Olé have Heinze for breakfast

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Wednesday night was business as usual for the Albiceleste against Paraguay.

Another game, another defeat, another woeful performance, another team celebrating qualifying for the World Cup at their expense, and another endless list of unfathomable decisions made by the coach.

From's World Cup News section, September 10: Maradona defiant after Paraguay defeat

Although Conmebol qualifying is tight – with two rounds left, Argentina are one of five teams within three points of each other squabbling for one automatic place – it's looking like the play-offs for Diego Maradona’s team.

There's a chance it may not be Maradona’s team for much longer, but that particular subject can keep for the time being.

For now the knives are out for what promises to be a fairly bloody post mortem after the 90 minutes of hell in Asunción.

Yet while everyone moans that Leo Messi isn't the player he is with Barcelona, that Maradona was always a disaster waiting to happen, that a team like Argentina can’t possibly be in this situation, there are two words that add yet more light on the reason that Argentina are where they are.



Argentina’s must-win World Cup qualifier in Paraguay was a full 48 seconds old when the ‘defender’ bundled over the man he was ‘marking’.

The following 89 minutes and 12 seconds would prove to contain the full repertoire of Heinze’s game.

We were delighted with the full display, which includes over-hit crosses, hospital passes to team-mates, clearances straight to the opposition, and an assortment of fouling techniques that range from the not-so-subtle push in the back to the knee-high studs-up lunge.

All that was missing was blaming a team-mate for conceding a goal (he covered that base at the weekend) or the bulging-vein eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the match referee for daring to give a decision against him.

It's not news that Gabriel Heinze is not a technically gifted player.

The coach Jorge Griffa is widely regarded as something of a legend in Argentina, taking the credit for bringing through players such as Jorge Valdano, Roberto Sensini, Gabriel Batistuta, Nicolas Burdisso and Carlos Tevez amongst others.

He is, however, also the man to blame for discovering Gabriel Heinze.

On the eve of his professional debut, Heinze got a call from Griffa: "Congratulations, but remember one thing. You can’t play football. Keep it simple."

On paper, Heinze kept things simple enough to rack up a decent CV - over 50 caps for his country, once voted Manchester United’s fans’ player of the season, Premier League winner’s medal, la Liga winner with Real Madrid…

And if Heinze himself is anyone to go by, he is still worth big bucks.

When Real Madrid told Heinze to pack his bags over the summer, a move to Marseille was put on hold as he wanted €4.5 million a year [that's roughly £75,000 a week - mildly astonished Ed.].

Perhaps Jorge Griffa had a word in his ear, and he lowered his demands.

Heinze now struggles to make ends meet with the €1 million a year he makes in France, but he can find comfort in still counting as a favourite with the national team.

Ever since Marcelo Bielsa first called up the ‘Gringo’ in 2003, Heinze has always been in the Argentina set-up.

And while Diego Maradona kept repeating that his team is "Mascherano plus 10," Olé picked up the coach earlier in the week on this point, declaring that the team is, in fact, "Heinze plus 10."

After the defeat to Brazil at the weekend, Heinze seemed to be let off by the sports daily.

"It’s not your fault that we don’t have other left-backs and you have to play there," wrote the paper.

"Its not your fault that Dunga marked Zanetti, knowing you’d waste the ball if you went forward," it added.

"It’s not your fault they blocked you and made you lose your man in the first goal."

Clearly, Olé were in a forgiving mood.

"It is your fault, though, for blaming a team mate on the pitch."

After the first goal, Heinze had screamed at debutant Seba Dominguez, when replays suggested it was in fact the Argentina vice-captain who should have been there.

"It is not your fault that you just watched as Luis Fabiano scored the third."

And then came the final thrust of the dagger... "Heinze is a symptom of not being as good as we think we are."

Olé may well be on to something there.

---------------------------------------------- More to read...

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