Sunday, 4 July 2010
Maradona's Dream in Tatters
Argentina 0 Germany 4, Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
There is to be no famous double for Maradona just yet. After winning the World Cup as captain in 1986, a ruthless German team ended his dreams of being victorious as coach. He was despondent after the game and hinted that he could walk away from his high-pressure role.
After Brazil's demise, suddenly everyone was talking up the chances of La Albicleste in the build-up to the game, but these hopes were brutally exposed on a difficult afternoon in Cape Town. It was their second consecutive World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany and, unlike four years ago, there was no need for a penalty shoot-out to decide matters.
Argentina were simply swept away by a vibrant and controlled display from Germany. Joachim Loew's side picked off their opponents with ease, making the game look ridiculously simple and showing that you don't always need big-name players to fashion a good team. Their counter-attacking style is proving to be extremely productive and might just lead them all the way. Four goals against England and another four against Argentina is impressive by any any standards.
Maradona's men had their chances and were always keen to try their luck from distance - Di Maria was unlucky on a couple of occasions - but they couldn't find a way to get behind the organised German defence. Breaching the Argentinian defence, on the other hand, was a breeze for Schweinsteiger and his fellow young guns.
What of Argentina's star turn? Messi had impressed in some of the previous games but he couldn't impose his will on this game and his tournament will have to be marked down as a failure. His boss predicted he would score before every game. He never did. Not really the mark of a champion.
On the touchline Maradona couldn't believe what he was witnessing. His passion for the game and his team can never be doubted, as his post-match comments revealed. He's put his heart and soul into this tournament:
'This is the most difficult experience of my life, because to [lose] in front of so many good players, such good people, such good professionals is like getting punched by Muhammad Ali. I don't have any energy left.'
He clearly has the backing of the players but all his tub-thumping and words of encouragement couldn't mask his lack of top level managerial experience. Dangerous going forward but naive at the back. A team made in their coach's likeness. He could win games single-handedly and believed his star pupil could do the same but he now faces renewed criticism over his lack of a more thought-out tactical approach.
Let's hope he returns. He's brightened up this tournament with his charisma and honesty in interviews, his emotion on the sidelines and his post-match bear hugs for his players. He will be missed.
A victory in this World Cup for Argentina would have been a victory for instinct over pragmatism, for disorder over organisation, for attack over defence. That dream for us and Maradona has sadly slipped away.
How they lined up: Romero, Demichelis, Burdisso, Heinze, Otamendi (Yellow card, Pastore, 70), Di Maria (Aguero, 76), Mascherano (Captain, Yellow card), Maxi, Higuain, Messi, Tevez