Confederations Cup - Argentina Profile
It is an unusual circumstance to play a host nation with three World Cup’s to their name in your first match, only to realise that your next match will be much tougher. But, that is exactly the situation before the Socceroos and their coach Frank Farina.
By Benjamin Coonan, in Nuremberg It is an unusual circumstance to play a host nation with three World Cup-s to their name in your first match, only to realise that your next match will be much tougher.
But, that is exactly the situation before the Socceroos and their coach Frank Farina. After a physically and emotionally sapping seven-goal opus with Germany on Thursday morning (AEST), Australia must now focus their energies towards a meeting with dual World Cup winners and current Latin football benchmarks Argentina. Some say that Argentina is the best national team in world football presently, and with good cause. Argentina became the first nation from South America to automatically qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals, having assumed a mathematically unbeatable position in the CONMEBOL top four with three qualifying rounds remaining. Their line up boasts some of the greater luminaries of world football, including Hernan Crespo, Gabriel Heinze, Carlos Tevez and Juan Riquelme. On Sunday morning, they will toil with the Socceroos for the sixth time in history, understandably confident of registering a win against an opponent 53 rankings their inferior. In what is their first try at a FIFA Confederations Cup, Argentina have assembled a below-strength, but still thoroughly competitive squad. Missing is the aforementioned Crespo, who tops Argentina-s World Cup qualifying goal scoring chart with seven, defensive linchpin Roberto Ayala and midfield aces Javier Mascherano, Christian Gonzalez and Luis Gonzalez. However, present are the likes of Heinze, Tevez and Riquelme, as well as world-recognised names Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola and Javier Zanetti. Argentina are coached by Jose Pekerman, a highly successful youth coach in Argentina who delivered three restricted age trophies to his country in his eight year stint before taking the reigns from Marcelo Bielsa in October 2004. Thursday mornings 2-1 win over Tunisia in Koln was Pekerman-s tenth match in charge of the senior team, who have lost just once under his leadership, that being a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat against Ecuador in Quito earlier this month. Of those ten matches, the four that have been played at Argentina-s Buenos Aires home have resulted in victories to the home side. In the six matches played away from home, Argentina have won just two, drawn three and lost once. So which of Pekerman-s party are set to line up against the Socceroos? Farina and company can expect to see some familiar faces, in light of the Qantas Under 23-s Athens Olympic Games campaign last August, where Australia were defeated 1-0 by eventual winners Argentina at the group stages. There are eight survivors from that group, five of which started the Group C match with Australia, those being goalkeeper German Lux, Deportivo la Coruna defender Fabricio Coloccini, Mexican based striker Cesar Delgado, Heinze and Tevez. Current Socceroo squad members Craig Moore, Tim Cahill, John Aloisi, Ahmad Elrich and Jon McKain were apart of the Australian side that day. Custodian Lux started in goals for the Argentines against Tunisia last Thursday and had an indifferent match, highlighted by the River Plate ‘keeper handing two penalties to the African champs. More experienced gloveman Leonardo Franco, of Atletico Madrid, is another option for Pekerman in goals. Defensively, Argentina are arguably at their strongest, as they are one of the few defences in the world that can boast representatives from Real Madrid, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen Ayala is the only automatic back line choice missing from Pekerman-s squad, meaning captain Juan Sorin, Coloccini and Heinze are likely to form a solid imitation of a full strength Argentine defence. Read Madrid-s Walter Samuel and Zanetti of Inter Milan did not play against Tunisia and could see some game time against Australia. One of the rising stars of world football, 20-year-old Riquelme, will lead the Argentine midfield charge. Having been overlooked by previous coach Bielsa early in Argentina-s World Cup qualifying campaign, the Villareal attacker has breathed new life into the sky blue and white shirt since Pekerman-s arrival, with a sublime strike against Brazil earlier this month a poignant example of his undisputed talent. Aimar, Argentina-s second top goal scorer in their World Cup qualifying campaign, and AS Monaco-s Lucas Bernardi are possibilities to round out Pekerman-s midfield trio. Up front, Pekerman has a very young selection to choose from. 25-year-old Luciano Galletti is the oldest Argentine front man and will be competing for a starting berth with the likes of Saviola, Tevez (pictured left) and Maximiliano Rodriguez. From top to bottom, it is an outstanding line up and one that exemplifies the quality that potentially confronts Australia or the Solomon Islands in November. There will be few better opportunities for Farina and his squad to test their character ahead of their planned November showdown with another South American heavyweight for a spot at footballs grandest showpiece. As Farina will tell you, it-s three points or bust and the Socceroos will arrive at Nuremberg-s 42,000 capacity Frankenstadion with their Confederations Cup hopes on the line. Awaiting the Australians will be a nation thirsty for silverware after their 2002 World Cup capitulation and 2004 Copa America Final loss to bitter rivals Brazil. The same nation that broke Australian hearts twelve years earlier, when the Socceroos first played off against a South American nation for a World Cup place. Indeed, it-s one of the toughest assignments ever to greet an Australian team. Now, five months out from, potentially, the most significant week of Australian football history, is the ideal time for Australia to show what they are able capable of.