Running free, and getting caught

A group of Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas barras in Johannesburg's Christian Progressive College

After the military-style concentración for the first week of Argentina’s stay in South Africa, and the opening-up of training to the press over the last few days, the selección‘s players have finally been allowed an afternoon off following a morning training session, as Diego Maradona edges closer to deciding on his starting XI against Nigeria. Carlos Tevez continued the habit he’s picked up in England of using his spare time to play golf, Martín Palermo and Nicolás Burdisso spent their time at a spa, and Jonás Gutiérrez went clothes shopping. It’s made your day worthwhile knowing that, hasn’t it? Oh, also several barra bravas were turned round on entering the country and put on the first flight back to Argentina after the Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas flight landed early on Monday.

Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas are the NGO that readers of When Saturday Comes will remember I wrote about earlier this year, when they announced they’d entered into an agreement with a large group of barra bravas to send 250 of them to South Africa for the World Cup in return for political support. The flight carrying those barras took off on Sunday and landed in the early hours of Monday morning, at which point ten of the passengers were refused entry to South Africa due to previous criminal records in Argentina. Among them were Adrián Bracamonte of Rosario Central and Pablo ‘Bebote‘ Álvarez, the capo of Independiente’s barra who’s previously been involved in plans to steer Argentina’s barras in (he claims) a more peaceful direction. They’ll leave South Africa at 10:30 on Monday night, having been refused entry on the return flight of the plane that had taken them out there, due to drunkenness.

Magistrate María del Pilar Prieto has already ordered, before the flight even takes off, that at least one of the deported barras be met at Ezeiza by police and placed under arrest; Sergio ‘Flay‘ Roldán had been told he couldn’t travel due to being under conditional release following a conviction for attempted murder. He decided to fly to South Africa anyway. There was a police visit, meanwhile, for the Banda de Lomas, the ‘official’ barra who caused so much consternation when they travelled on the same aeroplane as the selección a week and a half ago. No arrests were made but they were ordered by police on Monday morning to move from the hotel they had been staying in to another, and were given notice that they’d be closely watched whilst in South Africa. This has come largely because the group have travelled to South Africa without any tickets for matches, and also don’t appear to have enough money with them to cover their lodging for the amount of time they plan on staying in the country.

The national side had a training session on Monday morning before their first real free time of their stay in South Africa. Palermo and Burdisso went for a day at a country club but the most urgent appointment was Jonás’s, who explained to the journalist from La Nación who approached him in the shopping centre, ‘I’ve got to buy some clothes because I didn’t bring any “civvies” with me – what I’m wearing now belongs to [Martín] Demichelis.’

Both Jonás and Demichelis seem to be in Diego Maradona’s plans to take on Nigeria. El Diez appears to have only just noticed he’s only named one natural out-and-out full back in his squad, and is considering adapting Argentina’s formation to something like a 3-4-3 (or 3-4-1-2), with Gutiérrez asked to play wide on the right and drop to right back when needed. As of Monday, then, the most likely starting lineup for Argentina against Nigeria on Saturday is:


Samuel —- Demichelis —- Heinze

Gutiérrez —- Mascherano —- Verón —- Di María

Messi —- Tevez —- Higuaín

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One thought on “Running free, and getting caught

  1. I’d worry about that team being exposed down the left. I can’t imagine Di Maria is going to do much tracking-back, which would leave Heinze dreadfully exposed. It’s an extremely positive line-up, and I would love to see it work, but I think it may prove a little risky in practice. Having said this, I feel quitely optimistic about our chances. There seems to be a good vibe about the squad, and the players have thus far stayed clear of injury (touch wood). I cannot wait for it to start!

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