Its dejavu. Argentina plays Germany in a world cup quarter final once again after beating Mexico in the round of 16. Last March, when Argentina travelled to Germany to play a friendly, Diego Maradona said, this is like a world cup quarter final. Seems like he was damn right that time, just like he is getting right most of the times now.
In 2006, when the two teams met in the quarter finals, it was very clear that it was Argentina's game to lose. They indeed succeeded in that. Germany of 2010 is looking much better than Germany of 2006. Argentina of 2006, had a great element called "Juan Roman Riquelme". But still Argentina managed to give the game to Germany. What will happen this time? Let's look at each layer of the Argentine team.
DEFENSE: This has always been suspect. Injury to Walter Samuel is a big blow. If he gets fit to play in the Quarter final, that could surely help Argentina. Question is, if Samuel is fit, who goes to the bench? In my opinion, its Martin Demichelis. Let Burdisso play right and Samuel in the left of central defense. Demichelis, has looked vulnerable. Germans know him well too. He tends to flirt in the defense, which could be costly. Martin Demichelis did have some good games for the national team, but you get the feeling he has done all that he could do. We have seen what is the best he can offer.
Later stages of Champions league and world cup may be too much for Martin. If he plays, lets hope he has a great game. Nicolas Otamendi at right and Gabriel Heinze at left should be fine. The injury against Villareal never gave back the old Gabriel Heinze.
He is slower and older. Though I would not rate him highly as a defender any more and many right sided attackers in the football world would fancy running against him, he remains a beast. If its a war, Gabriel Heinze will probably prevail.
MIDFIELD: This is actually the biggest concern. Why do Messi have to drop to his own half to get the ball. Looks like the 3 attackers have little defensive duties. Di Maria is a left winger and Maxi is right. This leaves only Mascherano as a central midfielder. He is top class in breaking the play. But once he breaks the play, he has to get up and make the first 5-10 yard distribution also, which is not going to happen all the time. A deep lying playmaker is the problem. Veron is doing OK, but one have to admit, age is not on his side. Also, Veron has always been a culprit of trying extravagant passes.
Diego Maradona should have had Ever Banega in his back pocket or Lucho Gonzalez. But that is not the case. The gamble of Mascherano not getting a yellow card
against Mexico has paid off. Lack of central midfielders is the main problem for Argentina and it is showing. Javier Pastore is a great prospect but he is not so deep lying like Banega or Lucho. We will see what happens. An area where Argentinian could lose the game.
ATTACK: This is a no problem zone. People are talking about free scoring Germans and Argentines. On paper they are close. Germany has scored 9 and Argentina 10. But, there is big difference. Germany has scored 8 of the 9 goals in 2 matches - Australia and England. Whereas Argentina's goals have been in every game and well distributed. One has to remember that Nigeria, Korea, Greece and Mexico are 4 different kind of teams, not only from 4 different continents, but playing style and capabilities too. Argentina has managed to score against all. Also, Messi has been very unlucky
when it comes to scoring goals. My gut feeling is, someone is going to play very badly for it. Those who have seen him for Barcelona over last few years would know, he goes through these phases. So my bet is someone will pay badly for all these misses. Hopefully, the day will be in an Argentina shirt and in this world cup.
The only reason why the attack line could fail is if there is no supply from the midfield.
DIEGO MARADONA & HIS COACHING STAFF: Argentina has largely played a 4-3-1-2, with Messi in the hole behind the 2 strikers. In March, against Germany they played a solid and defensive 4-4-2. They always had a solid 2 lines of 4 when Germany attacked and Messi and Higuain played as front strikers. Argentina did not look like conceding a goal that night and scored one on counter attack. What does Maradona do now? Go back to that, or do what he is doing in the world cup. It would be easier to play a 4-3-1-2, if Lucho or Banega was in the roster. Now with Maxi and Veron Argentina does have the risk of getting out numbered in the midfield. It would have been great if Argentina could play a 3-5-2, but the team is not prepared for that.
It would be safe to go for a 4-4-2 to start. Then change back to 4-3-1-2 if needed.
PREDICTION: Germany and Argentina has won alternatively in the world cup. Hence, with no logic, I bet Argentina will get it this time. They will win 2-1. It will be hard fought, plenty of cards, controversy, Messi magic will win the match for Argentina.
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