Maradona slowly finding the right blend

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"This is like a chess match!"

With Argentina in action on one channel, and England on the other, and after taking a quick peek at the respective coach’s CVs, you’d expect the comment to have been about the cerebral football on show from Capello’s team.

The TV commentators were, however, speaking about the Albiceleste, which got this blogger thinking (albeit briefly).

Could Maradona and Capello be more diametrically opposed? Initial evidence hinges on the following:

Tracksuit vs suit
Mullet vs continentally coiffed
Smokes Cuban cigars during training vs doesn’t
Sunglasses vs designer corrective glasses
23 games experience as coach before taking over current job vs glittering career in the dugout
and finally…Fidel Castro vs Franco

Old habits die hard for Diego

The closest link between the two this blogger stumbled upon was that both count goals against England as one of the highlights of their playing career.

Similarities (or not) aside, the jury is still out on Maradona the coach.

Sure, we know what to expect off the pitch, as the little big man wades into trouble like there’s no tomorrow. The latest episode includes apparently giving Nike a helping hand in their marketing campaign, overlooking one issue – Adidas make their shirts.

Then there are the thousands of call-ups, the in-fighting at AFA, the earrings, the press conferences…

But while we all know what to expect off the pitch, nobody still quite knows what Diego the coach will do. The friendly with Germany gave us a few clues, and pointed to a vast improvement on the performances during qualification.

As a player, Diego produced exhilarating football, but wasn’t afraid to put the boot in. A classic mix of Argentine footballing traditions of Menotti and Bilardo if you like. Maradona’s team could well be the same blend.

To the purists, it’s a clear separation of good and bad, which sets us up nicely for the lowdown on last night’s friendly…

"Result - fish fingers for tea!"


Ángel Di María
Of the two twinkle-toed, left-footed, light-weight, hyped-up youngsters, it was the winger from Benfica rather than the forward from Barcelona who shone the brightest. An assist, coupled with a mazy run that ended with a shot cannoning off the bar, confirmed Di María as Argentina’s best player on Wednesday.

Gonzalo Higuaín
He had just one chance to score, and he produced the winner. Pipita almost put his shot wide from over 30 yards out, but his second goal in four appearances for his country, plus the backing of over 50% of Olé’s readers, installs him as first choice number 9.

Nico Otamendi
Playing four centre backs across the backline may, or does, bring problems of its own further up the pitch, but it sure shuts up shop. Maradona looks set to choose this option to avoid defensive catastrophes at South Africa, and although it is not his preferred position, Otamendi looks a reliable option at right-back.

Leo falls to the ground at the sight of Schweinsteiger's massive thigh...


Leo Messi
La Pulga is Menottista with Barcleona, but Bilardista with Argentina. Messi was poor, again, and only compounded the frustration he and everyone else must be feeling with a deserved yellow card for a rough challenge.

Martín Demichelis/ Walter Samuel    
The two centre-backs that faced Germany are big, bruising walls of muscle - exactly what Maradona wants. The problem comes when both are on yellow cards after half an hour for crude lunges at opponents… Expect suspensions at the World Cup.

Juan Sebastián Verón
The midfielder is the consummate Bilardista, having been schooled - and then become a legend - at Estudiantes. Verón was too quiet in the second half, fuelling suspicions that he doesn’t have the legs to dictate a match for 90 minutes. Maradona needs to find a replacement.

Highlights from Argentina’s win over Germany here

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