Scotland vs. Argentina: Maradona’s expected starting XI

does anyone still think my appointment was a joke?
Now one last time: does anyone still think my appointment was a joke?

In 1994, when Diego Maradona played his last match for Argentina, you could have got very long odds on him one day becoming the manager of the national side. What about the likelihood that his first match in charge would take place against the same country he scored his first senior international goal against? Perhaps longer odds still on his then naming a former River Plate player as his captain. And putting a forward on the pitch who is one of his own successors in the number 10 shirt for Napoli? Oh, please.

You wish you’d gone for that accumulator now, don’t you.

Not being able to get online at work, I won’t be able to update this lineup before the match if there any changes during the day on Wednesday. After the closed-doors practice session on Tuesday in Celtic Park, though, Maradona’s starting XI appears to be decided. As I say, I can’t offer a 100% guarantee, but this lineup is good enough for Argentine sports daily Olé and so, for the benefit of any English-readers searching for the likely XI for tonight’s match, here it is. The eleven players the Argentine press expect to be starting on Wednesday night…

Probable Argentina starting XI vs. Scotland, Hampden Park, 19th November 2008 (manager: Diego A. Maradona):

J. P. Carrizo

J. Zanetti —- M. Demichelis —- G. Heinze —- E. Papa

M. Rodríguez —- J. Mascherano (c) —- F. Gago —- J. Gutiérrez

C. Tevez —- E. Lavezzi

Sergio Agüero left the team’s preparations on Tuesday during the day to fly back to Madrid. His girlfriend – Maradona’s daughter Gianinna – is pregnant and there were complications during the day. Gianinna’s mother, Claudia Villafañe, confirmed for the press that her youngest daughter had been hospitalised, but also announced that the baby has not been harmed. It goes without saying but I’m sure all HEGS readers will be hoping she’s OK.

Those who want to know a bit about Emiliano Papa, whose place at left back was predicted by the Argentine press as soon as Maradona announced he’d been offered the job, can read about him here along with the other two Argentina-based players in the side.

So, what do I think?

It strikes me as a slightly cautious lineup, using Masche and Gago together. Gago will, I would have thought, be given a more creative role than he has at Madrid (when he was at Boca he always fancied himself as more of a 10 than a cinco) but still, the lack of a true enganche from the start is an unexpected move, especially considering the identity of the man naming the team. Mascherano will captain.

I can think of no earthly reason why Gabriel Heinze is in the starting lineup ahead of the other centre backs in the squad – Fabricio Coloccini (who may not be playing well for Newcastle but isn’t doing anywhere near as shambolically as Heinze is for Madrid), Daniel Díaz of Getafe, and Nicolás Burdisso of Internazionale (particularly given that the latter is well accustomed to playing alongside right-back Javier Zanetti). I’m also slightly surprised that either Lisandro López or Germán Denis aren’t starting instead of Tevez, but this being a friendly there are bound to be changes at half time. Hopefully Lucho González will be one of them. Regular readers of this site will be well aware that I’ve been waiting a long time to see him back in an Argentina squad.

I am obliged by my nationality and current geographical location to watch the Germany vs. England ‘friendly’ on Wednesday night, even though I know what it’s going to be like, but will have a match report and videos of any goals from Scotland vs. Argentina up on HEGS on Wednesday night. As the one Englishman who doesn’t have any difficulty deciding which team to stick up for in this friendly, I wish our Argentine readers good luck. And to the Scots, whether you’re going or not, enjoy the match. It’s not every day there’s an international friendly this interesting.


13 thoughts on “Scotland vs. Argentina: Maradona’s expected starting XI

  1. Limped in the dark toward the 3.30 Mexican sports roundup and looked into the very sad face of Diego Maradona telling the assembled Glaswegian press corps his daughter is in a Madrid hospital with her sick baby, the father Sergio Aguero at her bedside and thus about to miss today’s friendly–which is looking pretty unfriendly at this point, to judge by what came next: Terry Butcher telling the same press corps he’ll never forgive DM for that 22-year-old handball. (I don’t think he meant Giannina.) Now there’s Scots charity for you. Poor DM. What a way to begin your international managing career. Madre de Dios! Never to be forgiven for that innocent Mano de Dios… If this Prueba de Dios doesn’t drive Diego back to drugs or drink, perhaps nothing will.

  2. Take no notice of Terry Butcher, Tom, he’s a very childish man. I think many Scots would be embarrassed for him to be associated with their side.

    I wondered why Diego looked so down at the press conference. He must be very worried about his daughter, and it puts Terry Butcher’s childish outbursts in to even worse light.

    As regards the ‘doble cinco’ formation and apparent negativity, I’m wondering how much advice he actually takes from Bilardo? Looks a bit suspicious to me…

  3. News coming from Madrid indicate that Giannina and her baby are fine. It was just a precautionary measure and she was taken to hospital to rule out any problem and to have her in a safe environment.

    Diego was no doubt shocked by the news and he gave the press conference after he found out.

    Reportedly, Diego was on the phone with Claudia (his ex wife and Giannina’s mother) and he was telling her to tell him the truth about Giannina’s state, no matter how hard the news would be. He was assured that there was nothing wrong and he kept on with his agenda (even with a sad look in his eyes).

    I hope Diego stays healthy and focused on his new job and I wish him all the best!

    Matt, my fellow long-suffering Racing fan, I don’t think Diego will stick to this 4-4-2 formation in the future.

    Not having Riquelme and Messi made him forget about the traditional playmaker (enganche) and he has opted for a plain 4-4-2 formation.

    I don’t blame him. To use 3 at the back you need more work. He only had 2 training sessions with the squad (and the first one was not intense because most of the players had just played in their leagues a few hours before). You need to coordinate a lot of things and the defenders would be asked to cover much more space.

    I think it’s a good move by Diego and I believe the team can still be offensive-minded and play to win.

  4. Off topic. But…rumour has it Independiente will be invited to play the next edition of the Copa Libertadores (this coming one).


    Apparently FIFA will ban Peruvian clubs to join the Copa Libertadores for an ongoing problem they have with the Peruvian FA.

    This (they said in TyC Sports) will be confirmed in two days and the report suggested that the winner of the Copa Sudamericana (one from Internacional, Chivas, Argentinos Juniors and Estudiantes), Santos and Independiente will be invited to fill the spots of the Peruvian clubs.

    Santos and Independiente for their tradition in the Copa Libertadores.

    As a Racing fan…I say: BOLLOCKS to this! hahaha!

  5. This will be a fun match. Vamos, vamos…!

    Seperately, can anyone point me to a website that has a good explanation of the on-field numbering system in football? I want to understand that better. E.g. Gago as #5. TY. Chris

  6. Hmmm…Chris…I don’t know of any websites with that info.

    What I can tell you is that the numbering in football (soccer) changes from country to country and changes in time too.

    If it helps, the traditional numbering in Argentina (after they stopped using the old-fashioned 2-3-5 formations -a loooooooooong time ago-) was something like this:

    1. GK
    2 and 6 – Central defenders. Number 2 played on the right, Number 6 on the left, but both as centre-backs in a back line of four.
    3 – Left back
    4 – Right back
    5 – Central midfielder
    8 – Right side midfielder
    10 – Left side midfielder
    7 – Right side forward
    11 – Left side forward
    9 – Centre forward.

    So…as a default, if you say: “Juego de 5” (“I play as number 5”) you are saying “I’m a central midfielder”.

    This, of course, is only the default, but most people in Argentina (even young kids) will understand if you say: “Play as a number 8” or any number.

    In Brazil is different.

    Number 2 is the right full back and their order is different than ours.

    In England is different too. Perhaps Sam can tell us a little bit about that, but I believe number 10 in their numbering system play a little bit further up front, compared to what we are used to here in Argentina. (?).

    This system was respected a lot in the past, but not so much these days.

    Then you have another factor which is the players’ favourite numbers. Sometimes they have nothing to do with their positions and yet they get to choose their favourite number.

    And of course you have numbers that are bigger than 22 (a thing that was unthinkable in the past). In Mexico they can have numbers such as 76, 58, 94 and stuff that seems to be more of American football.

    Hope it helps and let me know if you find a website with info on this, because I’d definitely give it a read.

  7. Chris: when I’ve got the time, which probably means after the Apertura and Copa Sudamericana are out of the way in a few weeks, I’m going to write a piece for HEGS on the numbering system in Argentina and why it’s slightly different to the ‘traditional’ numbers we have in England (the right back / right centre back being the most obvious example).

    Seba’s right in that it comes from the 2-3-5 back when that was the norm. So does the numbering used by English sides – the reason there’s a difference from position to position is that in Argentina different players were withdrawn from midfield to defence and from attack to midfield as the game evolved tactically. By and large, a 5 is a holding player, although as the likes of Gago demonstrate they don’t have to be solely defensive – they can act as a Franz Beckenbauer-like ‘libero’ instead (hence, in fact, Daniel Passarella’s nickname, El Kaiser).

  8. More on that Copa Libertadores new allocation (after the Peruvian FA got in troubles with FIFA).

    Apparently there will be a lottery involving all the South American countries (except from Perú, of course) to determine 3 winners.

    The winning FA’s will then decide how they will grant an extra ticket for the Libertadores.

    It’ll be up to them to decide the criteria.

    It could be based on the final standings of the previous season, it could be an arbitrary decision, it could be disputed in a playoff between two teams, etc.

  9. Thanks for that Seba, it’s an interesting story. Hopefully there won’t be any invited sides. if Argentina get an extra place and allocate it the same way as their others, it at least gives Tigre a bit more chance of taking part, if they can’t win the Apertura (my hopes are becoming more transparent by the day, aren’t they?).

  10. The thing is I think the invitation will be valid for this coming edition of the Copa Libertadores (this year). So even if Tigre win the Apertura, they won’t be qualifying for this edition but the following one.

    This information was released by Alejandro Fabbri on TyC Sports. Handle it with care and wait until it becomes official.

  11. I stand corrected, then.

    Since my team is never involved in those high-flying competitions, I kinda lose interest! ;)

    Your turn now…are you a believer in Diego now? hahaha!

    I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to Mundo Albiceleste and see the match report.

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