No one who was on the World Cup in Brazil eight years in the past can overlook the soundtrack to the match. It was supplied by the massed hordes of visiting followers from Argentina who, wherever they gathered, belted out a music to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.”
The tailored lyrics had nothing to do with the Mexico 1986 match, when Diego Maradona hit heights of genius seldom seen earlier than or since. They weren’t even about Argentina ’78, the positioning of their first World Cup win. No, the lyrics to the music centered on a objective scored in Italia ’90.
Then, as now, Argentina suffered a shock defeat within the opening sport of the match. From the angle of the time, shedding to Cameroon was at the very least as a lot a shock as Tuesday’s shocker in opposition to Saudi Arabia. But that workforce picked itself up, dusted itself down and went all the way in which to the ultimate. Thirty-two years on, Argentina followers are hoping for the same revival.
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It is fascinating that Italia ’90 holds such a spot within the footballing folklore. But then once more, Argentina is the nation of tango, with its tales of darkish romance, dramatic twists and romantic tragedy.
Perhaps issues have been merely going too effectively when the workforce swaggered into Qatar on the again of a 36-game unbeaten run. There was a concern within the camp that one thing would possibly go fallacious when it mattered most. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni talked about it after his facet thrashed European champions Italy in June. The Italians, in fact, had been on a protracted unbeaten run — and even so had missed out on the World Cup. Something comparable occurred to Algeria. Better, one may think, for one thing to go fallacious within the first match of the World Cup — when there may be nonetheless time to place issues proper — than within the knockout phases, the place defeat means elimination.
And the scenario of Argentina is extra comfy than that of Germany, the opposite shock first-round losers to Asian opposition. Argentina do not need to face Spain within the subsequent sport. Instead, it’s Mexico adopted by Poland, each of whom seemed unimpressive of their drab goalless draw. The Mexican wingers don’t appear to pose the identical menace as they did 4 years in the past. Argentina have knocked over Mexico 3 times within the Scaloni years, with out conceding a objective, and Poland have the air of a facet too gradual to present help to centre-forward Robert Lewandowski — and too gradual to place the Argentina midfield beneath the form of strain that Saudi Arabia managed on Tuesday.
After Tuesday’s match, Scaloni mentioned that he had not been stunned by the Saudi method, the excessive defensive position that squeezed the play and prevented his workforce from establishing their customary rhythm of affected person passing. This raises an apparent query: if this had been anticipated, then why have been Argentina so poor at coping with it?
There has been an air of euphoria concerning the nationwide workforce over the course of that lengthy unbeaten run, and particularly because the triumph of final 12 months’s Copa America. The facet have been baptised the “Scaloneta” — the Scaloni squad, in tribute to the outstanding story of a person with no earlier senior teaching expertise who took the workforce to their first senior title since 1993. But 45 unhealthy minutes in opposition to the Saudis have been sufficient to carry the extended honeymoon to an abrupt finish.
Argentina loves an evaluation, and newspaper articles and TV debates have gone in depth into the issues and failings of the shock defeat. The true check of a workforce is all the time when it goes behind — not a place that Argentina have needed to face too typically in current occasions. Under strain, a workforce with a powerful thought grew to become a workforce with no thought.
Scaloni’s facet has been primarily based on affiliation, on mixtures of passes that develop faster near the opposing objective. True, the damage to Giovani Lo Celso has not helped issues. He was an important a part of the central midfield trio, and when he was pressured out, Scaloni confessed that he doesn’t possess a really perfect alternative. Even so, Argentina ought to absolutely have performed higher of their efforts to get behind the Saudi defence. The greatest answer would have been a fast midfield mixture adopted by a ahead move from a runner from deep. Instead, Argentina by no means managed to work this out, and endured with lengthy balls as much as the strikers that resulted in 10 offside selections going in opposition to them.
Has Scaloni, then, skilled his workforce for under beneficial conditions? Is there no different sport plan? And why have been his substitutions so ineffective? Has the rookie coach made a mistake by not taking an out-and-out centre-forward as a backup? And did he spend too lengthy hoping for gamers to get better earlier than having to drop three from the squad?
In the agonising days earlier than the Mexico match, all these questions and extra are being debated. There is one technique to shut them up: a win on Saturday and a revival of the hope that, simply as in Italia ’90, Argentina could make all of it the way in which to the ultimate by taking the scenic route, exhibiting the form of grit that will probably be sung about in years to come back.