Why has the Albiceleste team that will participate in Russia 2018 been compared to the one that lifted the World Cup 32 years ago?
The Argentine soccer team has been world champion twice: first in 1978, at home; and the second in 1986, in Mexican lands. Although the championship obtained at the end of the 70s was a novelty in the history of football 'gaucho', which won eight years later represented an elixir of life for a team that, before competing in the Cup, did not go through its best moment and much less was among the favorites.
Nowadays, the situation is similar. The team managed by Jorge Sampaoli goes to Russia with the same expectations with which they traveled to Brazil in 2014 (where they obtained the second place), but not with the same power of belief they had four years ago. This in terms of payroll and especially game and collective operation.
"We are not favorites"
In recent months there has been talk of a real opportunity; a tangent, with which the Argentines dream of rising again with the World Cup. However, the real possibilities are not high.
According to the Olé newspaper, the Football Observatory of the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) made a ranking according to the level of the players of each team, based on the work shown throughout the year in their respective clubs; this, in order to catalog the teams that could have greater chances of winning the world championship. In the first place is Spain; second, Brazil, and third, France. Now, to see Argentina, you have to look down to the seventh position.
Likewise, the UBS bank of Switzerland contributed its predictions and indicated, according to a countless calculation of probabilities, that the team with the closest approximation to retaining the title would be Germany with a 24% chance. Also, that's what Lionel Messi thinks. "The message is that they have to know that we are not going as candidates, that there are better teams than us, we must be sincere and realistic," said the FC Barcelona soccer player in a television interview with Azteca Deportes Televisión, which was reviewed by WRadio.com.mx.
The heir of '86?
However, Argentina has shown that it is not necessary to fill with the favoritism of the world, to achieve glory in the World Cup. "Just one reason to throw the door in the face to the unanimous contempt and demand respect (for Argentina): that's the story," said Kenyi Peña Andrade, a journalist from El Comercio de Perú in his opinion column.
And this was demonstrated by the Argentine national team in 1986, when, in the midst of struggles against the press, ex-players and selected from each other, managed to shout "Champions" at the Estadio Azteca (Mexico). "We told each other everything (...) We lived from meeting to meeting. And one of those was that I grabbed Passarella, too. There we defined that we were against the world, so it would be better if we all threw ourselves to the same side. And we throw, how we throw", wrote Diego Armando Maradona, in his book "Soy el Diego ".
In addition, the controversies caused by the tactical decisions of coach Carlos Bilardo, as well as the football shown in friendly that at first glance were winnable, but in reality did not turn out to be this way, was the environment experienced by the coaching staff prior to the world title.
Something similar happens today. The tie of Argentina was not the best, to qualify only until the last date, with the victory over Ecuador by three goals against one. "We are realistic, we had a complicated process, changes of coaches, relief of the president of the AFA also, there were many problems (...) It cost us to classify and we suffered until the last game," said Lionel Messi, in an interview with Mundo Deportivo.
However, unlike the team of 86, there have been no great internal fights between the players, but there is a continuous discussion between them and the press in their country. The level of the team, together with the tactical work of the coaching staff, does not end up convincing a country that, since 1993 (when it won the Copa América for the last time) has not been able to devote itself to champion.
"I always say it. Why do we think we can win the World Cup? I do not need this win to know that if we insist with the 'club of friends' we are fried, I mean Romero, Mascherano, Biglia, Rojo, Banega. I do not need this win to know", said the famous sports journalist, Martin Liberman, after the 6-1 thrashing that Spain gave Argentina, in a friendly game played last March.
Hope in number 10
Finally, there is also a clear relationship between Diego Armando Maradona, in 1986, and Lionel Messi, in this 2018. During the last years, 'La Pulga' has been the clear reference of his Selection, so that this could reach the final of two America Cups (2015 and 2016) and one of the World Cup (2014). However, the main objective has not been reached.
"We had the fortune of reaching three finals and the bad luck of not winning one. That made everything a little stained," said Messi. But, although the title with the absolute of Argentina has been elusive to Messi, this is still considered by many figures of football as "the best player in the world"; and it is under that same title that the image of Lionel will always be "fearsome" among his rivals.
"While Messi is, Argentina will always be a fearsome opponent, for me it is the best player in the world. If in the World Cup there is a crossing with Argentina I will be calm. Although I want Spain to win, I recognize that Argentina would have more possibilities because it has Messi", former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol told Sport. Puyol shared a dressing room with the Argentine crack.
However, said "fear" will continue to be in the shadow of the one generated by Maradona, until Messi did not win the World Cup. "That's why Maradona is still considered the best player in Argentina, because he won the World Cup. Messi has that pressure and, although he has won important things with Barcelona, he has not repeated that feat with his country by lifting a World Cup with Argentina," said Rivaldo, quoted by Infobae.
LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández
Translated from "Argentina: ¿La selección de hoy es la heredera de la que ganó el Mundial en México '86?"