The Argentine squad’s hopes of going to the World Cup are slowly dissipating; the team lost a crucial game against Paraguay on Wednesday evening in Asuncion. Argentina looked disastrous, and even boasting an incredible squad with world-renowned players, the team was unable to perform well against Paraguay, who struggled throughout the game and as a reward took home the victory.
This will be the first time since 1970 that the Argentine squad almost fails to qualify for the World Cup; the squad, headed by football icon Diego Maradona, is standing in the fifth position of the standings and has only two games left.
Maradona has been openly criticized by media and fans in general; the way he has handled the coaching position for Argentina leaves a lot to wish for. Despite boasting great talent, including Lionel Messi and Sergio “Kun” Aguero, Maradona did not seem able to use it, leaving Lisandro Lopez, Esteban Cambiasso, and Walter Samuel on the bench. Instead, he called 35-year-old Martin Palermo and another aging player, Rolando Schiavo. Even though the selections are clearly poor choices, Maradona has refused to accept that he has committed mistakes.
Nor has he consulted the coaching staff in making his decisions. “I am not afraid of criticism. I am afraid of nobody. I am doing my job, I have my team and I am going to go forward,” said Maradona, who, since taking over the coaching position, has led his team to four defeats in his six World Cup qualifiers. “Since I have been 15 years old, I have been scared of nobody. Now I am 48 and I am going to continue to battle with them (the press),” he added.
Maradona insists that he will keep pushing for the team to qualify for the World Cup; they are, he says, “still alive.” However, with his poor record as a coach and the squad’s struggles to find its balance, Maradona faces rather bleak prospects as Argentina moves on to face other South American teams. The road to the World Cup is becoming even narrower, as so many strong teams battle for a spot to qualify for South Africa next year. With so many gifted players, why does the Argentine squad, which has won two World Cup titles in the past, look so disastrous in the field? Is Maradona gifted more as a player than as a coach?
Speculation tends to answer the latter quesiton in the affirmative, with fans criticizing Maradona’s actions. He has almost no experience coaching, and thus far, the results of his coaching have been abysmal. Next month, Argentina faces Peru and Uruguay. The team will have to demonstrate that it has the potential to battle in the World Cup, and its players, who perform so well elsewhere, will have to be at the top of their game for their national squad.