The Argentinian conundrum
16 games played 9 wins 5 draws and 2 losses, with a total of 35 goals scored and 15 goals conceded. These were the stats with which Argentina qualified with for the last edition of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. Fast forward to 2017, the South American giants are now on the verge of possible elimination, and might not make it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The mighty have certainly fallen from grace and when the mighty fall, they fall hard! What went wrong for the Albiceleste from reaching the finals of the 2014 World Cup, to the disappointing possibility of not seeing the team in Russia. Where did the problems start for the team?
The AFA (Argentine Football Association)
It’s an unwritten rule that there will always be some grounds for disagreement between a country’s Football Association and its team. In case of Argentina, however, disagreement would be a critical understatement!
There have been several cases of the AFA failing as a footballing body, not only in administration but also in maintaining a healthy relationship with the team.
Having seen several reports surface of staff not being paid their due salaries for their services (reports of Messi paying the security staff’s salaries out of his own pocket), it is clear that their relationship is anything but cordial.
Their appointment of Edgardo Bauza, after Gerardo Martino submitted his resignation, only complicated matters further. However, the AFA has made a few amends recently, its appointment of Sampaoli as the manager, its defence of Messi during the whole Chile FA saga, which saw Messi banned for a few matches, eventually being overturned, and the choice of La Bombnera, which hosted the Peru match.
The appointment of Edgardo Bauza
One of the most important factors that absolutely ruined Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign was the appointment of Edgardo Bauza. A mere 11 points from 8 matches showed his abysmal contribution as a coach.
The damage, however, was not restricted to just a few points lost, in fact, Argentina under Bauza lost every ounce of identity it had, and the team looked lost on several occasions, failing to find any form under him.
His sacking may have come a little too late in the fray of things, but he was clearly not able to rally the players’ mental states when they put on their country’s colours. A major reason for Argentina losing steam in its qualifying campaign would have to be attributed to his questionable tactics.
Blame Messi for not being his best!
Undoubtedly one of the best football players ever to grace the pitch, Lionel Andres Messi has probably won every accolade there is to win in the game, barring one: The football World Cup.
Criticism has been tossed from every nook and corner for not showing up in big games, failing to be an able captain, being incapable of scoring goals when it comes to representing the country etc.
Despite what the naysayers claimed, the player endured a loss in 3 finals before throwing in the towel forcing himself into retirement, albeit temporarily. Post his return, however, we have seen the ferocity return.
But wait, where are the goals? True, despite all his efforts, the rewards have not come. This has not only impacted him but the team as well. If Messi can’t score, how can we? Well, not prying on fools’ mentality, but there is a serious problem in the team and Sampaoli doesn’t seem to have an answer to it.
Jorge Sampaoli has certainly had his dream of coaching Lionel Messi fulfilled. However, he now faces a herculean task of having to win away from home. His bold decision of dropping Higuain and bringing back Icardi didn’t produce substantiated results.
Although one could blame the lack of preparation time in finding the right balance, Sampaoli has done everything he possibly could in trying to build a team around Messi. So, what then is the problem?
The answer is simple - circumstance. Had we seen the appointment of Sampaoli instead of Bauza, Argentina would have qualified by now and this article would have never seen the light of day.
However, on the 11th of October, Sampaoli and Co. face what might be their acid test. Will they qualify, or will we see a world cup without Argentina for the first time since 1970? Only time will tell.