Player power the key for Argentina

Tactical rethink at half-time against Bosnia prompted by senior players in dressing room

Argentina’s Lionel Messi acknowledges the fans after last night’s game. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

Argentina’s Lionel Messi acknowledges the fans after last night’s game. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

 

“This is how we prime Lio” said Argentina’s sports paper Olé, praising a half-time rejig forced on its national team after a poor first half in Sunday night’s World Cup opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Argentina’s press acclaimed in unison Lionel Messi’s second half golazo but none could be happy about a poor opening 45 minutes that they all blamed on coach Alejandero Sabella’s decision to start with a 5-3-2.

“A new state policy is born: 5-3-2 is dead,” declared Juan Pablo Varsky in La Nacion after the improvement when the team switched to 4-3-3.

“Messi does not want a team like that of the first half. It was noticeable his discomfort.”

In a signal of the player power in a dressing room led by Messi and Javier Mascherano, Marcelo Gantman wrote after talking to the players in the mixed zone it was clear the first half system was “imposed” on the players and that of the second “desired” by them.

But Sabella got credit for owning up to his mistake, which was a reminder that despite having an array of attacking riches at his disposal he served his management apprenticeship under Carlos Bilardo, who coached the side Maradona led to the World Cup in 1986 but in Argentina is notorious for his defensive teams.

“Sometimes the errors are mine,” Sabella admitted after the game, in the low-key style that has served to protect his squad from the histrionics that has surrounded the national team in the past. “He changed even though he was winning, which is a good sign,” conceded Gantman.

But after the expectation among the tens of thousands of the visiting support in the build-up to the game, the actual performance has injected a note of reality into the squad’s chances. “The only concrete thing was the victory. Everything else was a sea of doubts,” wrote Claudio Mauri. “Doubts about a team that does not appear ready and fine-tuned with the World Cup now on top of it.”

As well as praising Messi’s goal Brazil’s newspapers were left marvelling at the “Argentine Invasion” of the new Maracanã. But several noted security lapses around the ground.

Groups of fans without tickets managed to penetrate Fifa’s cordon around the stadium and one group managed to rush security at a poorly guarded entrance and gain entrance. Other fans reported their tickets were robbed from them while queuing to get in.

While the atmosphere had been good humoured all weekend in the city there were isolated outbreaks of fighting during the match, reportedly between Argentines and Brazilians who adopted the Bosnian team playing their traditional rival.

In one incident an Argentine fan fought with one of the groups of Croatian supporters that had turned up to support their Balkan neighbours.

In a separate incident police were accused of violently breaking up a small protest against the World Cup in which 500 people attempted to reach the Fifa cordon. Several people were injured by stun grenades.

Amnesty has accused Brazilian police of heavy-handedness in its handling of the few small demonstrations that have marked the first days of the tournament. Activists say Brazil’s government is denying people their right to protest.

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