This is the other big game. In fact, I have no idea why it even is.  On any other day, Spain vs Argentina might be one of the most mouth-watering clashes. 2 teams with similar identities, great players, and exciting styles playing against each other would often equal a footballer’s fantasy come true.

But these are not normal times.  Spain, underachievers for long, have started to brush away their choker’s tag with the Euro win, are transitioning into becoming a truly top-3 team to be feared.  They possess some of the best players in midfield in Xavi and Iniesta . It’s such an embarrassment of riches that a player of the calibre of Fabragas is not assured of a starting XI spot (although the scheme is such too). Up front, they have the option of playing El Nino (though not available for this game)  and the supremely talented and effective David Villa.  Their defense is probably slightly suspect, though they do have Puyol  at the centre, and world class DM’s.  If a team does manager to penetrate their porous defense, it then has the arduous task of meeting one Mr. Iker Casillas, who is Spain’s answer to the Great Wall of China. Casillas is equivalent to the hottest and toughest to pursue chick you’ll ever see. If you score on him, you can pat yourself on the back.

Argentina, on the other hand, is “managed” by Diego Armando Maradona. Need I say anything more? If you insist….

Look. I love Argentina. I dream of the day again that they play in their true style to World domination. I loved Maradona as a player and he was a pretty entertaining character too. I always imagined him to have a very successful football-afterlife as a reality television celebrity. His antics and drama are perfect for that. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the AFA and the disappointing president – Grondona , would anoint him as Manager for the Albiceleste.

Maradona has proceeded to promptly do to the NT what he does best. He smoked them.  He has run down what was a very promising team into the ground, and promises that it isn’t over yet. Alienating the irreplaceable Riquelme, suspicious selections and lack of them (choosing Lavezzi, not awarding Zarate a cap just for starters), pathetic use of his players, lack of a true play maker, embarrassing himself in the press, almost ensuring that Argentina does not qualify for the WC2010 (they scraped through as the 4th place team in very poor and dramatic fashion) amongst many others have been his signature moves so far.

I can go on for days about this agony. There are many such issues on the list, and it has frankly gone on to become a disease with the squad. Lack of roles, discipline, direction, philosophy and confidence  probably best summarize the current state of the team. Here are the basic formations and line-up:

Spain-Argentina: Basic Formations and Lineups
Spain-Argentina: Basic Formations and Lineups

Over to the strategy – simple straight forward sections:

Spain’s Attack vs. Argentina in Defense:

1. Use Xavi and Iniesta to tear open the Argentine defense like a cheap cardboard box.

2. Exploit the aging and slow Argentine defenders, especially in the flanks. There is no Walter Samuel (another one of the shocking omissions so far). Heinze was good, has heart, but heart will get you only so far. He is past his prime. De Michelles is good too, but he is prone to over-committing.

3. Take Cambiasso out of the game. Mascherano is the captain of the squad and a tremendous DM, but it’s going to be Cambiasso who will provide the much needed support for Mascherano to run wild. It is imperative for Spain to scheme for Cambiasso, and make Mascherano run around a lot more.

4. Fabragas might get the start in the absence of Torres and might play a withdrawn role to Vila, and make a run towards the goal, or outside on the wings, causing trouble. David Silva will do the same on the Left wing.

5. This will cause Argentina to push back Di-Maria and M. Rodriguez to help out the underwhelming defense, Leaving large gaps for Argentina at midfield, rendering them unable to have much possession.

Spain on Attack vs Argentina's Defense
Spain on Attack vs Argentina's Defense

Argentina’s Attack vs Spain in Defense:

This one’s even simpler. Under Maradona, Argentina only has 1 philosophy , which can be best summarized with the diagram below:

Argentina's "Strategy" of Attack against Spain:
Argentina's "Strategy" of Attack against Spain:

That’s right. Maradona expects Messi to collect the ball from defense, weave through the opposition (and sometimes his own players), create openings, and score own his own.

In All seriousness now- see that Grey circle? That’s the key for Argentina. Argentina lacks a true play maker in that circle to envision and create openings on the defense. They lack a Riquelme or Aimar, or even someone like Redondo (Don’t say Gago – he’s a disappointment so far).

Thus, they are reduced to flank play and cutting in from the flanks, making them one-dimensional against good teams. Di-maria is a promising talent, Maxi is proven, but unfortunately, they cannot and should not be expected to divide and be the play maker.

With the lack of height and physicality of their centre forwards, the Ariel threat of flank play is removed.

Thus, it all boils down to Messi, who is now expected to run around and create the openings. He has the potential to do it, but Maradona expects a stupendous amount of work out of Messi, and it is not justified. Messi is successful in Barcelona because of the 2 players he is going to play against tonight. Maradona needs to find atleast 1 such player for Argentina.

MTJAG’s BALLS of STEEL Prediction

Prepare for the blood-bath. it’s going to be a long , long night for Argentina

Spain 4- Argentina 1