International friendlyWednesday, March 5, 2014
Argentina plays Romania with its stars
Argentina and Romania meet in Bucharest this afternoon in what will be the final trial for Argentina before the squad list for the World Cup finals has to be presented. What is expected to be the first starting 11 is likely to take the field today.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Today’s World Cup warm-up match between Argentina and Romania in Bucharest will be far from the usual friendly. It is the last chance for Argentina national team coach Alejandro Sabella to try out his lineup before having to pick the party of 23 to go to the World Cup in Brazil because the deadline for presenting squads is before Argentina’s next friendly games scheduled in June.
Although Romania did not qualify for the World Cup finals, it will nevertheless be a good chance to face European rivals which Argentina seldom plays. The Argentine team however has little new to learn — from tactical moves to the likely first 11 line-up if there are no injury absences.
The attack of Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and Lionel Messi, who continue to stand out in their European clubs, is unmovable. The problem is in defence and it will be worsened if Romania scores a couple, or more, goals against them. Many players have been tried in defence and problems continue, starting with goalkeeper Sergio Romero who has not really failed, but causes a problem because he gets very little first team action with Monaco. The defenders, Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernández and Marcos Rojo, also all with European clubs, appear to have their places safe, although they have repeatedly shown that they are the weakest links of the team.
The most used midfielders have been Angel Di Maria, who joins the strong attack whenever possible, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago, the only player at home, but showing poor form lately with Boca Juniors.
At the moment, Sabella thinks that this will be the first 11 that also lines up today. He added however that he will have a talk with Agüero before to see how he feels after his recent injury layoff and that this will depend on whether he takes the field from the start.
“To form a group which understands each other is very important. The basis and the group exist. Soccer is changeable. I don’t like changing much. I prefer selecting a group, a real team,” Sabella said.
Such a group is similar to the one Carlos Bilardo coached prior to the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 which Argentina won with Diego Maradona the star — a path Messi is hoping to follow.
Romania’s coach, Victor Piturca meanwhile is trying to prepare a team for the 2016 European Championship — dominated by players from the Steaua Bucharest Club which currently tops the league — which should give them a semblance of teamwork also.
The last time the two countries met was in the 1994 World Cup played in the United States. Romania won 3-2 in the last 16 on that occasion against a team, coached by Alfio Basile and which had lost its will to win as Maradona had just been suspended for failing a drug test.
Sabella spoke yesterday about how difficult it is to manage the anxiety of reaching the World Cup debut. “It’s difficult to manage and gets more difficult as the time gets nearer. We get more nervous all the time.”
Argentina will make its World Cup debut on June 15 in Rio de Janeiro against Bosnia-Herzogovina. Their four-team first round group is completed by Nigeria and Iran with the top two, after round robin play, advancing to the knock-out round of 16.