Germany were undoubtedly the better side as they strolled to a 4-0 win over Argentina in Cape Town this afternoon, and this post doesn’t mean to detract from that fact, but it became clear over the course of the match that several of La Albiceleste’s problems were of there own making. Arguably the most significant of these issues was the absence of Juan Sebastian Veron from the midfield, the Estudiantes playmaker having been dropped after the group phase to make way for Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez.
In some respects there was a recognisable logic to Diego Maradona’s tactical decisions ahead of today’s quarter-final clash. With Veron, a naturally attacking player and reluctant defender, being replaced by a higher-octane midfielder in the shape of Maxi, a player more willing to track back as well as get wide to provide the team with extra width, El Diego obviously hoped to stifle the excellent German counter-attacks while trying to beat Die Mannschaft at their own game by hitting them on the break.
However, for all of Maxi’s good qualities the axing of Veron left Argentina woefully short in terms of creativity with linkages between the midfield and the attack weakened in a match where they were, more than any other game Maradona’s team had played in South Africa, vitally important.
Argentina’s best performances under Maradona have come when Veron, or La Bruja (the witch) as he is known, has played as the midfield playmaker in a loose 4-2-3-1 and linked up with Lionel Messi much like the Barcelona star does at Camp Nou with Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Yet without Veron Argentina look bereft of ideas in the advanced areas of the field, too much space opening up between the defence and the midfield and Messi having to drop deep to find the ball when the service was not forthcoming.
Veron’s absence left Maradona’s side disjointed and frustrated in the face of a patient German side that was willing to wait for its opportunities and seize them clinically when they arose. As I said, nothing should be taken away from Jogi Low’s team who put in yet another excellent performance at the Green Point Stadium today, but Maradona was perhaps a little tactically naive and the inclusion of Veron could have caused Germany far more problems than they were ultimately posed by a disappointingly flat Argentina.