Friday, October 20, 2006

Argentine Player Watch

It's a return to writing about something cheerful - my regular feature keeping an eye on how Argentinean players are doing in various European leagues.

The much-maligned Julio Cruz was the hero for Internationale, scoring both goals as they beat Spartak Moscow 2-1 at the San Siro. I say much maligned because you may remember him as the player Argentina coach Jose Pekerman subbed in for Hernan Crespo against Germany in the World Cup, to no effect. A lot of people believe that Messi should have been used instead. I don't think that's what Pekerman got wrong at all, as Cruz was taken along to the World Cup to be Crespo's substitute, so it was a straight swap. Besides, if the substitution did happen, it would have left the hated Messi-Tevez strike combo, which as we've seen so far does not work at all.

In any case, I felt that Cruz was unfairly maligned, since at 32 years old it was sure to be his last World Cup, and he had more than earned an appearance by becoming Internationale's top scorer for the 05-06 season despite making mostly super-sub appearances. An uncomplaining hard-worker, his attitude about the whole situation was excellent, so it's great to see him get off to a good start this season by saving Inter's ass in the Champions League, at least for another game.

In other striker related news, my favourite Argentinean target man Diego Milito of Real Zaragoza is now joint top scorer of the Spanish League with 5 goals in 6 rounds of football. I think he actually missed a couple of matches due to injury, as well, which makes it even more impressive. In the absence of Eto'o for most of the season, I'd love for Milito to become top scorer this season, as long as he refrains from scoring a hat-trick against Barca again, of course. Although he's perfectly welcome to knock 4 past Real Madrid in the same match as he did last season. I've argued for his inclusion in the Argentinean National Team enough times to sound like a broken record, but there's no reason why he shouldn't be involved.

Lastly, this is from a couple of weeks ago, but the Guardian's occasional Argentine columnist Marcelo Mora y Araujo - who translated Maradona's autobiography into English, by the way - wrote an excellent piece about the situation of Tevez and Mascherano at West Ham, including a nice little interview with Mascherano in which he comes off as nice a person as ever.


Anonymous said...

Pekermann clearly blew it when he replaced Crespo with Jardinero Cruz. Not that Cruz is a bad player. That's not the point, the point is that he actually is much like Crespo who could not damage the German defense during the first 70 minutes of the game. Messi was the obvious choice, he explosive speed and his superb handling of the ball would have been very challenging for a German team that was deseperately seeking the equalizer goal.

Alex Camacho said...

I agree. I like Cruz, but it was the wrong substitution at the wrong time against the wrong team. Germany with 2 towering defenders could handle a tall (by Argentine football standards) but not towering striker; they'd seen it all the time and it played to their strength. Messi would cause them problems because he played precisely to their weaknesses.

That being said, I like Cruz and am glad he is doing well at Inter.