Thursday, July 26, 2007

River Plate at Peace Cup

Being a world´s club number one (by various parameters), the Argentinean grandee had no chances to perform well at this tournament. Like Veron represented a delayed-action mine for Argentina at Copa America, Passarella has been an absolutely predictable grave digger for any ambitious plans that Millionarios might have under his rule. With this coach they won’t win anything.

Although, a year ago it started very optimistically. A trio of Belluschi – Ortega – Higuain supported by wonderful defensemen Lussenhoff and Gerlo, was smashing everyone around and was about to bring the title to River easily, if the process of internal decay wasn’t barefacedly initiated by Passarella. For a start he put Ortega, who gained unbelievable pace, on the bench, which resulted in immediate dipsomania of the latter, that hasn’t been releasing Burrito for long since ever. Gallardo, who replaced Ortega, neither obtained a cart-blanche and was feeling clearly uneasy till he decided to spit upon it and return to France. Having destroyed midfield of his own, Passarella focused on defense. The tuned as a clock tandem of central defensemen Lussenhoff – Gerlo was broken up, and straight till the end of Apertura the combination of defensemen had chaotically or, even, hysterically been constantly shuffled, which infected with nervousness the rest of the team. During the intermission another central defenseman, Nelson Rivas from Colombia, was bought for unknown reasons only to take part in stupid Passarella’s experiments. As a result, with wonderful defense experts in his team, the coach did not manage to solve the problems in the most familiar to him part of the field.

Then there was an epopee on the left wing, where Passarella didn’t like one after another Zapata, Fede Dominguez, Sambueza and even marvelous Mareque. The guy he finally chose turned out to be Abelairas, too young, too inexperienced, hence worse, as for now, than any of the abovementioned players.

Right after Nicolas Domingo warmed up enough to produce brilliant games, he was put on the bench too. It would be justified if he gave place to Ahumada. But Ahumada’s substitute now is Rene Lima, who does not impress. Domingo is better than Lima, but Passarella does not see it.

Besides, during Passarella’s governing (although, justice demands to say that it started in Astrada’s times) we began to see too many “unriverish” players in the team, i.e. mediocre players according to Argentinean overall standards, and weak players according to River standards. Santana, Sambueza, Dominguez, Zapata, Lima, Ruben, who still has been failing to explain his sudden appearance in the team, Colombian Garcia Zarate whose inability to play River’s trademark football became especially evident at Peace Cup. Mauro Rosales is a very good player, but not “un millionario”. Leonardo Ponzio seems to have played all his best games at Mundial sub-20 in 2001, and ever since got too infected with “europeism”. And vice versa: ideally “riverish”, extremely intelligent and sophisticated Jairo Patino spent two years in dead reserve. The idling in production of club’s most trademark position – playmaking – is very evident today too. The last genuinely outstanding number 10 was d’Alessandro (Belluschi does not count, he is from Newell's). The only one to pretend to be called another Maradona is probably Augusto Fernandez, but his progress is way too slow.

To conclude, today only three players correspond to the level of great team: Fernando Belluschi, Juan Pablo Carrizo and Oscar Ahumada. Two of them did not play at Peace Cup – Carrizo was sitting on bench in Venezuela (and later sold to Lazio), while Ahumada is recuperating from an injury. That’s’ why what we saw was a great team which a mediocre coach pulled down to its mediocre level. Although Belluschi was great as ever.

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