Argentina coach Alfio Basile has revealed his starting 11 far ahead of time, which I thought was quite a strange move on his part. The big news is that Carlos Tevez drops to the bench in favour of Lionel Messi to partner Hernan Crespo in attack. Speaking of the undoubtedly talented Carlitos, Sports Illustrated has a lovely interview with him. In other squad news, captain Roberto Ayala had an injury scare on Saturday but seems to be fine now.
Argentina starting 11 (4-3-1-2):
At first glance it looks broadly similar to the formation used at the World Cup, but in reality given the change of key personnel like (now former) captain Juan Pablo Sorin dropping out and former captain Javier Zanetti coming back in, as well as the presence of Juan Sebastian Veron and swapping Messi for Saviola I suspect it may work very differently in practice. In fact, that's the problem: no one knows how well it's going to work because Argentina haven't used this particular starting 11 before. Basile's results from friendlies have hardly been impressive, but this team is substantially different to the one that lost to Brazil or the one which beat France.
The defence looks very good on paper and should be fine as long as they've learned their lesson from the embarrassment of conceding 3 against Algeria, which, to be fair, wasn't entirely their fault. Hopefully Abbondanzieri, who was at fault for at least 2 of the goals will go back to the form he showed for his club during this season in Spain and during the '06 World Cup.
The questions that remain, at least in my mind, are these:
- Can Messi and Crespo form an effective strike partnership? They've played together before, but the jury's still out on their effectiveness as a duo.
- Can Riquelme and Veron work together?
- Lastly, and broadly speaking, will these players, many of whom have had excellent seasons, translate their club form into good performances for their country?
Lastly, and I don't care how sappy this sounds: the evident desire of all the Argentinean players called up to wear the shirt and bring glory to their country makes me so proud to support the Albiceleste.