Argentina entering 2018 World Cup in shambles after historic 6-1 loss in Spain and Jorge Sampaoli is the reason why
A 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly is bad, but the player selection is the problem
Argentine legend Mario Kempes said it best.
"I hope they don't blame the players," Kempes said on the air about the Argentinian press following Tuesday's shocking 6-1 loss at Spain in an international friendly.
And he's right, the blame goes on one man -- manager Jorge Sampaoli.
Tuesday's game was one goal away from Argentina's most lopsided defeat in history, and it was a defeat that, albeit being a friendly, turned the national team and its fans on their heads, raising the worry level from moderate to beyond severe.
And if things keep going this way, Sampaoli's tenure as the Argentine national team manager may not go past this summer. The 58-year-old did well at Universidad de Chile, guided the Chilean national team to its first trophy and even kept stability at Sevilla, but it appears as if the Argentina job, right now, is too big for him.
Look, Spain has plenty of talent, Argentina was without Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, but the player selection has been absolutely baffling.
Sampaoli went with a midfield trio of Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega and Javier Mascherano, two in Biglia and Mascherano that are way past their prime. That's against probably the best ball-possessing team in the world. That means, aside from being able to get the ball back, you have to be able to hold the ball, which none of the three truly do well.
Add in Marcos Rojo, who doesn't even deserve to be on Manchester United's bench, starting at central defender, and then guys who would make past Argentine players cringe like Pablo Perez, Diego Perotti, Marcos Acuna, and you have a big problem.
And the worst of all, going with Gonzalo Higuain in attack. There are players that are simply better with their clubs than their countries, and Higuain is one. But it's not just about how often he misses chances in front of goal, it's the effort. Time and time again, there was a run in the final third where Higuain was out of position, looking lazy at the top of the box. There was no effort, no heart and no confidence, similar to the rest of the team.
No results that give confidence
This team barely qualified for the 2018 World Cup, needing a Messi hat-trick in Ecuador on October 10th of last year to get in. Before that draws against Peru and Venezuela that put this team's qualification in jeopardy. This is a team with arguably the best attacking talent in the world - and what has it got them? One goal in 270 minutes of crucial, late qualifying last year, including drawing at home to Venezuela and Peru, and nothing else.
To tell the truth, there hasn't been one match that has made any Argentine feel, "this team can win the World Cup."
And time's running out. It's now or never for Sampaoli to decide on those players he must take to the cup. Not Lautaro Martinez and Cristian Pavon, but yes to guys like Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi. No to Rojo and Mascherano, yes to Nicolas Tagliafico and Nicolas Otamendi.
"When are they going to play well," one Argentine journalist said on Argentine outlet TyC Sports after the match.
We are all wondering.
As we've seen in the past, having Messi just isn't enough. That's fine some of their best players didn't play, but from a 4-2 loss to Nigeria in November to Tuesday night at the Wanda Metropolitano, chaos has arrived.
Yes, Argentina played without Messi, but it also appears to be playing without a proper manager.
And without a manager, there's no hope.
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