Diego Maradona has announced a list of just eighteen Europe-based players for Argentina’s final two World Cup qualifying matches at home to Peru and away to Uruguay. There are numerous big-name casualties of Diego’s refusal to consider that any part of the defeats to Brazil and Paraguay might have been his fault. Maxi Rodríguez, Javier Zanetti and Fernando Gago were all criticised for poor performances in those two matches. In to replace them? Among others, Benfica’s Pablo Aimar, Liverpool’s Emiliano Insúa, Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta and… wait for it… Gonzalo Higuaín!
Europe-based members of the Argentina squad to face Peru and Uruguay, World Cup 2010 qualifiers, 10th and 14th October 2009
Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands)
Mariano Andújar (Catania, Italy)
Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United, England)
Nicolás Pareja (Espanyol, Spain)
Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City, England)
Emiliano Insúa (Liverpool, England)
Gabriel bloody Heinze, again, in spite of all the others who’ve been dropped (Olympique Marseille, France)
Jonás Gutiérrez (Newcastle United)
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool)
Ángel Di María (Benfica, Portugal)
Pablo Aimar (Benfica)
Luís González (Olympique Marseilles)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Spain)
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli, Italy)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Diego Milito (Internazionale, Italy)
Sergio Agüero (Atlético de Madrid, Spain)
Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid, Spain)
The inclusion at long, long last of Gonzalo Higuaín in the squad has to be celebrated as a victory for common sense, although the received wisdom that his previous exclusions were down to a rift between the Real Madrid man and his former club colleage Gabriel Heinze would seem to be shot in the foot by Heinze’s inclusion in spite of continued disastrous performances (his leadership qualities have apparently saved him). Pablo Aimar’s brilliant form early in the season for Benfica brings him a surprising but well-deserved call-up to the squad, whilst his club-mate Ángel Di María returns after a four match suspension for his red card against Bolivia.
Of the exclusions, only Juan Pablo Carrizo’s isn’t seen as Diego making a strong point. Lisandro López is ostensibly out due to injury, but many feel he’d have been left out anyway had he been fit, after Maradona was unimpressed at his displeasure at lack of playing time (and yet Maradona wants players with more hunger… you can’t have it both ways, Diego. Especially when it only took Licha 30 seconds to score against Russia on the one ocassion you did give him a chance…).
Fernando Gago is dropped for continued poor performance, especially after being barracked by the crowd against Brazil and a touchline argument with Maradona during the Paraguay match. Maxi Rodríguez has suffered a slump in form, no more, and will surely be back, but there are questions being asked about whether the need to bring in new faces will mean that Javier Zanetti has now played his last match for the selección. Sergio Agüero needs to improve dramatically to keep his place (no arguments there), as apparently does Diego Milito. Perhaps Maradona should try giving him some playing time, and doing it in the position he’s supposed to play.
Jonás Gutiérrez and Fabricio Coloccini, both of whom were in a justly relegated club side last season and now play their club football in the English second division, are in the squad which has no room for Mauro Zárate, Diego Perotti, etc… and Martín Demichelis, fit again for Bayern, would have been called up but for lack of recent playing time, which seems fair enough.
Maradona will add to this list with names from the Argentine league. These will probably include some or all of: Juan Sebastián Verón (suspended for the Peru game); Nicolás Otamendi; Rodrigo Braña; Mario Bolatti; Emiliano Papa; Rolando Schiavi; Martín Palermo, and Diego Pozo. This is the only way to ensure players will have the hunger to play for the side, according to Maradona. I ask you…