Friday, July 27, 2007

Argentina: On the Eve of Apertura 2007

A year ago after San Lorenzo lost 0:5 both to Boca and River I still was sure that this was a great team, which it proved as soon as in six months. While six months ago I was sure about another thing - that Racing would reign in Clausura 2007. That confidence did not prove: Racing found itself in the lower part of the table by the end of the season. But still there are no doubts that this team is great and that it will surely have success. "Academicians"' problems during Clausura were connected rather with logistical issues and scandals of their coach Reinaldo Merlo with the club's chiefs. The legendary coach is not anymore with the team, but his successor Gustavo Costas is quite able to repeat Simeone's trick. I'd like to remind that Estudiantes was prepared for the championship by the same Merlo, while Simeone actually skimmed the cream. The team does not have weak links. The keeper Gustavo Campagnoulo has been definitely one of Argentina's best keepers in the last decade; the central defense tandem of Diego Crosa and Gustavo Cabral is a wonderful fusion of experience and young blood; the midfield is full of both hard-workers and creators - Martin Romagnoli, Christian Pellerano, Nicolas Cabrera, two 2001 champions that returned to glorious home Jose Chatruk and Adrian Bastia. The bulk of jewels is crowned by a nugget of Maxi Morales. No one resembles me of Maradona more than him, even Messi. Maxi has just returned from the Mundial sub-20 which he won jointly with other "Academicians". In attack even after the defection of Gonzalo Bergessio there are two solid pillars - Facundo Sava and Claudio Lopez. Well, despite the collapse in Clausura, Racing still is the brightest spot among all the teams.

Let's right away strike of the list of possible candidates for the title such clubs as Argentinos Juniors, Banfield, Colon, both Gimnasias, both clubs from Rosario (regretfully), as well as all four newcomers. I would not regard Arsenal either, since club's president's father's chair of president of Argentinean Football Federation has been rocking since recently. Remaining are five traditional grandees Boca, River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo, plus semi-grandee Velez Sarsfield, plus Estudiantes with Lanus. Of two latter Lanus is more preferable since it lost minimum players of its tuned and tested squad. Estudiantes has no Pavone, no Sosa, no Calderon, hence no reasons at all for optimism. Neither San Lorenzo is likely to repeat its huge success - Ezequiel Lavezzi, who joined Napoli, meant too much for the team. Besides, the defense leader Jonathan Bottinelli has already packed too. Although the team is actively buying good players. Pedro Troglio is unlikely too to start his work at Independiente with successes - Burruchaga has left too much of a mess. The least probable candidate to win is Velez as long as it's ruled by la Volpe. Especially after both rescuers have gone - Castroman to Mexico and Mauro Zarate to Qatar. River is miserable too - seems like Passarella wants to destroy it down to the ground. If Belluschi leaves, the main task will be not to descend. There's no confidence today in this wonderful club. Boca is in much more favourable conditions, although Russo did not manage to impress as a coach so far, and there's no guarantees that the title won't escape from the Xeneizes for the third time in a row.

Well, the main stakes should be made, obviously, on Racing, Lanus, San Lorenzo and Boca. Seems like the best mood on Christmas will be in a camp of one of these four clubs.

As for individual achievements, the most serious candidates to be named as Apertura's best player are young Maxi Morales from Racing, Angel di Maria from Rosario Central and Ever Banega from Boca. Besides, there's a hope that the stars that left Velez, freed space for very talented Emmanuel Fernandez Francou. As for the older players, it will again be Riquelme, Belluschi, Arzuaga, Patiño. Surely, there will be some young star to emerge from nowhere, as it happens every year. Whatever plot Apertura 2007 would have, one thing is for sure - it's not going to be boring to anyone. Aguante!

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