Argentina Camp Focus – El Diego staying cool

The man who has lit up the World Cup in recent past, continues to impress with an enthusiastic display on the touchline. Diego Maradona made his World Cup coaching debut on Saturday, with an impressive attacking display in a 1-0 victory over Nigeria. El Diego, who has been criticised in the past by the national media, certainly made some key decisions which had an impact on the game.

After the victory against the Super Eagles, Maradona was already looking ahead to the next match. The coach said; “Undoubtedly when you play in a FIFA World Cup, winning the first game keeps us cool and calm for the next match. I am ready to die for those 23 men, for what they give me in training, for the conversations we have, for their heart, for their feeling for the shirt, for the fact they know how the people of Argentina feel. For all that I think, we will start creating a dream. We believe in ourselves a lot”.

Although the defensive performance wasn’t as encouraging, the attacking quality and moves made up for all the errors at the back. The coach has baffled some forms of the media with his selection, as Jonas Gutierrez who is a winger by trade was playing at full back. The Newcastle player featured in most of the qualifying campaign in the same position, preferring him to Javier Zanetti and other recognised full backs. Against a better quality team, Albicelestes will be staring down at a convincing defeat. It was only the Nigerians failing to put more chances together for the strikers, which would have cost them the three points.

Instead of looking at the negatives, the manager should look at the positives. The predecessor to the throne of his manager’s ‘legendary status’ is none other than Lionel Messi. With so much expectation on the 22 year old’s shoulders, the Barcelona star hasn’t lived up to his expectations in a blue and white shirt. However, Messi certainly put in a great performance at Ellis Park, running at the defence and bringing out the best in the Nigerian keeper on numerous occasions.

Argentina captain Javier Mascherano also put in a great performance, along with experienced midfielder Juan Sebastien Veron. The two midfielders were instrumental in turning defence into a quick attack, providing Messi with numerous chances. This will be key later in the world cup, if they qualify past the World cup group stage. The 35 year old may not play against Korea, after being subbed due to the problems of playing at altitude. Maradona has always been a fan of Veron, although he has stated recently, he won’t be featuring in every game.

The fans are praying Messi will repeat the form he had for Barca this season. He won the European Golden Boot after scoring 34 goals and also finished as the top scorer, with eight in the UEFA Champions League. The star man spoke after the game, sharing the same optimism as his manager. “We were able to get clean balls up front and that is what you need. If we play as we did against Nigeria, we can be calm”. The playmaker then told FIFA.com the praise he has for his manager; “Maradona is just another of the group, he gets closer to players. He was a player and knows what happens to us. He gives us a lot of confidence”.

It is now up to Maradona and his coaching team to strengthen the defence and aim to get Diego Milito and Gonzalo Higuain to repeat their impressive club form, against Korea Republic and Greece. Higuain hit 27 goals for Real Madrid and Diego Milito stole many headlines with an impressive first season at Inter Milan, securing the treble for the Italians. The two haven’t produced their best performances in recent matches and didn’t look a threat to the Nigerian defence. Maradona also has Sergio Aguero in his ranks, who will also be looking to compete with Mililto and Higuain to partner Carlos Tevez in attack. Higuain was preferred to the other strikers in the impressive squad, after his consistency and impressive form of late.

With no new injury concerns, the players will have to impress in training to get the nod ahead of the game against Korea Republic. Argentina are out to prove they are a force not to be reckoned with and Maradona will be fully aware that a win in the next game, will take his side through to the final 16.

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