PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Argentina's head coach Diego Maradona gives instructions during a team training session on June 8, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Diego Maradona
FIFA RANK: 7
We see it all the time in sports and for the life of me, I don't know why professional teams or in this case, nations will not learn from the mistakes of the past. It's the thought a former legend can come back to lead his country or professional team to the promise land as a head coach. Jury I now present Exhibit A...also known as Diego Maradona.
As usual, Argentina has all the tools in the tool box to win the World Cup, but the one loose screw is Coach Maradona. Don't get me wrong, this guy is entertaining as heck. Who wouldn't love a guy who promises to streak across Buenos Aires naked if his squad wins the cup! But that's exactly my point, he's too much of a loose cannon and lacks experience on the bench to lead this team to a world title. Qualifying under Maradona was a complete disaster. "La Albiceleste" (White and Sky Blue) finished fourth in South America and had some woeful performances that included the country's first competitive loss ever to Chile and a 6-1 blowout loss to Bolivia. Yes, you read that right, Bolivia, not Brazil.
But as much as i'm bagging Maradona, its a Maradona-like player who may prove me and the entire world wrong. Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the world's best player. At 5-7, the 22-year-old can do things with the soccer ball at his feet that most people wouldn't be able to do with their hands. The skill level and feel Messi has for the game is insane. If there is one player worth watching this summer in South Africa, it's the small striker from Argentina. But as I mentioned before. Messi is only the tip of the iceberg. Argentina has the best collection of offensive talent in the entire tournament. Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, 22, was finally called up to the national squad by Maradona late in qualifying and veterans like Carlos Tevez , Sergio Aguero and Diego Milito add serious punch off the bench. Winger Angel Di Maria is looking to break out this summer and Liverpool standout Javier Mascherano is considered to be one world's top defensive mid-fielders.
Luck was also on the side of the La Albiceleste when the draw was announced. The one true threat is Nigeria who have had some coaching problems of its own, but nothing Maradonian like. (I think I just made up a word)
There is no doubt in my mind Argentina will make it through the group stage, but I just don't believe they have a shot to advance deep in the knockout round because of the coach. And this brings me to another interesting side plot. Will Argentina turn on its national legend if this team bombs in South Africa? Maradona was the greatest of his time, but he should have stayed in the stands. We've seen this script too many times before. Anyone remember Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzkey as GM or coach? No one wants to.
Still, Maradona says he's heard all the negativity and is ready to lead his home country to its third World Cup title. And after all the critism, if they do win the cup, I say let Diego streak in Buenos Aires anytime he wants.
June 12 vs. Nigeria- 9 a.m. CT (Best matchup of group, Nigeria is dangerous, but Argentina will be up to the task)
June 17 vs. South Korea- 1:30 p.m. CT (Koreans have played giant killers before, but its not happening here)
June 22 vs. Greece- 9 a.m. CT (Greece defends well, but Argentina should easily grab at least a draw)
NEXT ON THE PITCH: GERMANY