Argentina were beaten by Venezuela for the first time in history in the second round of the COMNEBOL(South America) World Cup Qualifiers. After a convincing defeat of Chile in the first round, Alejandro Sabella’s men came to this game on a high and everyone expected Argentina to sweep past the Venezuelans. But several mistakes by Sabella in team selection and tactics ruined the flow of the game and Argentina could never get into their stride. A goal by Venezuela and Atletic Bilbao defender, Fernando Amorebieta sealed the win for Venezuela.
Argentina started with an odd 5 man defense with Zabaleta, Burdisso, Demichellis, Otamendi and Rojo. Even though there were atleast two defenders at the back when Argentina were pushing forward, they could not deal with the long balls effectively. Venezuela threatened with every long ball and Demichellis was poor in particular. As far as I know Rojo isn’t even qualified to get into the bench. Still Sabella preferred him just because of the fact that he played under him at Estudiantes in that team that won the Copa Libertadores. His crossing was poor and he couldn’t control most of the long passes coming at him on the left flank.
In midfield Mascherano and Di Maria played in their usual positions and there again Sabella used his former player, Jose Ernesto Sosa and kept Paris St. Germain hotshot Javier Pastore on the bench! Sosa played below average and couldn’t provide messi that platform he needed to shine. As always Messi couldn’t shine because he didn’t have a midfield that could play with him. Higuain tried his best in the early moments of the game but later on he couldn’t do anything because of the lack of good balls to him.
Argentina played well for some 15 minutes or so and then let Venezuela dominate them gradually. Venezuela finished the first half on a high and started the second half in the same way. They strived to break the deadlock and were rewarded as Amorebieta scored from the corner. The Argentines began to tire as the game progressed because of the heat and the humidity and their difficulties were clearly evident. Then came Sabella’s substitution. He took Zabaleta who was by far better than Rojo and brought Ever Banega on who looked totally rusty. The substitution clearly didnt work out and Banega couldn’t turn the tides. Sabella then brought Rodrigo Palacio on for Sosa and the Genoa forward couldnt help Argentina’s cause. Still there was no sign of Pastore coming on. He finally took Di Maria off and brought Pastore on in the 84th minute but by that time most of the Argentines were fully exhausted and the match was effectively over. Venezuela held on for a historic win against the Albiceleste.
Here’s what Sabella had to say after the game:
“We have to take this one game at a time. We know this is a long, hard tournament. We have to correct our mistakes. Venezuela played a great match. We had a couple of chances early on and we couldn’t capitalize. Then it was all uphill for us. We wanted to keep the ball a bit more. We could for a few moments in the first half. The heat and humidity and the fact that they were fresher than us could have had an influence. They made difference in 2nd half.”
Im not an anti-Sabella guy but still I completely attribute the defeat to Sabella’s poor team selection and untimely substitutions. He should reconsider Sosa and Rojo’s place in the team and consider playing Pastore more often than not. We all know he is a proper manager unline El Diego and Batista. So I have complete faith in him that he will make the right changes in time for the next round game against Bolivia on 11th next month.