Okay, so, just wait a second. You’re probably wondering why Argentina is up there and not the reigning champions, Germany, or European champions Portugal or even Brazil, who are always favorites.
Simply put, I’m just contemplating how three of the teams I’m cheering for will fare in the World Cup.
I say three of the teams because as I mentioned during the 2014 World Cup I had a certain hierarchy when it came to teams on the international stage. That hierarchy hasn’t changed and Argentina is really there only because I want Lionel Messi to win, as I did in 2014. I’d be remiss to say I usually add the African teams, whoever they may be, to my list of teams to cheer for when World Cup time comes around.
I’ll probably do a predictions piece closer to the tournament itself after a look at the CONCACAF teams. On to real business then.
The big question with Spain is whether the Diego Costa trick will finally pay off.
The disappointment in 2014 can probably be written off because he wasn’t fully fit or integrated into the side and in Euro 2016 they came up against an impressive Italy side. Still, they will be legitimate favourites for a reason. Few teams can match the mixture of experience and talent in this squad. They wont have the same expectations as 2014 and the loss in 2016 will have them even more determined to prove themselves. I think most folks will have them as a semifinalist.
It won’t be an easy road, with the possibility of facing either Argentina or France as early as the quarterfinals. It will probably be Argentina as I don’t see France finishing second in their group. Still, this Spain side shouldn’t fear anyone once they reach that stage and if things click in the attacking third they will be tough to beat, as you expect them to control the midfield regardless of the opponent.
France is coming of a tough loss in Euro 2016 and a solid qualification run. It’s an exciting group but there’s still a feeling they lack enough experience to go all the way.
As mentioned before, I expect they will be on the other side of the bracket from Spain and Argentina. That’s likely to lead to an interesting rematch with Portugal in the quarterfinals, or even worse, a feisty Uruguay side. There’s also Brazil to worry about on that side. I still don’t fully trust Didier Deschamps as I feel he hasn’t gotten the best out of Paul Pogba though only Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri have so far. The balance in midfield will be key. The best choice would be to start Steven N’zonzi to control things in midfield with N’golo Kante and Pogba but we’ll see. There’s also the hope that the youngsters up to Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, with 25 caps between them, don’t falter on the big stage.
I’ll probably still blame Deschamps if it falls apart. Arsene Wenger next up on the plate perhaps?
Ah, Argentina. There really isn’t much to say about them is there?
It’s baffling that a side with this attacking quality has relied on one alien to win something, anything, in the last decade. There’s only so many times one can ponder why Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain can’t/won’t step up to the plate. True, the rest of the team, minus Javier Mascherano and an improved Nicolas Otamendi, is average but that doesn’t stop Messi playing his part. If Messi drags this side to a title as Diego Maradona did in ’86 it would shut a lot of mouths. Possibly. Maradona had one finals loss and one win sooo….. Even if he doesn’t win, Messi is still arguably the best ever.
Also, with Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina has possibly the best coach in the tournament. He hasn’t been able to get it all together for the Albiceleste just yet but you can’t sleep on him in this tournament.
As an aside, I’ll say I always have a soft spot for England. Not sure why. Interested to see how this group does. And, again, let’s not forget Germany. One of these teams will have to play them at some point in the tournament. I’d bet if that team gets past them they’ll win it all.
Excellent piece here on Lionel Messi. That bit about the photo shoot was interesting.
I don’t mind that he’s silent and simply wants to play football, though the author brings up a good point about the difference between him and some of his contemporaries. Does he have to be like Pele’s or Muhammad Ali’s? I don’t think so. Is it weird that all that will be left of Messi when he retires is his highlights? No. As the author states, Messi engages in philanthropy along with many of his peers and I don’t think he should be expected to do more because of his status.
I feel like there’s a lot more info we should have gotten from that interview. Even on print Messi seems guarded and shy. Still, it was decent enough I guess.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Messi has a huge impact in today’s game against Atletico Madrid. I think Atletico will go with they hyper-aggressive approach but I don’t see them scoring without Barcelona scoring as well if that’s the case. We shall see what happens.
Really good analysis here. Everyone looks to MSN for Barcelona but the rest of the team, like Pique and Rakitic, have been crucial in Enrique’s system. Things would be a lot different if those players consistently under-performed.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the story about the contract to sign Lionel Messi being drawn up on a napkin etc. Here’s a nice in-depth look at how Lionel Messi to Barcelona came to pass.
Eh. Yes, Lionel Messi is further away from goal with Argentina and has more to do but Argentina’s defense has been the best part of its team in recent competitions. A lack of creativity in midfield has been an issue but Pastore looked to be linking up well with his teammates in the Copa so he may be the answer. Still surprised Banega doesn’t get much a chance. Up front, Aguero’s injury issues have hampered the side and Higuain hasn’t been clinical. I still don’t think any Argentina manager has built the system around Messi with whatever pieces Argentina has and just keeps trying to replicate his Barcelona role etc.
Play Messi as the No. 10 for Argentina, that’s his future position anyways and build from there. There’s enough talent elsewhere that a 4-2-3-1 should be fine for the squad.
He will be missed by fans and team-mates alike, but with Suarez so important nowafter his rapid adaptation last season and Messi and Neymar back with a bang in this match, it is clear that there is no room in Barca’s attack any more for one of their most popular players of the last few years
I’m sorry but that’s a dumb statement. Barcelona going into the season with just three experienced forwards for a 4-3-3, no matter their quality and understanding, is just asking for things to go wrong. At least Pedro provides experience and quality. There’s plenty of room for him and that shouldn’t even be a question.
Agreed. Great points here. So ridiculous the vitriol one player gets for simple reasons.
We saw this last summer in the World Cup. There is so much attacking talent for Argentina but they really will struggle when Javier Mascherano hangs up his boots.