When Sergio Batista was given the reins of Argentina’s national team on an interim basis, reactions in his home nation were mixed. Some were still mourning the resignation of national icon Diego Maradona, while others were hoping for a different gaffer, one with some managerial experience in Europe or Argentina’s domestic league. After all, Batista was coming off a horrendous experience with the youth squad, having failed to guide Argentina to the World Youth Cup for the first time in recent memory.
Some, however, remember Batista as the brilliant tactical manager who ledArgentina to Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008. In the process, he found a way to get the most out of his best players, namely Leo Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano. So how would he perform at the senior level? The answer, thus far, is magnificently.
Unlike Maradona, Batista has stacked his midfield and defence with more possession based players, and the results have been astonishing. Nicolas Ottamendi, Di Maria, and Maxi Rodriguez were replaced by Ever Banega, Esteban Cambiasso, and Javier Zanetti and Argentina has looked unstoppable since. In fact, following Tuesday’s 4-1 demolition of world champions Spain, supporters of the Albicelestes are no doubt be wondering what could have been had Batista been in charge in South Africa instead of Maradona.
Batista still has a number of upcoming friendlies to justify his appointment as permanent manager, including a match against hated-rivals Brazil. But if the big win over Spain is any indication, he looks certain to be around for some time.
New Brazil boss Mano Menezes will hope things are thumbs up from the get-go in his new gig.
With the 2011 Copa America now less than a year away and the 2014 World Cup set to be played on their home continent, the powerhouse nations of South America have decided now is the time for managerial change. And the new men won’t get much time to settle in.
Brazil was first to make a switch, predictably firing the dour Dunga following a disappointing loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of World Cup 2010. Of course, the reason for Dunga’s dismissal was not so much the loss to the Dutch as it was his preferred style of play. Brazilians demand flash and flamboyance, elegance and elan. Watching Dunga’s combative midfield and stonewall defence grind out ugly victories was not enough for Brazil’s critical public. After all, they have the reputation of Joga Bonito to uphold. Enter new manager Mano Menezes. The former Corinthians gaffer has promised to restore samba football. And just in the nick of time too, for it seems as if the whole world is beginning to forget about the famous yellow and green jersey and salivate over the yellow and red strip of Spain instead. With the next mundial in front of their home fans, anything less than a win that comes with style and flair will be seen as an embarrassment for Brazil.
Then there’s Argentina. After the news of Diego Maradona’s dismissal Tuesday amid a disagreement with Argentine football director Julio Grondona over support staff, the Albicelestes will be keen to make a statement in the coming three years. They won’t have to wait long for their first measuring stick, having confirmed a Sept. 7 friendly in Buenos Aires against the brand-new World Cup champion Spaniards. The match could also be an interesting gauge for how European teams will fare across the pond in 2014.
Don't let her down - she's too excited.
Like Brazil, Argentina will face the burden of expectation that comes with hosting when they welcome the rest of the continent at next summer’s Copa America. Rumour has it that whoever takes the reins (and the names of potential successors include Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes, under 20 coach Sergio Batista, and Diego “Don’t kick me, David Beckham” Simeone) will also be expected to at least reach the semi-finals next door in Brazil at World Cup 2014.
So there you have it. The new manager of Brazil is expected to not only win the next World Cup, but to do it with uncompromising style, while Argentina’s next boss will be expected to defeat world champion Spain at home, win the 2011 Copa America, and follow that up with no worse than a final four showing in 2014. No pressure boys…