By: Eric Weil
Wrong refereeing decisions and many injuries had a lot to do in deciding the just ended 2010/11 season Apertura soccer tournament. But this does not take anything away from champions Estudiantes de La Plata who also suffered from bad refereeing and had around a dozen injuries resulting in absence of players. But the tournament was poor in quality which is no wonder. Teams are mostly composed of many young players just beginning to gain experience and veterans, many returned from Europe where they were no longer needed.
Good examples are River Plate's Matías Almeyda who put spirit into the team, Juan Sebastián Verón, the life and soul of the champions, and Boca Juniors' Martín Palermo who scored most league goals this year (18). They are all getting on for 37 and do not talk of retirement.
Last season, Estudiantes finished only a point behind Clausura tournament winners Argentinos Juniors and they must have been weaker this time after transferring key men José Sosa, Christian Cellay, Clemente Rodríguez, Marcos Angeleri and Mauro Boselli — particularly the latter as they had no goal area striker left.
The had the strongest defence with only 8 goals against — and have had it for the last four years — even though of the above mentioned players one was a goalkeeper and two defenders. Some said Estudiantes played defensively, yet they only finished one goal behind top scorers Vélez Sársfield's 33.
Estudiantes, by the way, won all their home games although they never played at home, because their stadium was being refurbished.
Coach Alejandro Sabella must take credit for ordering the team in spite of player losses and also for his tactics — deadball situations produced 10 of the goals. But he had an onfield general in Verón right to the end when with the score 0-0 against Arsenal — which would have meant a playoff with Vélez Sársfield — he took himself off to be replaced by Hernán López who broke the deadlock with two headed goals. So Estudiantes qualified to play in international cups for the seventh straight year.
One could say that Vélez Sársfield, two points behind, deserved to be champions also. A team with a rare and dangerous two-pronged attack are always in with a chance. Apertura top scorer Santiago Silva (11) and Juan Manuel Martínez (10) scored two-thirds of the team's goals. As usual, Vélez, with least activity in the transfer market, also made fewest team changes from match to match. Their clash with Estudiantes in the 12th round could have been a decider. It finished 0-0 at Vélez.
BOCA AND RIVER. And what about Boca Juniors and River Plate who will again be absent from international cups next year, specially as they are no longer invited to take part in the South American Cup.
River Plate changed coaches at half-stream which is not club president Daniel Passarella's custom. Angel Cappa had the team around mid-table, but they hardly scored in spite of shooting at goal more than other teams. It was not good enough as due to previous poorer seasons they were stuck in the relegation zone. so he had to go. His mistake was that he changed the lineup continuously and obviously never got the right result. Former River Plate midfielder and junior team coordinator Juan José López, who also believed in more ball training like Cappa, took over as interim coach. Under him 13 out of the last 18 points were collected, the team moved up to fourth place and out of the relegation zone (just), so he stays.
River Plate have a number of very promising youngsters already making first team appearances and getting offers from big European clubs. Passarella's idea is rightly not to sell so he counter-offers double the price for every offer which scares the clubs away. But an investment/loan he has been negotiating for quite some time is still not coming and the club's financial situation is serious.
Boca Juniors also changed coaches in midstream — not unusual for the club which craves success all the time, although they have been without it for a while. Claudio Borghi, who took Argentinos Juniors' not very strong team to last season's closing tournament title was signed at the beginning of the season. He is a good coach, but made two mistakes — insisting on three defenders, as at Argentinos Juniors, with which Boca Juniors was never comfortable and not being able to use his usual attacking play with veteran striker Palermo which he did not — or could not — take out. He was replaced by reserve team coach Roberto Pompei while the search for another coach was on. Pompei did not do any better and Boca finished in mid-table.
Borghi used to say that Palermo was excellent inside the penalty area and a disaster outside it. It today's game you have to play well all over the field. As a result Boca's attack mostly lacked surprise — kicking high balls into the area for Palermo to net. He did get a few goals, getting his 300th in the tournament's last game.
But Boca's problems also stem from their poor buying and selling policy for some time now for which the committee is to blame. Before this season began, they had been the highest spenders — calculated at 13 million dollars — to try unsuccessfully, to strengthen the team. Of course, things might have been different, even for Borghi, if their playmaker, Juan Román Riquelme — so often their winning card — had not been injured. He has the highest contract and played only one whole game, admittedly very well. It was worked out that he earned 4,629 dollars for every minute played.
And the other clubs? For space reasons, we will have to mention them next week.
ANoTHER DEATH. Another River Plate hooligan died from injuries this week after seven months in hospital. That makes it 252 (Olé counts 251).
Pablo Paladino has been removed from his post as soccer security committee chief. As mentioned before, Paladino is also being charged with having relations with hooligan gangs. (He is connected with cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández). Perhaps the next man to be put into the job will do something against the gangs. Or is that too much to hope for?
miércoles, 22 de diciembre de 2010
Publicado por Ráfaga en 15:56