with his player selections for most positions on the field. Those positions that do remain debatable though are only so generally because there arent really any undisputed players out there to start with, such as the left back position. Players on the bench are also sometimes debatable, but the fact remains that no matter what happens, Argentina is a country full of talented players and there is only room for 23 players in the final selection.
There will always be calls for certain unselected players... everyone has an opinion. However, what is most important is the result, and so far you can only admit that, given the vast dynamics of the squad, Sabella has done a great job in restructuring the team, bringing the best out of the players and enforcing a winning mentality. So far he has delivered the results with a solid style worthy of a team that can go all the way.
Brazil 2014 is right around the corner people... buckle up!