Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war goeth the famous literary quote by Shakespeare, with an amendment (and all due apologies) by Kevin:
Cry incompetent, and unleash the dyspeptic dogs of war, gibbering, drooling, accusatory beasts thou art, to take a chunk out of the oh, so deserving backsides of Ruh Roh Dumbenech and Diego Maradumber.
Now, cules everywhere can be in some small part, thankful for the coaching ineptitude of Raymond Domenech and Diego Maradona. After all, once they do the trick and France and Argentina are out of the competition, those pesky international obligations will be over, once and for all, right?
Quite possibly, damn their obstinate hides. It should take something more than garden-variety dim-wittedness to rob the greatest footy tournament in the history of humankind of the singular gifts of Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry, two of the game’s greats. You expect to see an alien abduction, an act of some random deity, something more than “Um….well….the atmosphere is fine among the squad, and where’s my damned Botox?”
Our very own Seydou Keita, in lambasting the haplessness of his national side Mali, summed up the Maradona Complexity:
“The manager doesn’t play the games. Maradona can without a doubt sell papers, but he certainly can’t succeed as a national team manager. He’s not on the pitch.”
And yet, he is. Or at least he thinks that he is. When Argentina meekly rolled over against Paraguay to the tune of 1-0, there is the picture of Maradona, standing there, looking like a breathing wax figure of himself, surrounded by players and staff who don’t want to …. nay, who can’t watch. People have claimed so many things, from simple dim-wittedness to acute cluelessness, and excessive fondness for lads from his home region.
To me, he’s just a bad chef. The reason that I’m banging on this keyboard instead of running a five-star restaurant somewhere is because if you give a top chef and I the same ingredients, he will make magic, I will make something that might be edible. Maradona has amazing ingredients, from the Best Player Alive Right Now, to names such as DiMaria, Riquelme, Veron, Aguero, Mascherano, Tevez. But he doesn’t want to read anyone’s cookbook, preferring to just throw stuff into the pot in the hope that something good will come out.
Is he on the pitch? Maradona believes that inspiration from admittedly, one of the greatest players of all time, will get him over the hump as a coach. He’s forgetting that often, the best players make the worst coaches. The deficiencies of Argentina: organization, set piece defending, attacking structure, are what you work on in practice. Barcelona’s system works not only because it is, to a certain extent, set in stone. But it also works because the players and the coaches understand how it is supposed to work. You can’t just roll the ball out there, throw out a front line of Messi, Aguero and Tevez and say “Yay! We win!.”
Because you still have to play.
A 3-1 shellacking by Brazil? Maradona’s formation was like bringing a gun to a knife fight, and the set piece goals by Brazil were as easy as pie.
Sitting in 5th place right now, one point above a country that has never been to the World Cup, Argentina dangles. They are endangered, with a coach who doesn’t know how what to do next. He has the ingredients for a cake, but only seems to be able to bake tripe.
Which is about the only saving grace of Raymond Domenech, that he doesn’t have the best ingredients. Truth be told, this isn’t the strongest France side ever. But they aren’t in the most difficult group in the world, either. Serbia, Austria, Lithuania, Romania and the Faroe Islands make up their group mates. And still, they sit second place. Why, and what is a coach’s responsibility to have his side ready to roll?
Two crucial matches ended in 1-1 draws. France hasn’t, despite its attacking quality (Ribery, Henry, Gourcuff, Benzema, Anelka, Gignac), scored more than one goal since Les Bleus were Le Bleu. Both matches were winnable, both were hamstrung by coach selection and substitution decisions. Escude isn’t a bad defender, until he gets pressed. Then he flails, starts sticking out limbs and voila, an own goal for a side that wasn’t going to score on its own. Send in Ribery and Benzema without a real plan, because matches can change on a moment of brilliance, right? Is hope really a legitimate strategy?
The next match? A central defensive pairing of our own Eric Abidal, with William Gallas. Abidal is one of the best left wingers in the world. He isn’t anything vaguely approximating a great center back. And yet, there he sits. He and Gallas played a footy version of “apres-vous, mon cher Alphonse,” facilitating the play that became a dive that became a goal. And the rest is history.
Then Domenech pulled the sole attacking force, Thierry Henry, for a gimpy Franck Ribery. The result was inevitable. Where is David Trezeguet, a striker who has been out of favor with Domenech for eons? Valid question. Would he have made better decisions with the ball in both of the instances in which Nicolas Anelka chose no-hope shots from crazy angles? Almost certainly. Instead, the goal in both matches went begging.
Will we ultimately be without Henry and Messi, in what is almost certainly the last major international go-round for the former? Time will tell, but the second-place playoff, a home/away lottery is the sole hope for France right now. Argentina might finish fourth and automatically qualify (top 5 from the group go in). Or they might finish 5th, and have to get in via a playoff. Next matches should be gimmes for both sides, Austria for France, and last-place Peru for Argentina.
I would say that I am confident in the ability of great players to pull out results. Henry almost did against Serbia, scratching, running and clawing, whipping off a snap shot from distance that had the keeper beat, but not the post. Conversely, Messi seemed a bit subdued, as if cognizant of the outcome, and wanting to save himself for a big league match this weekend against Getafe.
And it comes back to coaching, which is about fundamentals: Structured offense, solid defense, an organized attack. So far, France and Argentina evince precious little of either. And unfortunately, both national sides share another trait: Both have federations that have nixed any changes at the head of the spear, leaving the men in charge with resignation as the only option.
They won’t, a situation which has the dire possibility of leaving us footy fans cheated of not seeing two of the world’s greats, whose hearts beat Blaugrana, on the greatest stage.