Tag Archives: Lionel Messi

Argentina – Genuine Contenders?

The general consensus in the footballing world at the moment is that Germany and Argentina have been the teams which have impressed so far at the World Cup. Germany did it against a rather poor Australian outfit, and it could have easily been a repeat of their 2002 opening encounter against Saudi Arabia. Argentina first beat a respectable Nigerian side 1-0, a team that lacks a bit of quality, but to be fair to the South American’s it was just one of those days where the ball wasn’t finding the back of the net. Then last night they played some breathtaking football, to brush aside Asia’s best footballing nation in South Korea. Messi and Tevez ran the show, and Gonzalo Higuain continued on his brilliant goalscoring form which we saw throughout the La Liga season. But the real question is, are Argentina good enough to win the World Cup?

Diego shows how it's done from outside the white lines

Jubalani Shmubalani

Rewind back to the 2006 World Cup, and Argentina were in the “group of death”. They strolled passed Ivory Coast and then produced one of the better international performances in recent times, beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0. Qualifying with ease, pundits around the word lauded over the Argentinians, putting them down as the team to beat. Then came the round of 16, and an unimpressive  2-1 extra-time victory over Mexico. In the quarter-finals, Argentina lost to the German’s (typically) on penalties. Pekerman came under intense criticism over his decision to use Lionel Messi as a substitute throughout the tournament, as well as the decision to start Cambiasso on the bench in the quarter-finals. But the overall story of Argentina’s tournament was their breathtaking form in the group stages, in contrast to their rather flat performances in the knockout rounds. One would hope this will not be the case this time round.

This World Cup we see a fairly different side though. Mascherano and Heinze are the only two players who regained their spots in the starting XI from the last World Cup. Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Di Maria are some of the most exciting players at the tournament, and they will be the men who can lead Argentina to World Cup glory. Sadly, Gutierrez still finds himself in the team; even more worryingly at right-back. Maradona as a matter of fact cannot fathom an Argentine team without Jonas: “Mascherano, Messi, Jonás and eight more”. Argentina once again also have Jewish representation in their squad – Walter Samuel, who I have been led to believe is a non-practicing Jew. Let’s hope that hamstring injury won’t rule him out the the rest of the tournament.

Last but not forgotten is Diego Maradona. He may not be a tactical genius, but he certainly seems to be a motivational phenomenon. He seems to instil confidence into every player in his team. They all look very comfortable on the ball, and what is very important is that they have been encouraged to express themselves with the ball at their feet. Maradona stuck with Higuain after his assortment of misses against Nigeria, and as we all know, it paid off massively. What Maradona has done brilliantly, is give Messi the license the roam. Messi has been everywhere, and there is no doubt Maradona knows where to start the man, who’s playing style is almost identical to the infamous gaffer. Most importantly, the Argentinian squad all love Diego to bits. They trust him and they respect him, something which cannot be said for the French camp.

While we have to wait and see whether or not Argentina’s brilliant performances will carry through the knockout stages, we can certainly say we have been greatly entertained by Maradona’s men (And Maradona himself, he just can’t help himself when the ball rolls up to him!). Unlike Michael Cockerill (PTS’s favourite journalist!), I am not sensationally claiming that Argentina are the best thing since sliced bread, but with Lionel Messi, and his incredible supporting act, who knows what this team can achieve?

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Team of the Week

Remember, this is only based on first group round matches (even though you’re reading this after sides have played a 2nd match)

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...


At the back we’ll employ the Nigerian Enyeama who shaded Howard of the US and South African Khune. Enyeama was the only thing preventing 1-0 from an extra zero; 10-0. It felt like one of those days where Martin Tyler pulls out the “he looks determined to not be beaten”, a phrase that gets its fair share of air time. Just as a preview: This bloke has booked his spot for next week with an astonishing display. Running out of superlatives.


After one of the lowest scoring starts to a world cup we’ll play the defensive minded 5-4-1. It’s a shame that this wasn’t even the most defensive formation we saw, but nevertheless credit must be given to several stand outs who looked harder to break down than a pistachio. If we could play 3 right backs we probably would. Maicon and Phillip Lahm would have been certain starters in any given week if it wasn’t for Mauricio Isla bursting onto the scene for Chile. Isla showed a consistent attacking bent and a prominent threat down the flanks. Looks the complete package.

Stephane Grichting, Winston Reid and Oguchi Onyewu make up our flat back three. Other candidates include Frenchman Toullalan and Jung-Soo Lee who featured in a fluent South Korean display. It’s ironic that Reid books his place as a goal scorer. Grichting was simply colossal at the back and we very nearly played the entire Swiss defence. Onyewu stepped up for the US in a crucial game for them that could give them an outside chance to finish top of the group.

Bursting down the left, PTS fancies Gabriel Heinze who is once again picked predominantly for his aerial goal threat. Heinze’s goal was a superb header. He showed promise throughout the game as well.

Nadir Belhadj and Phillip Lahm are the most significant omissions (defending omissions) from our starting 11.


PTS has gone with Danielle de Rossi as the quarterback for the side. While the Italians didn’t get the result they hoped, they looked comfortable on the ball. De Rossi was central to all of their efforts. Alexis Sanchez will start on the right of midfield after leading his Chilean buddies to a famous opening win. He showed why Real Madrid are chasing his autograph. Creative genius at its best. He gets the nod as vice captain too, after showing his bag of tricks against Honduras. On the left of midfield it has to be Giovanni dos Santos who was an obvious standout way back on the opening night. The Mexcian showed incredible touch and while played centrally for his country, will threaten from the left for passthesugar. Our attack minded central midfielder is Mesut Ozil (Captain) who announced his arrival on the biggest stage in style. Tipped by passthesugar to “get yourself labelled as the hottest property by a commentator”, everyone at FFTD will be on the lookout for that phrase tonight when Ze Germans play Serbia. Had the ball on a string over the 90 minutes and could have scored a hat trick himself. Ozil captains the side, as he was the best performer of the first round.

Park Ji Sung, Lukas Podolski, Tshabalala and Fernandez are all unlucky to miss out. Abou Diaby was also a standout in a poor French outfit. While Slovakia didn’t live up the hype fuelled by passthesugar himself, Vladimir Weiss in the centre of the park still showed more quality than many of his compatriots.


With no strikers impressing, we’ll squeeze an extra midfielder into the squad. Lionel Messi showed his Barcelona form is a transferrable commodity and that he will be the player of the tournament come July 12. While this selection is controversial, we’ll tell our players to keep the ball at their feet after the Jualani looked more eager to skid away than a horse at the start of the Melbourne Cup. Messi will look for the trio of Sanchez, Santos and Ozil to run into the space behind the defence.

Asamoah Gyan was the only player to even vaguely push for a place and could be considered unlucky. The Socceroos strker, Not Available, was also unlucky to miss out. Maybe the Asian Rooney Jong showed he’s not totally talk, but he wasn’t particularly impressive.


We’re limiting ourselves to picking players that actually came on as substitutes. The standout was probably Eljero Elia who gave Holland some much needed width and flair when he was introduced late into the game. We won’t be making too many subs, so remarkably, he’ll be the lone player on the bench. The Mexican sub that set up the goal is hard done by…

The Gaffer

Several coaches showed they’re still important in football, but the Swiss mastermind, Ottmar Hitzfield, will be in charge of the locker room. A bit more defensive please – and don’t have a heart attack either!

The fans

It has to go to the South Africans, who were unwavering in their Vuvuzela blowing skills. They celebrated madly before the tournament and after Tshabalala’s goal. They made the 1st week memorable in the homeland.

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Saturday Sugar Special Report – Maradona Watch

This was originally meant to be a part of the Saturday Sugar column, but there’s just so much dirt on Diego that it’s evolved into its own special report by PTS. Come back tomorrow for Saturday Sugar.


After all the talk and fuss about good ole Diego, he hadn’t done all that much of late. Football fans around the world were getting restless, could it be that Maradona wouldn’t be the hinderance everyone predicted? Well this week answered all this and more, with a bizarre string of stories that assured everyone that he’s a total and utter idiot.

1. If the World Cup lacks anything, then it is nudity. Everyone loves a little skin, and Diego has assured us that we’ll get more than our share. Take note, we can now add “naked fat man” to our tag cloud for Maradona. His promise to strip bare is conditional, however, and for Argentina to win the Cup would be remarkable to say the least. (Just to clarify, Maradona will run naked if the Pumas win the trophy) I’m not sure if his promise acts as any kind of incentive for his players, or anyone really, but I suppose it might be an incentive for himself, or comedic fans everywhere. On a serious note for a second, it doesn’t sound like the biggest vote of confidence in his players. It’s akin to “I’ll eat my hat if Argentina win the world cup”. Anyway – brace yourselves people, if Messi fires, then we’ll get to see Mardona’s penis. (vulgar I know, but for dramatic purpose)

2. Earlier in the week, Maradona came out with the startling and vital news that the toilet facilities in South Africa aren’t up to his apparently high standards. Now, without ever having been to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, it doesn’t sound like the kind of place to shirk it’s lavatory responsibility. It’s not like it’s a whole in the ground or anything. Anyway, Maradona has insisted on getting his “IntiMist” that includes warm air blow dryers, seated heats, and two jet streams (front and rear). Apparently better than the iBidet (this is all legit – yes, yes, I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s Maradona!) the two new toilets have set the Centre back $900. Maybe it’ll be a collector’s item?

3. If you thought I was finished, then think again! Maradona has come out and encouraged his players to engage in sex throughout the tournament. The following quote just about says it all: “Sex is a normal part of social life and is not a problem. The disadvantages are when it is with someone who is not a stable partner or when the player should be resting. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE ACTION SHOULD NOT REVERBERATE IN THE LEGS OF THE PLAYER.” Just remember, Maradona thought it necessary to tell us this, it wasn’t like he was asked his opinion or anything. Brazilian coach Dunga managed to avoid controversy with the reply of “they can do what they want”, but Maradona just can’t stay on the straight and narrow. Going further, he has disagreed with Fabio Capello’s booze ban slapped on the Poms and stated that he will encourage his players to enjoy a tipple. If that hasn’t proved it, then I’m not sure what will.

Maradona this week has sumptuously ruined my Argentina World Cup experience. I won’t be able to watch Messi without thinking of Maradona taking a dump. I also won’t be able to watch Messi score, because every time he strikes, it means one step closer to a fat naked man on headline news around the world.

Video of the Week

Below is our Maradona footage of the week – classic press conference – this is how it’s done.

Vintage Maradona Quote

“I was, I am and I always will be a drug addict. A person who gets involved in drugs has to fight it everyday” – Maradona, 1996, as part of Argentina’s anti-drugs campaign. Maybe that explains everything…

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Goals of 2009/10

A special post that has seen a fair bit of inaction on footballfortheday. Drowning amongst youtube video submissions, PTS has emerged with his favourite goals of the year in chronological order. If you have a better one, then send them to me – footballfortheday@gmail.com or post them in a comment below!

Stankovic in Inter’s rout of Genoa way back in October

Genoa are on the receiving end yet again – and this time it’s Eden Hazard – also in October

This is less about the goal scorer in Xavi, and more about the incredible passing build up – West Brom and Socceroos PLEASE take note. Watch the player’s movement off the ball.

The Honduras star – Figuroa showed a bagful of vision in December

Arsenal riding high against Porto. It’s a shame Nasri won’t feature in June.

Lionel Messi had to feature somewhere – and it was tough to pick one out of several wonder goals. This one was from March.

Arjen Robben is one of world football’s form players and this is straight from the top draw…

This goal was crucial in Inter’s outstanding season and it came from the unlikely Maicon – my personal favourite. It happened in April

Fulham’s Davies gets a mention

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World Cup Preview – Group B – Argentina

A few of you readers have been screaming for more and well… here it is! We start our look at group B with Argentina.


• Nickname: Albicelestes (white and blue sky) (is Pumas only the rugby team?)
• Colors: White and light blue
• FIFA Ranking: 7
• How They Got Here: Finished fourth in South American qualifying, with six losses and more controversy than Justin Beiber.
• World Cup Pedigree: 14 World Cups, winners (’78 as hosts and ’86), runners-up (’30, ’90), quarterfinals (’66, ’98, ’06).


So much of the talk around Argentina focuses on their manager Diego Maradona. One of the greatest players to ever tie up the laces and grace the World Cup arena is now at the helm for his beloved country, but not before he smashed a whole bunch of drugs and changed body shapes more times than Jenny Craig. The Argy Bargies are one of the most talented sides in the comp and bring a whole lotta samba to South Africa. Expectations are typically high, however, and the pressure to perform is immense. The undisputed best player in the world, Lionel Messi, could be the hero, but rest assured, the cameras will be on Maradona just as much. Will his one man band take some of the focus off his team and help them to win, or completely backfire and leave them unstructured and outplayed?


Diego Maradona

Where to begin? Maradona should have been the greatest player in history. Have a sneak peak at this: (yes it’s true that’s really him!)

But he was the architect of his own undoing. After leading Argentina to a glorious (and controversial) victory in 1986, he was suspended from football for 15 months in 1991 and booted out of the ’94 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine. (big muscles, small pipi) He then ate one too many crab cake, and ballooned to an enormous size. Many even suspected he was on the verge of death early last decade. He announced in 2007 that he had quit drinking and using drugs and the cult figure took over as manager of Argentina in 2008. The team has been, to say the least, unspectacular. They lost six times in qualifying, including a 6-1 drubbing in Bolivia. He used 78 players in qualifying, never using the same lineup twice. It must be near impossible for Diego to run a squad like this, or even remember their names, and the majority of the football world wish that he’d just piss off and leave it to someone else. Noted play-makers like Juan Riquelme decided to retire rather than play for Diego. It’s unsure whether world-class midfielder Esteban Cambiasso will even make the final World Cup roster due to his personal differences with the gaffer. Maradona’s time in the job so far will probably be best remembered for his antics when they qualified that included several (sic) graceful swan dives and a whole lot of belly wobbling that made the headlines everywhere.


Lionel Messi

Thousands upon thousands of words have been heaped upon the floppy-haired wizard. I won’t spill any more. After all, I think Ray Hudson said it best when he said: “What he is, is like something out of Greek mythology, man. A little short-legged bull, Lionel Messi, covered with eyes.” Or “Messi is to his team what M&Ms are to E.T.” Ray Hudson is a remarkable man. A global treasure. If anyone can understand either of these quotes then let me know…


Javier Mascherano (midfielder, Liverpool) is a tireless worker and excellent distributor who’s had a bit of an off season (like most of Liverpool) in the Premiership. He’s an experienced lad who has a certain aura around him that can only help the South American’s cause. Carlos Tevez (forward, Manchester City) is a bulldog with the ball and an absolute terror with it in the box. He’s scored 23 times with Manchester City and showed that he is pure class. Over the last season, he’s revolutionised forward play, showing a willingness to track back and pressure the opposition from the front. He seems to always strive for that extra little bit of effort and could be the inspirational leader that they need. Javier Zanetti (defender, Inter Milan) is a veteran of two World Cups (’98 and ’02) but was controversially left out of the ’06 team. He’s old, and their whole defence is old, but there’s no substitute for experience and Zanetti has bucketloads of the stuff. Esteban Cambiasso (midfielder, Inter Milan) is an interesting addition in this section. Failing to make the squad over and over, Cambiasso may have to leave his legacy as it stands and watch the action in South Africa from the comfort of his lounge room. The bald headed holding midfielder will forever be remembered for scoring that goal that left many a supporter gasping for air after 23 passes. In passthesugar’s humble opinion the likes of Veron should be behind Cambiasso in the pecking order.


Sergio “Kun” Aguero (forward, Atletico Madrid) and Gonzalo Higuain (forward, Real Madrid). Maradona will probably not, unfortunately, find room for both these budding stars in the starting lineup (or even one of them) as they face the stiffest competition for a forward place of any of the teams in South Africa. The Madrid duo will hopefully push Maradona’s hand into playing a 4-3-3 that is suited to this particular team if ever there was one. Last time out the likes of Messi rose to prominence and particularly for Aguero a strong showing could see a move to a big, big European club. These guys will mean that Argentina won’t have a problem scoring goals.



Absolutely no one will be surprised if Argentina wins the entire tournament. On the other hand, no one will be surprised if Argentina loses in the second round (or, gasp, the group stage). Maradona is that bad of a manager.


The team will play a 4-4-2 with Tevez and Messi up front and two defensive midfielders. Diego seems to live vicariously through Messi, as he persists to play the Barcelona star in a similar role to that which he used to fill. Messi is given free reign to float across the attacking third to play the killer ball or make the incisive run that he’s capable of. Alongside Tevez, however, and without anyone playing a midfield distributor role that Messi plays in front of at Barcelona, the formation doesn’t really seem to be a perfect fit. The Argentinians would be better off with a 4-1-2-1-2 or a straight 4-3-3 if Diego can’t do the maths.



Any Jackie Chan movie

Jackie Chan and Diego Maradona are very similar (without the drug part for Chan). Think about it. Both men are amongst the most remarkable specimens in their field (Chan at martial arts, Maradona at dribbling), but both make questionable decisions (Chan making “Shanghai Noon” and Maradona’s cocaine phase). Though, to be fair. Saying that Maradona makes questionable decisions is like saying a hurricane is just an average thunderstorm with a little bit of wind and water. They also tend to be afterthoughts in conversations about the greatest ever because for much of their working life they have been considered sort of a joke. While Jet Li was making serious movies, Chan was doing “The Legend of Drunken Master.” While Pele was selling the game to the entire world, Maradona was getting tattoos of Che on his arm. Having said all of that… most Jackie Chan movies (like “Super Cop” and “Drunken Master”) are awesome. Just like most of the time Maradona touched the ball on the field.

This is what the Argentineans do best: a 23-touch goal that’s just spectacular.


The country has one psychologist/psychiatrist per 100 residents.


The Argentinian’s fairytale script could only lead to lifting the cup. Who cares about that hard draw everyone’s talking about, Messi and his men sweep their opposition aside with a flurry of passing and wonder goals. The whole thing will end with more swan dives from Diego and just like in ’86, Maradona will be carried from the field after “masterminding” their World Cup winning tactics. In a seemingly eerie resemblance, Messi will show his true class and subsequently begin to take drugs and turn into a Maradona-esque enigma. To cap it all off, Maradona announces the beginning of his campaign to become Argentina’s president while still on the winner’s podium (knocking out the unaware Sepp Blatter in the process). Obviously, he wins, and proves to be a worse ruler than Chavez.


When I looked at the odds, I simply couldn’t believe that Argentina were so far down the favourites list. Sure, there manager is a total nut-job, but managers of national teams are renowned for being figure heads more than anything else. How much can a manager do in a month anyway? (Watch Maradona make me eat my words with several drunken and nude rampages through Soweto) No team in international football can boast such an array of attacking weapons. They are all proven goal scorers. It seems, however, that every team we’ve previewed so far has a weak defence. Hopefully that’ll lead to a tournament full of goals! For Argentina to really give the tournament a shake up, Messi will have to fire as he does for Barcelona. So far, he’s gone missing for his country, but if he turns it on, then he’ll be able to take care of many of their group opponents by himself.

Sheer attacking brilliance + the best player in the world + an easy group – troublesome defence – joke of a manager – having to face Spain before the finals = A heart wrenching quarter final exit at the hands of the fancied Spaniards. It all seems very cruel, as Diego has finally got his act together. This will be the game of the tournament have no doubts.

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