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Next Stop, Doha: The International Football Catch-All Thread

Discussion in 'Breakfast with Gazza (with Sachmoneious Bullcrap)' started by Zososoxfan, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    With the first post-WC break here, I thought it would be good to have a catch-all International Football thread until more specific ones created. I missed a lot of the good matches in the past couple of days, but any reports would be welcome.

    I just finished Argentina-Guatemala and it was a very encouraging performance from a totally revamped Argentina side. After the WC debacle, Lionel Scaloni was tasked with taking the U20 side to the WC. Although reports indicated it wasn't pretty, they won the tournament and Scaloni was named interim manager of the senior side. Also of note, his main assistant is fan-favorite Pablo Aimar.

    Argentina started in a 4-3-3 with Simeone (Diego's son) up top, flanked by Boca's Pavon and River's Martinez. Lo Celso headlined the MF along with Paredes and Palacios. In the back, Tagliafico took the captain's armband, the CBs were Funes Mori and Pezzella, and Saravia as a late call-up due to injuries to Mercado and Salvio. Geronimo Rulli also got the start many were clamoring for before the WC.

    Getting it out of the way, Guatemala is a pretty weak side. But AFA as an organization and the team needed to bounce back after all the summer's multiple fiascos. The headline for this match is about the team generally--this young side was playing aggressive attacking football with skill and flair while maintaining good defensive shape with frequent high pressure. There was a sense of urgency, these guys gave a shit, they played cohesively, and there was a clear plan on both offense and defense.

    However, two players stood out above a terrific team-wide performance. Lo Celso played the entire match and was in control throughout. He sat in the middle and orchestrated effective attacking the entire time. He showed sublime control and aggressiveness and had a screamer of a goal on top of it all. The other player that was exceptional was Martinez. He was deft and clever on the ball and got out of some very tight spaces in the MF, going forward no less! He also scored the opener on a pen that he absolutely smoked. Move over Messi! Simeone had a nice finish off a successful press, but otherwise was struggling to finish attacks and combine effectively. Pavon showed a lot of skill on the ball, but was also impatient throughout the first half with lots of overzealous missed passes. I liked Paredes and the other MF generally. The defense showed pretty good ball skills and weren't tested much.

    Argentina go up against a much stronger Colombia side on Tuesday. Colombia beat Venezuela earlier this week. I don't know whether to expect Icardi or Dybala to play. I want to see Correa and Meza get into that match too. Would really like to see Lo Celso with all of those guys, but 2 full matches in under a week is unlikely. Maybe 20-45 on Tuesday?
  2. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    The European Nations League is a great thing. Go ahead, try and convince me otherwise.
  3. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Welp, this thread isn't quite getting the traction I had hoped, but I watched Argentina-Colombia last night and damnit I'm going to write about it.

    This was a very cagey affair and Argentina had better opportunities and attacking in the first half while Colombia had the upper hand in the second half. This was a friendly in name only as 7 yellows were issued and more were merited. Nevertheless, Colombia looked very similar to their WC iteration, as Argentina continues its renewal after turning over the vast majority of their squad.

    In net, Rulli was replaced with Armani who had an excellent match. Colombia had a strong second half and generated 2-3 terrific opportunities which Armani handled very well. I would still consider Rulli the presumed starter (assuming Romero is not in the picture), but Armani acquitted himself well. The back 4 gelled pretty well with Tagliafico, Funes Mori, and Pezzella all getting another start, and Bustos coming in for Saravia. Tagliafico got forward quite a bit and the defense was sound other than a 15-20 minute stretch in the second half when Scaloni made a bunch of substitutions in the middle that unsettled the team. There are not many other young defenders that appear ready to push into the squad at the moment other than Mammana, so Scaloni really needs to start giving some caps to some untested players in lieu of Otamendi and Fazio. I am less concerned with fullbacks because wingers and outside mids are converted frequently and Argentina has plenty of those.

    In midfield, Lo Celso was excellent again and made the fact that he didn't play in Russia all the more astounding. He is a ball winner, a rhythmic passer and tempo-setter, and still has the ability to initiate attacking moves in the final third (i.e. incredibly valuable on its own, exactly what was needed in Russia, and not given the opportunity because of ancient Masche and Biglia FFS). The team will be built around him for the next 5 years. Battaglia had an excellent game at DMF and let Lo Celso run around and do his thing. Very impressive. I was unimpressed by Palacios this match until I read glowing reports about him and realized that it was when he was subbed off for Dybala that the MF fell apart. He deserved plenty of credit for helping to win the MF for the first 55 minutes of this match. Recognizing this, Scaloni brought on Paredes for Meza shortly thereafter. Paredes is supposed to be the best passer of the next-gen DMFs (Battaglia, Paredes, Ascacibar, Kranevitter), but I thought he was very conservative with his passing and didn't quite settle the middle enough. Martinez earned another start and Meza made it into the XI, but Martinez had a big dropoff from his excellent Guatemala match and Meza did not look as bright as he did in the WC. Cervi came on for Martinez at half and I was very unimpressed with him. He had lots of turnovers and didn't look comfortable, although he worked his ass off. Pavon also got 20 minutes of run and didn't do much either.

    Up top, Icardi played 85 minutes and did not see much of the ball. He had a couple of promising opportunities, but was shut down most of the second half. I do not watch enough of him at Inter to know whether he is this kind of player who can score on few touches, but I am not worried about this performance. Dybala also got nearly 40 minutes of play, but couldn't get going in earnest. He is obviously the most technical player on the squad and has attacking brilliance, but it will take some time for Scaloni to figure out how best to utilize him.

    For Colombia, there was lots to like. After a very shaky first half where Argentina dominated possession and Colombia looked lost, they settled into a nice defensive shape and looked threatening on the counter. Cuadrado continues to be one of my favorite players. Incredible stamina to win the ball in the defensive third all match and still get forward and put pressure on his defending FB. Murillo and Sanchez were very solid in the back and they still have Mina to work into the rotation if they choose to do so. Cuellar and Barrios will always compete in the MF and have a good feel for the rhythm of the match. Muriel, Bacca, and Falcao is a nice attacking trio. With James, this team should be a legitimate threat to make it to the Copa America finals.

    Bigger picture for Argentina, there is a nice squad taking shape. This team will be built around Lo Celso, Dybala, and Icardi. There are a plethora of attacking wingers than can surround those 3 (Joaquin Correa, Lamela, Lanzini, G. Martinez, Pavon, Meza, etc.) and behind Icardi there are some additional striker options (Angel Correa, Simeone, Alario, L. Martinez). In the MF, it will be a mix and match depending on who develops and what system is desired and needed. With Paredes, Battaglia, Ascacibar, Palacios, Kranevitter, Centurion, and Rigoni all fighting for spots. The back 4 lacks some depth, especially in the middle. CBs tend to develop a bit later and team defending can help protect them. The FBs look very good though and there is some depth there. Similar to the CB situation, there is no world class GK at the moment and depth is somewhat thin, but there is not a crisis and keepers can be late bloomers. Other young promising and useful players are floating around like Acuna, Cervi, Ocampos, Driussi, and Caseres to name a few.

    Now I have no idea if and how Messi fits into this picture, but the first step in recovering from this summer’s disaster was always to regain some balance to the entire side by assuming he was done for good. Scaloni looks to have this team playing well and cohesively, and clearly has a good knowledge of the domestic player pool. Integrating the European-based players will always be a challenge for the NT manager, but Scaloni is off to a promising start. Let’s see if AFA have the foresight to let him stay in charge for at least a couple of years. He is a gift that fell into their lap and they’d be crazy not to.
  4. DrewDawg

    DrewDawg Dorito Dink SoSH Member

    Keep writing. A lot of us are reading.
  5. Tangled Up In Red

    Tangled Up In Red Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Not even really clear what it's all about. Am I alone?
  6. rguilmar

    rguilmar lurker

    Things might have changed or I could be totally wrong, but I was under the impression that Messi wouldn’t be on the same squad as Icardi, regardless of the public denials.
  7. Zososoxfan

    Zososoxfan Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    I don't believe that's true. After how the WC went down, my theory is that Masche had a lot more input on things than anyone thinks. I used to attribute that input to that whole generation of players (Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, etc.), but I think a lot of it was spearheaded by Masche.

    It's an interesting question though, between Messi and Icardi who do you think would be more important to the Copa America 2019 squad? What about WC 2022? Next year the answer is almost certainly Messi, but for '22 it's almost certainly Icardi. Not to mention that most of WC qualifying will take place in '20 and '21 (and '22 since the tournament will be at the end of the calendar year).
  8. ConigliarosPotential

    ConigliarosPotential Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    I don't think you're alone. But the core idea is to take the glut of meaningless international friendlies and convert most of them - at least those in Europe - to competitive matches. And in the past week we saw Nations League matches including Germany v France, France v Holland, Portugal v Italy, England v Spain and Spain v Croatia (among many others), mostly played with first-choice players and without the usual overload of second-half substitutes you get in pointless friendlies. These were properly competitive matches, as the winners of each three-team group in League A (the top level) go through to a four-team knockout playoff final next June - all games being played in one of the four countries TBD - while the bottom team in each group gets relegated to League B. (There's a lot of promotion and relegation between each of Leagues A, B, C and D.)

    And in all of this, the worst teams in Europe - Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino or Gibraltar - play in their own League D groups, not having to mix it up (yet) with the best teams in Europe. Best of all - to me, at least - the winners of the four League D groups will play their own knockout tournament in March 2020, with the winner being guaranteed a spot in Euro 2020, which I think is pretty cool. (The same think will happen in Leagues A, B and C, although only teams that haven't already reached Euro 2020 through the normal qualifying process are eligible for the March 2020 playoffs.)

    Is all of that very confusing? Yes...but you don't need to understand it to love the effects. England played Spain at Wembley over the weekend, and it meant something, and you don't normally get matches between big countries that mean anything except at major tournaments. Which is why I think it's a great thing.

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