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The Argentine Media Reaction To Last Night's World Cup Shambles

The Argentine Media Reaction To Last Night's World Cup Shambles
By Gavin Cooney

"He got the blame in 2010", quivered Damien Duff in disgust. "But nobody remembers that Maradona couldn't set up a team. In 2014 he single-handedly got them to the final, and he still got the blame. And he'll get the blame this time".

Did he? We've flicked through some of the Argentine sports media this morning to see who's getting the blame for a remarkably inept 3-0 defeat to Croatia in which a team containing Leo Messi were lucky to get nil.

Olé's Sergio Maffei got the role as the paper's pathologist-in-chief, and gave five reasons as to why Argentina find themselves on the "edge of the abyss". Rather than criticise Messi straight away, Maffei takes a more holistic view and says that the Argentine FA have been left leaderless since the death of Julio Grondona, who had run the association for 35 years.

He also accentuates the poor run of success at youth level -after winning five of seven titles between 1995 and 2007, Argentina haven't even made a semi-final in the last decade - the fact that the current set of players are haunted by three successive final defeats (the World Cup along with two in the Copa America) before eventually tackling the Messi conundrum.

Maffei laments Argentina's failure to pick a team and a system that could bring the best out of Messi, and pointed out that Messi was "absent, isolated and didn't assume the leadership expected of him".

Writing in the same paper, Jorge Mario Trasmonte writes of the folly of a team built on the philosophy of "giving the ball to Messi", as it ended up making more passes to Willy Caballero.

We get mad at him, yes. We want that, in addition to being an extraordinary soccer player, have a capacity for resilience also bordering on the inhuman. That in the midst of that disaster that was the National Team (yesterday likely to end in elimination), we demand that they give it to him and that he move around, win the game alone, beat all the rivals, manage to kick the set-pieces and make the goals.

We know that when he spends a lot of time without entering the game he falls, gets discouraged, walks, leaves the game. And what do we do? We do not give him the ball.

Leo's performance yesterday cannot be defended. He played badly and showed no spirit or rebelliousness. But, when making the balance of the debacle, let's not forget that Argentina shouted everywhere that you had to put together a team for Messi, and the only thing he did was ruin it.

The paper highlighted the similarities between this group stage failure and that of 2002, in which Marcelo Bielsa refused to play Hernan Crespo and Gabriel Batitusta together, drawing parallels with Sampaoli's decision to replace Kun Aguero with Gonzalo Higuain. They gloriously refer to Bielsa as The Fool, but heck, he could be in charge if Argentina get past the group stage as Leeds might have fired him by then.


In the same paper, Diego Macias screams "Knights of Anguish", saying that Messi played "the worst game" of his career, which "hurts in the soul of the Argentina fans who came to Russia with the illusion of competing". This piece is much more critical of Messi.

It is critical of the Great Man for not demanding the ball as often as he usually does, and says that he must assume the same level of blame as Willy Caballero. The piece ends by saying that Pavon, Higuain and Dybala arrived when the chaos had already become anguish, ending with this line:

The impotent image of Messi at the end summed up the mood of a team that had suffered one of the worst blows in their history.

La Nacion are more harsh on Messi, quoting Jorge Valdano in saying that Argentina play as if they didn't have him. They say that Sampaoli must take some blame for failing to build a proper system around him, but said that Messi did not look like a player appearing in his fourth World Cup before going all Eamon Dunphy and claiming that he is decline.

That Messi does not exist anymore, he of the electric and vertiginous bursts that turned rival defenses into scorched earth. The Messi of today is different, a "walker" that at the age of 31 gives passes and looks for the right moment to slip through the defenses. He does not have the energy or the vitality of yesteryear.

They criticised him for his failure to clock a speed above 25 km/h, which is apparently slower than Sergio Busquets and David Silva.


They also ponder his state of mind, and why the penalty miss against Iceland affected him so badly, given that he had missed four of his last seven. The paper also point out that no player fulfilled an interview obligation, although Javier Mascherano dawdled in the mixed zone to admit that they will "swallow the poison that will have to be swallowed".

La Nacion do have a go at Sampaoli, for writing a "pretentious" book about football (My beats - notes on the culture of football) before winning the World Cup, pointing out that César Luis Menotti, Carlos Bilardo, Vicente Del Bosque an Joachim Löw  "were all world champions and they all wrote their books after winning, not before".

The most significant criticism, however, has come from Diego Simeone. A WhatsApp audio clip of him criticising the Argentina team has been leaked online, in which he criticises "four years of anarchy" at the Association.


Simeone says that Sampaoli's decisions were "shit", later saying that "Messi is very good, but he is very good because he is accompanied by extraordinary players [at Barcelona]. If you have to choose between Messi and Ronaldo for a normal game, who would you choose?"

See Also: TV Review - Damien Duff Comes Of Age As Argentina Become A Shambles


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