Ar­gentina turns on its team

> Mil­lions turned off Ar­gentina’s 3-0 de­feat by Brazil and the Messi-led me­dia black­out is the lat­est rea­son be­hind why a foot­ball-mad na­tion has turned its back on the na­tional team

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY IAN HERBERT

says La Na­cion’s dis­tin­guished foot­ball colum­nist Eze­quiel Fer­nan­dez Moores.

“Then they go off to play for their clubs and leave us alone. We need them but when they leave we feel they are traitors.”

This is noth­ing new. Even when Diego Maradona was punch­ing the ball into Peter Shilton’s net at the Es­ta­dio Azteca on the way to World Cup vic­tory in 1986, most of the play­ers were play­ing their club foot­ball out­side of Ar­gentina, though the na­tion is now en­gulfed by that English dis­ease of yearn­ing for days when the sun never set on their suc­cess.

It’s 23 years since they last lifted a tro­phy – the 1993 Copa Amer­ica – and los­ing in fi­nals is their equiv­a­lent to our run­ners-up po­si­tion in penalty shootouts. Since Mex­ico ’86, the side have been de­feated in the fi­nals of two World Cup and three Copa Amer­i­cas.

The FA would have cer­tainly taken that record but for the Ar­gen­tini­ans, an in­nate comes into play. Ev­ery­one quotes the le­gendary Car­los Bi­lardo, coach of that 1986 team. ”Foot­ball is win­ning and noth­ing else,” he said.

The in­tro­spec­tion is worse be­cause this na­tion’s pro­duc­tion line of play­ers is so phe­nom­e­nal, while Bi­lardo, Ce­sar Luis Menotti, Mar­cello Bielsa, Diego Sime­one and Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino have made coach­ing a revered art form.

As Jonathan Wil­son puts it in the con­clu­sion to his pow­er­ful new history of the Ar­gen­tinian foot­ball na­tion ‘ no side has ever pro­duced such suc­cess at Un­der-20 World Cup level – five tour­na­ment vic­to­ries in 12 years - and yet failed to win a tro­phy at se­nior level.

The bur­den of history has weighed down the shirt, with ev­ery­one cur­rently analysing what is wrong with the Ar­gen­tinian foot­ball psy­che.

“We are one of those Sig­mund Freud coun­tries – like you in Eng­land,” says Fer­nan­dez Moores. “It is a psy­cho­log­i­cal af­flic­tion now. You can see that in the play­ers’ faces.”

Be­fore Messi de­cided that the play­ers would not be talk­ing, he sur­prised Ar­gen­tini­ans by declar­ing, “We need to get out of this s***,” af­ter the de­feat to Brazil.

The na­tion is not ac­cus­tomed to such phrase­ol­ogy from its celebri­ties. Javier Mascher­ano, who looked even more beaten down that night, has been in the throes of one of his worst runs of form in the na­tional team. His cat­a­strophic back­pass gifted Peru an equal­is­ing goal last month.

The in­tro­spec­tive search for an ex­pla­na­tion for all this within the na­tion’s do­mes­tic game is just like Eng­land’s.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and struc­tures are cer­tainly chaotic, with the Ar­gentina FA cur­rently un­der emer­gency FIFA con­trol.

Wil­son writes that 1,869 Ar­gen­tini­ans were play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally abroad last year. Who can blame them for leav­ing Third World club stan­dards be­hind?

Messi’s me­dia boy­cott has been re­ceived philo­soph­i­cally. “It’s Messi. He knows that jour­nal­ists need him and he doesn’t need jour­nal­ists,” says Fer­nan­dez Moores.

But the same may not ap­ply to the en­tire squad. Ar­gentina, still out­side of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion places, now face games against Chile and in La Paz, Bo­livia, whose high al­ti­tude grounds are fiendishly dif­fi­cult to get re­sults from.

There is no sense of col­lec­tive strength, de­spite last week’s much needed win.

“It was Messi FC 3 Colom­bia 0. Ar­gentina re­mains in dark­ness,” says one pa­per.

Eng­land’s next op­po­nents? Lithua­nia and Scot­land. Be thank­ful for small mer­cies. – The In­de­pen­dent

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