Rumor has it, and if its not completely true its still worth telling, that Argentina’s Soccer Federation has given head coach Diego Maradona a two week lapse so the coach can revaluate his situation and permanency in front of the Argentine squad.
High hopes and high expectations can turn out to be extremely demanding over a athletes performance. Ask the championship-less superstar LeBron James what it feels like to be considered by many the best active player and yet have no championship to hold. The comparison has many flaws, but the expectations set upon talented athletes might sometimes end up being too much of a psychological burden.
If expectations affect players, well it is certainly going to play a big roll in the performance of national soccer team. And that’s when things start to get into perspective when we look at the Argentine squad performance in this 2010 World Cup.
Much has been said about the dominance of the German team in their 4-0 trashing in the World Cup. Still, on their return to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and despite the general disappointment of the local fans, and lets even say the popular spirit of the country as a whole, some still believe and are proud of the process under Diego Armando Maradona.
Many had expected this to be Argentina’s best shot at the tournament. Even before the team flew to South Africa, the local TV sports news channels insisted on comparing Lionel Messi and the 21 year old Maradona who played in World Cup Mexico 86. It was as if many of the fans and even the sports commentators who had once trashed and harshly criticized Maradona’s performance from the bench, were starting to believe that it was possible. As if there was a divine connection between Maradona and the World Cup trophy that could somehow be brought into existence as Messi, for the first time since 86, was the player that seemed capable of stepping up and filling in the big shoes that the No. 10 had left behind in the Argentine team.
And then came the good performances in the group stage. Sure enough, neither South Korea or Greece or Nigeria. Even Mexico, who lacked a solid defense, did not seem to have been much of a problem for Argentina. But certain flaws started to surface in those first games. We do have to give credit to Maradona really turning the face of his team around. Sure, the first round had teams that where not great, or traditionally powerful, but neither great or powerful were the squads from Peru and Bolivia, who got Argentina into so much trouble and disgrace (6-1 trashing at La Paz still hurts the Argentine’s soccer spirit) and still, it has to be said, Argentina was much better in South Africa.
Still the flaws were there. Neither Angel di Maria nor Maxi Rodriguez were able to really create plays in the middle. Messi had to come down behind the midfield and test his speed and dribbling abilities from much farther behind then what he is used to. And yet the games came one after the other and nothing happened. It is not as if Maradona had not the players to make a decent change in strategy. Di María kept starting the games as many fans and commentators alike saw after every game how he was not living up to the expectations, while players like Diego Milito, Javier Pastore or Sebastián Veron to make something happen in the midfield.
Now he has many questions to answer. And it still seems like a shame that such a great team, could not have done a bit more. But heck, it’s the FIFA World Cup. According to them, “One game changes everything”. It’s been an interesting tournament. Now we just have to see which European team wins it all.