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Posted by Sebastian Garcia on 06/20/2010

What do I mean with that question?

Before you accuse me of counting my chickens ahead of time, I don't mean who are we going to face in the round of 16. We are not quite there yet. I'm cautious. Not pessimistic. Just cautious.

I'm also not an ignorant. I know we play Greece next. That's not what I meant either when I asked that question in the headline.

I mean...who do we play? Which players do we keep in our starting XI?

We will have two players unavailable: Jonas is suspended for getting two yellows. Walter SAMUEL would be playing if this was the final, but since it's far from being the final, he won't be risked. The other 21 are ready to be picked and eager to be trusted by Diego.

There are others who have picked up yellow cards: Javier MASCHERANO and Gabriel HEINZE and the wise decision would be not to risk him getting another one and missing out on the round of 16 (if we get there -hmmm...maybe I'm being too cautious here, right? I don't care! I'll keep my feelings for my self. I won't go and imitate the media from England or Spain who were already printing newspapers with their captains lifting the trophy -figuratively speaking-).

So there you have it. No Jonas. No SAMUEL. No HEINZE and no MASCHERANO.

But what do we do with the rest?

Do we play them? Do we rest them?

Will it be better to give the team more minutes to keep improving?

Will it be best not to risk injuries or suspension to some of our best players?

Honestly? I can't decide.

There are many ways of seeing it.

Do we give Lionel MESSI a chance to find the back of the net and help him raise his confidence even more? Do we want to risk him picking up an injury (don't worry, I'm already knocking on wood whilst I write this)? Wouldn't it be better to give him some rest so he can have more than a week to recover and be ready to give 100% in the next round?

What do we do with VERON?

What about Gonzalo HIGUAIN? This just occurred to me. Wouldn't it be better to keep him out of the next game and avoid a dip in confidence if he doesn't manage to score v. Greece? Wouldn't it be better for him to have some rest and then play in the round of 16 on the back of his hat-trick performance and with his confidence as high as the city of La Paz?

What if we give Diego MILITO a chance to start instead, see if he can find some form and score in the process and then have two World Class strikers ready to play for you whenever you need them? I'll do wonders to MILITO's confidence, it will take away some of the nervousness and it'd allow him to find some rhythm.

Why don't we give Sergio AGÜERO a start instead of TEVEZ? TEVEZ has been running a lot and we need him fresh. AGÜERO showed he is sharp. He can benefit from playing more minutes.

Wouldn't this be the perfect opportunity for Javier PASTORE to make his debut playing in a safe environment with not much pressure? I mean...if everything goes wrong and we're trailing or drawing at half-time you can still send a couple of your top guns and win this, right?

So let's look at our defence:

It looks like Nicolás OTAMENDI will definitely get a start and that's great news. He will play at his favourite position too (CB).

With Jonas, SAMUEL and HEINZE out, we will really see which are Diego's B Options to play on the flanks and we will see what he decides to play in the middle.

It looks like Nicolás BURDISSO will be our RB, whilst Clemente RODRIGUEZ could be in pole position to cover for HEINZE. With DEMICHELIS and OTAMENDI the pair of centre-backs.

There isn't much we could see back there.

In the middle? No MASCHERANO means this is a good opportunity to see what our team can do without him. Anybody miss CAMBIASSO yet? Anyway...

It looks like Mario BOLATTI has chances of starting and it remains to be seen whether Juan Sebastián VERON will be used and what is going to happen to Maxi RODRIGUEZ and Angel DI MARIA.

Are we keeping them out of this? Are we sending Maxi to the left, use BOLATTI as our central holding midfielder and VERON more on the right?

Are we sticking to the same formation? Three up-front?

Will we see a mix between some starters and some subs? Will it be MESSI-AGÜERO-MILITO?


What about this option with all subs? PASTORE-AGÜERO-MILITO

I can't believe how many questions I have in my mind right now.

And I still haven't decided on the answers.

But I also think I have to share with you what I would do if I was the manager and I had to make the decisions:

ROMERO: keep giving him the confidence you need from a keeper. Let him get more time to observe the Jabulani and get use to the playing conditions).

BURDISSO: definitely our best option at RB. With or without Jonas available).

DEMICHELIS: he needs to stay. We don't have too many options and he needs to get a chance to recover his self-confidence after the mistake he made against South Korea. A good performance by him, will mean that we have recover an important piece in this team and he'll be fired up for the rest of the tournament).

OTAMENDI: a perfect chance for him to make his debut and do it playing in his favourite position. The pressure in this game will be on Greece and it'll be nowhere near as tough on him as it would have been if he made his debut in the next round).

Clemente RODRIGUEZ: He is a natural LB. We need to use him. He is fast. He can join in the attack if needed. Give him a taste of World Cup football and see how he copes. We need him to be ready in case HEINZE is not available at some point in the future).

Mario BOLATTI: Great opportunity to see what he can do covering for MASCHERANO.

Maxi RODRIGUEZ: You need a natural midfielder to play on the right. If you have three forwards (I don't think we should change what's really working for us right now), then you need players to cover both flanks in midfield. He gives the team a lot of balance.

Angel DI MARIA: I'm sticking with him even if he is not really hot right now. Maybe that's the main reason why I'd keep him. Give him another chance at finding his feet offensively. Same as with Maxi, you need someone on the flanks and I can't think of another of the current squad (Jonas is unavailable) who could do the job on the left.

Here comes my main and most painful doubt I have. Maybe the only one.


Option MESSI: You put the fear of God into Greece. They can deny it if they want, but there's no way they will approach this game with the same mentality if they have MESSI in front of them or not.

Reasons why I'd use him? To give him a chance to score. To give the team a better shot at winning this thing and put all ghosts to bed. To give the forwards I'm picking a better shot at finding the back of the net themselves and find more spaces.

Reasons why I'd keep him out of this one? Fear of injury or of him picking a yellow card and then risk getting another in the round of 16 and missing out on our potential QF match.

Option PASTORE: As I said. You give this young guy a chance to make his debut without too many pressures.

Reasons why I'd use him? To see what he can give you. To test a Plan B with a play-maker other than VERON and/or MESSI. Because he can hold on to the ball and always find a team-mate with his great passing range. Because he knows BOLATTI very well for having played club football (very successfully) together at Huracán.

Reasons why I'd keep him out? I can't see too many. The only one would be because I have decided I'm using MESSI. Which I still haven't!

The other two? I'm sure about them:

Sergio AGÜERO: I've never been a fan of Kun. Not that I don't think he's great, because he is. But I never loved his kind of selfish football. He showed it in his last play against South Korea, but up to that point he had already had an assist for Pipita's hat-trick and had participated in Argentina's third goal with a great pass for MESSI that was what really made a scoring chance of that attack. I'd ask him to give the team what TEVEZ did in the first two games. Play a little farther from the penalty area and to open spaces for others.

Diego MILITO: I gave you my reasons above. We already have one striker playing on the back of a hat-trick. Why don't we give our second-choice striker a chance to show what he can do and bet on him scoring too so we can have two strikers on fire instead of one?

So many difficult decisions.

Have you made up your mind already?

Join us at Mundo Albiceleste, to hear what hundreds of fans of the Albicelestes from all over the world have to say!


Posted by Imo on 06/20/2010

Seba great article again. I'm a fan of your reasoning...

My line-up would differ slightly in that my dilemma would be between playing Maxi or Pastore. I feel that we need to keep messi for the added reason of Messi forging a better understanding with Milito. He has a natural chemistry with Sergio and Tevez and has been allowed time to get on a closer wave length with Higuain already.

Pastore is the closer back-up for Veron and as you said this is the perfect game to blood his talent. Maxi on the other hand will fit the system better and is more likely to be called upon in the latter stages and could do with as much time to get into his rhythm as possible. So there-in would lie my dilemma

Otherwise my line-up matches yours.
Thanks Seba, keep 'em coming

Posted by Taijin Kyofusho on 06/20/2010

I can give u my opinion from the Greek side solely on the Messi dilemma. He should be kept out. As much as the Greek players respect Messi, I assure you none of them will be shy on tackling him hard if needed and you don t want him out injured in a game of little importance. Argentina can beat Greece even without Messi although it would a bit harder. But Argentina has essentially already advanced in first position and using Leo is an unnecessary risk

Posted by sam on 06/21/2010

How nice it must feel to be 99,9% sure to be in the next round. But then again, this is Argentina, and knowing your country, nothing less should be expected after 2 games.

I agree with Taijin, more because I would like to see the Argentinian organization "without" Lio for 90 minutes... The mechanics shown until today should work with or without him... and agree that Pastore should debut against Greece. Messi has nothing to prove anyone or himself anymore. I assume he is well passed that stage in his professional life, and winning without him, would probably give a real confidence boost to the whole team as to feel the "Messi under-dependence". (I would not go as far as declaring Messi Independence just yet...)

It would also be nice to see some "real" minutes from Milito too.

My God! I really envy your "tough" decisions to make! hahaha!

Hoping the best for you and your Monster Nt !!

Best regards!

Posted by Rizman on 06/21/2010

Play Veron anywhere! He's one of the smartest players in this World Cup. And yes, I miss Cambiasso, scorer of the best World Cup goal I believe I've ever seen, last time. Great analysis, as always, from a World-class football writer!

Posted by Femi on 06/21/2010

Whatever team he picks, just beat Greece PLEASE!
We need it BAD(and a two goal win in our own match).

Lagos, Nigeria

Posted by bobbys on 06/22/2010

i agree with everything you said messi and tevez are better suited getting rest in this game there is no reason to risk the injuries
start pastore in midfield instead of maxi as well.
lets keep the same formation though with a three pronged attack milito,argeuo, higuain i think
your backline is perfect definetly rest any player with a a yellow.
also i definetly think bolatti should get a game.
i also believe that should argentina take a two goal lead i would definetly give the ole man who got us to the world cup a game he is still one of the greatestest strikers argentina ever produced for the local league GIVE HIM A GAME!!!!! let us show dreams can come true if you work hard

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Sebastian Garcia was born just a few blocks from the place where a certain Diego Armando Maradona first kicked a football. Regretfully, Sebastian had to make do with punching some keys and writing about football. He worked for Clarin newspaper and ESPN in Buenos Aires before taking part in Press Operations in several major sporting events such as the Beijing Olympics, when Argentina won gold at the Birds Nest.

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