After we defeated Mexico 3-1 in the Round of 16, my reaction was something like: "Wow! Thank goodness we've got this kind of players, because we won it on pure individual talent".
It's been the main characteristic of Diego's team since he took over in 2008. Perhaps it's tempting to do so, but we relied too much on individual talent to rescue us. I mean...when you have the kind of players we have, it almost seems logical to bet on them to change any game for you and win it. But more often than not, it's the best TEAMS that win trophies. And today Germany were the better team. By some distance.
Yes, it could have been a very different game had that early goal from them never happened. Because it completely changed the nature of the game. It gave Germany the peace of mind they needed and it put an incredibly big chip on our shoulders. We never trailed during this World Cup and we were not prepare to produce a comeback. Not with a team that was set out to counter-attack and thrive on a lead.
There were other options (we've discussed them during the last few days in this space and on Mundo Albiceleste), but Diego firmly decided on keeping the same starting XI that defeated Mexico. Germany? They made us pay for the same kind of mistakes we made v. Mexico.
I keep bringing the names of Javier ZANETTI and Esteban CAMBIASSO and today it was proved that I did it for a reason. Germany won the game benefiting from a pathetic performance from NicolÃ¡s OTAMENDI. You know me and you know I'm a reasonable man. I don't fire at anybody just because I want to have fun or ridicule someone.
OTAMENDI gave Germany the free-kick early on from which they scored the opening goal and it was OTAMENDI himself who couldn't get anywhere near Thomas MÃœLLER allowing him to head the ball past Sergio ROMERO. Could the keeper have done any better there? Maybe, but that man should have been marked and it was OTAMENDI the one in charge of doing that.
It is true that he was played out of position (he is a natural CB and he only has a few matches of experience as a RB), but it is also true that he didn't step up when the challenge was bigger than those he had to face when playing against Greece or Mexico. It's not entirely his fault. It's more Diego's than his. Especially when you notice that he is being completely 'killed' by anybody in a black shirt attacking from the left (our right). With 12 minutes gone, he had already done EVERYTHING wrong and I thought it was time for a substitution. He was at fault in Germany's second goal too! Going for a stud-first untimely challenge that left his back uncovered and gave Lukas PODOLSKI a lot of time and room to do whatever he wanted.
Then he was replaced. To say it was too late would be the understatement of the millennium.
To think we were playing an out-of-position youngster (with a great future as CB I might add), instead of going with our most reliable RB (Javier ZANETTI), was a thought that put me in a lot of pain during those terrible 90 minutes. Again, I'm not saying this now that we've lost. I've always regretted this decision and I lived in fear of the moment in which it was going to haunt us.
On the left? I would have given two arms and a leg to have Esteban CAMBIASSO instead of Angel DI MARIA. Again, a player who's got lots of fans amongst many of you, but someone who NEVER convinced me. I've got proof to back up what I'm saying. I have never questioned his skill, his quick feet and his decent shooting ability. But he lacks the most underrated 'skill' in football. A skill most of the German players we saw today have. And tons of it: INTELLIGENCE. DI MARIA seems to have no 'footballing brain'. His football IQ must be among the lowest in this Universe.
CAMBIASSO, on the other hand, must currently be in the Top5 of INTELLIGENT PLAYERS. Up there with Xavi HERNANDEZ, Andres INIESTA and Andrea PIRLO.
Again, amigos, I don't want to sound bitter now, take the easy way out and destroy Diego for his decisions. Right or wrong, deep inside, I still believed. I gave this team my whole support but I can't hide the fact that I knew we had better options in some key positions and now it really looks like we shot ourselves in the foot.
What DI MARIA showed today was nothing more of what he always showed me dressed in Albiceleste. He took EVERY decision wrong. He had to pass? He shot. He had to run and try to dribble a defender? He shot. He had to cross? He didn't. If you have to show a young player what NOT TO DO in football, show him a tape of what DI MARIA did today (and include a few moves by OTAMENDI if you want to go the extra mile).
We knew that Germany would use the entire width of the pitch to hurt you and we had nothing to stop them from doing it. Germany realised they had a free pass on their left and they went for it.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one to think it was game over after only 3 minutes and both teams were pretty logical after that opening goal. We had no clue and Germany were given a perfect gift and they took it.
There will come the time to put Diego's tenure under the magnifying glass and see which were the good things and which things were done wrong. It is too soon to do that.
This team (or to be correct I have to say: 'this bunch of players') made us dream it was possible and I've seen people in Argentina getting together behind Diego and our boys like few times before. Diego restored some of the pride we've lost in the past and we can't fault our players for a lack of commitment or determination. They gave their 100%. They made no excuse and they didn't go for the infamous foul play and sore loser attitude we've seen from our guys in the past.
We were again one of the most exciting teams to watch in this tournament and I'm sure Diego and our players made sure of capturing the imagination of many new Argentina fans around the world.
This is the end of the road and it's horrible to hit a wall like this, but perhaps even more than I thought four years ago, there are clear signs that the future is bright.
It remains to be seen whether the AFA would want to see us having a bright future or not.
It's been fun to have this space here on Soccernet and we will continue talking about Argentina in our shiny new Mundo Albiceleste site.
Thanks for all your comments and vamos Argentina!
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