More than a friendly for Sergio Batista

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Argentina are now the proud scorers of the best goal in World Cup history – for two sports.

Maradona’s slalom through the procrastinating English defence in 1986 is rightly considered the greatest goal in the history of the tournament.

What many people outside Argentina probably don’t know is that even though Diego is very much alive and kicking, Diego has a double – as long as we are strictly speaking about talent, that is. She is called Luciana Aymar.

She was the first player to ever win Player of the Year three times, and then just decided to carry on and won it another three times.

She is now captaining the Argentina women’s hockey side at the World Cup currently being held in Rosario, a few hours north of Buenos Aires. Then,  yesterday she and The Lionesses beat England to book their place in the semi final.

But the cherry atop the cake which ensured the El Diego comparisons weren’t unjustified, came at the weekend. Aymar zig-zagged her way through the Chinese defence, beating three en route before scoring a quite brilliant goal. All that was missing was the legendary commentary of ‘barrilete cosmico, de qué planeta viniste?!’, which the local TV stations soon obliged with as they showed endless repetitions of the goal, and voila! Maradona’s goal was the best at World Cups, so too is Aymar’s!

While Argentina plan which sport they should produce the next moment of individual genius in, however, there are more pressing matters at hand. Tonight they take on the World Cup winners Spain.

Of course it is only a friendly, but even with the Spanish, there is no such thing as a friendly. Of course they have just been crowned world champions, but show no sign of a Franck Leboeuf “I’ve won the World Cup” about them. Of course they’ve just been awarded the Prince of Asturias award for their achievement. Of course they all tweet photos of them on the pitch at the Bombonera and Monumental and then joke about how they’ll be demanding money from the papers who print them under the copyright laws. Of course there are no lurid tabloid stories about them. And sure, it is with most of the current Spain squad which whom Leo Messi produces his best club football.

But despite this love-in for Spain’s brilliance, Argentina still have to resolve a fairly major issue, which they will only do by winning (or indeed losing, although that will make things considerably more messy in the short term).

While the home side limber up for the match amidst complaints that Zanetti had been called up again, that Pastore isn’t in the squad, that Heinze is still allowed in the country, that Cambiasso is also back, that there is no Bolatti, most of these complaints miss the mark because they are usually then followed by one word and one date. Brazil. 2014.

A friendly just a few months after one World Cup doesn’t decide who goes to the next one, but it could decide who is in charge, should Argentina qualify.
In under a year’s time Argentina host the Copa America, but they still have yet to name Maradona’s successor. For now it is Sergio Batista, the under-20s coach who is filling in and, after beating Ireland last time out, if he manages a win against the newly crowned world champs he will be in pole position to take the job full time.

He’s announced his side – Romero in goal; a back four of Zanetti, Demichelis, Gabriel Milito, Heinze; a midfield three of Mascherano, Banega and Cambiasso; and up front Messi, Higuaín and Tevez.

According to Leo Messi the side play a similar style to Barcelona under Batista, but the coach quickly backed down from any comparisons. ‘It is six years of work against six days,’ he said.

That may well be the case, but it could be four years more work ahead of him if Batista can produce a result against Spain. But first things first, like every team that plays the Roja, first they need to get the ball. Then they need to hope some Maradona/Aymar magic appears.

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