Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another new Argentine dawn - Paulita

Goals shouted from the depth of the lungs, firecrackers, honks, spontaneous gatherings of unknowns on the streets, nothing seems too much when celebrating a cup in Argentina. Especially in Buenos Aires, a city that exhales football through every pore and dresses accordingly in the colours of the winner, non-footballing citizens and losers can't help but finding themselves captives of the victory tide.

Not last Sunday anyway. Not the day in which Argentina obtained the World Cup U-20. Again. Despite the high TV viewings and the endless lines written in newspapers, that went by as quiet a Sunday as any other winter football-less Sunday in Argentina.

Imposingly, five of the last seven world cups in this category were won by Argentina, cumulating a total of six in the thirty years of history of this tournament.

The first one was delivered in 1979 by a dearly remembered pair: Ramón Díaz and Diego Maradona, who claimed to have played his best football in that team. Considering the mouth that uttered those words or, better said, the left foot of that mouth, it's not hard to imagine exactly how good that football was. Or maybe it is. A final with Brazil in 1995, another with Uruguay in 1997, a home victory in 2001 with Saviola's record of eleven goals and the kick off of Messi's era in 2005 were the stops to the 'again' in 2007.

The WC U-20 took place under the shadow of Copa América and ironically ended casting a merciless light into the senior team and the final where 'it was all yellow'. No, the 'again' is not conceited and uppish, not even anesthetized by the habit of U-20 cups, or at least not entirely, but it's mostly saddened, disconcerted and slightly accusatory of the habit of not winning cups of the elders.

Nonetheless, whatever the context, the squad and coach, Hugo Tocalli (previously, Pekerman's assistant), deserve the accolades. If, as it is said, every champion needs to first experience rough times to forge character, this team forged its own at the South American Championship in which the qualification for the World Cup to be held in Canada was put in check.

In the beginning of the WC, they hammered Panama 6 - 0 and later on outplayed the joint favourites in this tournament, Mexico and Chile, the latter resulting in incidents between fans, players and the police. The fibre was displayed in the final, after an anxious start and the opener scored beautifully by the Czech Fenin and so was the flair. In the second half, Banega was lord and master of the midfield, Moralez moved mischievously from flank to flank, from box to box, and Aguero's back proved to be strong enough to carry the ten in his shirt. So convincing were the last 45 minutes that little it was noticed the absence of defender and captain Cahais, the speed and goals of De María and the homeostatic presence of Yacob.

As Tocalli puts it: "The objective is always the same: collaborate in the growth of footballers," these teams invite you to think about the future, the path that will hopefully lead them to the senior national team. A path that could be bumpy and bumpier if footballers keep emigrating early, as Insua (Liverpool) and Fazio (Sevilla), to foreign benches.


HannibalBrooks said...

Good to see this achievement recognised on Pseud's ... unlike in the rest of almost the entire UK media.

Emiliano Insua is only on an 18 month loan at Liverpool from Boca Juniors.

At just 18 he has played in two competative first team games for the club, which is not to be sniffed at, but with one season of his loan period still to go, it remains to be seen whether he can challenge Riise or Aurelio for the regular left-back, but becoming an U-20 World Cup winner will not do his chances of achieving this any harm at all.

Ebren said...

Hmm HB - nice to see you consider us "UK media", but not sure that position is justified...

Lovely bit of writing Paulita, if you take offence at the headline I will happily change it to one you prefer.

byebyebadman said...

Nice piece Paulita, and it is a fantastic acheivement. As long as Argentina can keep churning out great young players I'm sure that eventually they'll find the right coach to morph them into a World Cup winning outfit when they hit somewhere between 25 and 30.

There's a very good blog on the Guardian about the Yugoslavia winners of 1987 that prompted a brief but interesting debate about the greatest youth team ever, and how you measure that.

offside said...

Six world cups in thirty years is just amazing.

And reading Paulita is always a pleasure.

paulita said...

what I've read about insua is that liverpool payed 50000 (euros) for the loan and has the option to buy the 80 % of his pass, which is different to other cases (coloccini, trejo) in which they resorted to the patria potestad (parental guardianship??) and boca received nothing.
'challenge riise or aurelio'. exactly. playing 2 games for liverpool is huge, better said, could be huge or could end up in nothing. I don't have the quote handy but tocalli said he was worried about these footballers not completing their formation in argetina and being put in a situation in which they can't really compete.

thank you for the title, of course no offence taken.

badman - offside
glad you both liked it.
6 cups is amazing but remember WC U20 are played every 2 years.

marcela said...

very nice to piece, indeed, paulita :)

tocalli, like pekerman, has always been concerned about the players who are plucked to soon.

but there ain't much that can be done about it - the market rules.

pipita said...

Lovely piece Paulita, thoroughly enjoyed it (te la jugaste calladita, ehhh:))) Very acute description you make of the strange lack of enthusiam, or celebratory mood, this sixth youth world Cup triumph was received in Argentina. On the wake of the Copa America defeat, it was almost as if the press was lamenting the fact that we win so many youth world cups and not enough senior trophies in the last years, instead of praising the success.

Why do the argentine youth teams win so many world cups?? I read a very good analisis on this matter by Racing Club's youth coach, a team that provided six players to the current squad. According to his view, its due to the fact that most of these talented kids are promoted to the first teams of their clubs at a very young age, given the amount of players who are sold year after year to foreign leagues. Therefore, when they play these youth tournaments most of these players have at least two or three years of first division football experience on their backs, which is not the case with most of the other squads. Sounds pretty convincing argument

paulita said...

no marcela

I woke up today and received a return of money by post I wasn't expecting. then I had to visit some public records office (you know those...), fast and with a smile.

maybe if it was monday... but no, your 'realism' (negativism) won't drag me today :)

plenty can be done.

ok maybe not plenty.

but something could be done :)


soy calladita :)))

yes, good analisis.
have you noticed that nor this squad or the one of 2005 included any river player? no banter intended, seriously. someone at river said it didn't mean anything because it takes longer in river for kids to make their debut (and settle) in the first team.

and the real madrid - ex river - authentic pipita refused to play...

byebyebadman said...

paulita - think the more pertinent stat is 5 in 7 tournaments, which is pretty phenomenal as the need to refresh the squad every few years due to the age limit means this isn't down to one group of gifted players but several.

Doesn't autmomatically mean great success at senior level though - Ghana reached four Under-17 World Cup finals in a row in the early to mid nineties, winning two, but didn't qualify for their first World Cup until 2006. Only three players from those great youth teams made the squad.

pipita said...

Here goes first of my personal recollections-highlights of the six youth trophies won by Argentina

1979-Brings very fond and nostalgic memories this one. Remember watching the final at my school, I was in my last year of high school in Buenos Aires, in a packed and noisy classroom with a tiny black and white tv set at around 9am. Menotti himself coached this team the year after winning the 78 world cup with the seniors. He transformed Ramón Díaz from a promising but somewhat insipid number 10 to a lethal number 9 goalscoring machine. His partnership with Maradona is the best I remember in Argentine football.
Highlight: semi-final against Uruguay 2-0 especially Maradona's goal after a tremendous run and cross by Díaz and final against USSR 3-1, especially díaz's amazing goal after a sprint, with the ball, from the half way line, and Maradona's superb free kick for the third goal. I'll see if I can find any of this on the Youtube

paulita said...


I think the U-17 is a bit different, no? physical size tends to prevail. argentina has never won a U-17 WC, for example. and if you have a look at the finals in the U-17, african nations have considerably more presence than in the U-20.

but still, the situation of africa and latin america is comparable, there've been joint attempts of the FAs to implement some sort of regulation... nothing achieved yet.


very nice. complete the saga please.

pipita said...

Couldnt find any action from Youth WC 79, but please check out this piece of Maradona magic for a Diaz headed goal when playing in the senior national team in a friendly against Switzerland from around early 1980's. Priceless

marcela said...

paulita, never meant to wipe the smile from your face. particularly if it has survived the registro nacional de las personas or wherever you were doing your chores this morning ;)

pipita - 1979. ahh. the good ol' days.

i remember the tournament, too. but i think the fact you mention - menotti was in charge after winning a world cup with the adults - is crucial.

it was like he validated youth football or something.

i'm interested in what you said about the racing manager's comments as well, though. because i'm not sure that's the only thing to explain argentina's youth success in more recent years. i mean, sure, some players are first team in their clubs. but i think some laurels are due to pekerman and his methods...

the key question, for me, is what happens to the same players when they mature? does something shift in their self belief and confidence? or does the european top flight ruin them :) ?

also, good point about ghana from byebye. just one memory for me: nii lamptey.

never liked ramon díaz, though.

pipita said...

Ay,ay ay Marcelita how can you say such a thing. I know you don't like Ramon Díaz the coach, but the player?? Have you not seen him in his playing days??

The Peckerman years 95,97, 2001

Marcela is right here. Peckerman completely transformed the structure and policies of youth football in Argentina. He infused a sense of discipline in the naturally talented young players tha led to no Argentine youth player ever being sent off during his time as coach. Quite an extraordinary achievement in Argentine football
1995 Qatar
Probably the team that produced less amount off top rank players. Except for Sorin and probably Ibagaza who did well at Mallorca and was later sold to Atletico Madrid. I remember thinking Coyette, Ibagaza's striking partner also at Lanus, would become a tremendous player...Highlights, 3-0 thrashing of Spain in semi's and off course 2-0 win in final against Brazil
1997 Malaysia
Unlike 95 team, produced various world class players Cambiasso, Aimar, Riquelme, Placente, Samuel, Romeo, Scaloni. Probably the best of the lot. Highlights: fantastic 2-0 win against Brazil, 2-1 against England-Owen and Carragher-in quarters and 2-1 win in final against Uruguay of García and Zelayeta
2001 Argentina
Saviola was the star scoring 11 goals in a team that also included D'alessandro, Coloccini and Arca. Highlights 3-1 against France of Cissé and Mexés-anyone know what became of him ??in quarters with a Saviola hat trick . Easy 3-0 win over Essien's Ghana in final game

marcela said...

of course i've seen him in his playing days. and even though gospel according to diego says ramon WAS good back then... i don't know.

the coach, the player, the human being. never liked the man.

i am reminded of a friend who never liked benito carbone because of the way he celebrated his goals :)

not saying díaz wasn't a good player - don't like him, though.

other than this minor point, pipita: chapeau. your synopsis of the pekerman era is splendid. you don't let the side down, do you :))

paulita said...

that was great pipita... except scaloni world class??

the game argentina - chile in this WC could have a blog of its own. media in arg said chileans were too violent, media in chile said argentines were overreacting and the referee was terrible. but the incidents with the police who they say hit the footballers, the fans throwing things at the referees, bachellet speaking about it...

bluedaddy said...

Nice piece and a great thread to follow it. Bravo all.

I read and I learn.

If only England had a coach or two who cared and knew what they were about. We love the game. Great players pop up. We lose them.

byebyebadman said...


That generation of Ghanian players also managed to finisher runners-up and fourth in a couple of U-20 World Cups in the nineties, so it can't all be down to size.

Argentina has been in four semi-finals of the under-17's...not the rampant success to which you're accustomed at under-20 level but still a strong showing.

Marcela raised an interesting point about what happens to these great young players when they mature. Would venture it's very hard to get on in the game if your self-belief takes a battering early on in your career - Fever Pitch has an excellent chapter on Gus Caesar that illustrates this perfectly. Some pull through it but it destroys others.

Nil Lamptey... a shame he had rent-a-quotes like Pele telling all and sundry he'd be the best player the world had ever seen when he was just a sixteen year old lad who wanted to kick a football around.

byebyebadman said...

Pipita - a friend of mine makes copies of football DVD's and has the full Argentina-USSR game from 1979, if you wanted to get your hands on it.

ericverschoor said...

Paulita...nice one.
Well pointed out, it was unfortunate that the Copa America overlapped with the U20WC and ended ended as it did, prompting mostly comparison with senior team instead of focusing on the achievement. The U20 played some marvelous football. Speaktruth would have loved it. Ball mostly unruffling the lawn. Their behaviour was exemplary too (off pitch naughtiness which was on the media yesterday is not of my concern...Im sure pipita will post the corresponding youtube link).

pipita is spot on regarding the experience issue. Argentine youths have been thrown into the deep end lately, and this shows against players you are admittedly still in their formation period.

Regarding African teams. Their prominence took place mostly in U17WC and has waned in the past decade. I recall there being a huge bruhaha regarding the actual age of players. It was blamed on the poor organisation African countries had regarding IDs. Citizens got registered when they could walk themselves to the appropriate office. Proper age confirmation in the last 5-10 years has had its impact.

As for Peckerman. Personally I think he should have been given a contract extention as NT manager. He managed only 2 years.

And yes paulita...something can be done...the problem is that Grondona doesnt even drop an idea. He is the master of the status quo. Until he goes dont expect any mayor change in policy. I hope it is not far away that he falls victim of his own motto...Todo pasa (Everything is forgotten).

Market rules...I agree. Yet I wonder when will it happen that young players realise the truth in paulitas last sentence. I feel "value" is extremely underrated down here, only money (and agents) talks.

My 2 cobres.

ericverschoor said...

This is the link mentioned.
Allegedly uploaded by one of the players.
I dont excuse it...but it is not worse than the average school trip.

offsidenearlyintahiti said...

Great thread, everyone, gracias. I'll talk to you next week from Polynesia. In the meantime, take care.

ps: los chicos have a long way to go if they want to learn how to thrash a hotel room properly. They could learn from the elders and masters of the genre, Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon...

guitougoal said...

The best is yet to come:
I don't think it is realistic to expect Insua to be a challenge (except injury) for Riise this Season.
However he and all other young players have a bright future ahead if they can complete their formation in Argentina, hopefully for the next 3 or 4 years.
Speaking about Youth, today french l'Equipe reports about a "showbol" in August -between Argentina and Uruguay-featuring Diego Maradona, Redondo, Almeydia for the albiceleste and Enzo Francescoli for Uruguay-This should be the day the future look at the past in the eyes.

paulita said...


not all down to size of course but I believe it plays a much more important role in the U17 than in the U20.

but I didn't mean to underestimate ghana, really.

also don't mean to understimate argentina U17, but maybe I do.
they are playing 'juegos panamericanos' in rio right now. 0 - 0 with haiti and lost 0 - 1 to jamaica.

hola eric, offside, guitou

q boludos haberlo filmado y puesto en youtube

I think maradona himself could teach him how to trash a hotel room properly.

byebyebadman said...

Paulita - I'm sure it does play a part, but physical development also fluctuates between 17 and 20.

In any case, one of the great things about football is that size doesn't really matter except for the goalkeeper and you can have players like Alain Giresse, Archie Gemmill or Leo Messi.

paulita said...


'one of the great things about football is that size doesn't really matter except for the goalkeeper'

I agree. maybe what I mean is not only size but strength... I think flair alone can't do it, but if it comes with stregth, then size doesn't really matter. some of the argentina U17 I've watched just look 'light' (and understandably so).

pipita said...

Thanks for that info. Not really interested in getting hold of that particular match, but would be interesting to see a catalogue of all the stuff he has.
Totally agree with you there, but think keef richards was the undisputable hotel-room destroyer of all times

Ferraro takes over from Tocalli and introduces Lionel Messi to the under 20's. He is the star of the tournament and also Zabaleta, Cardozo and, in his few appearances Kun Agüero shine as well. Highlights, quite a few, Germany 1-0, Spain 3-1 in the quarters, a lovely last minute 2-1 win against Brazil in the semi's and another 2-1 in the final against Nigeria with two Messi goals. Only cup raised in Europe
Tocalli returns as coach. After being Peckerman's second in command for many years took over in 2002 and won a South American Cup with a memorable team that included Tevez, Mascherano and Cavenaghi but was eliminated in semi's in the 2003 World Cup. Later became assistant coach to Peckerman when he took over the first team before returning with the juniors.
Highlights 3-0 thrashing of Chile in semis, Kun's two fantastic goals against Poland in quarters and second half in 2-1 win over Checs in final. Apart from Kun, goalkeeper Romero, Paulita's fave Banegas, Moralez and Demaría all shined

byebyebadman said...

pipita - his collection is truly phenomenal. I have it on an Excel sheet and can e-mail it if you wish.

Do you think any of the 2007 squad will be starring in South Africa in 2010? Who should we look out for?

ericverschoor said...


I have high hopes for: place of Veron, versatile . Can help Mascherano (he played lone centermidfield for Boca Libertadores winning team, at the age of only 18) and has the skill and offensive mind to provide for the strikers. this guy. Actually have a feeling he could outshine Messi.Check out his finnishing here
and tell me who he remids you of (Brazilian)

Fazio...well built centerback who showed he is reliable.

Insua and Mercado. Both fullbacks...have a great chance for Argentina lack replacement for Zanetti (getting old) and Heinze (not NT quality).

The goalkeeper proved to be very very goo. Has some competition though. Ustari and Carrizo are quite young and maybe a small step ahead regarding experience. It seems Argentina could finally leave behind a decade or so where top GK werent around.

Mauro Zarate...didnt play much for injured himself in the last group match. Played the final and scored the winner in the dying moments with a nice idividual move. A tad individualistic but fantastic skills and velocity. Velez Sarfield just transferred him to a Quatari team in 20 million dollars or Euros (cant remember. I dont think he will have many chances unless he moved to Europe in a couple of years.

Thhat is MY pick of the bunch.

ericverschoor said...

Sorry for the typo galore....

pipita said...

Thanks byebye, I would really appreciate that. As for the future of these lads in the national team, I think Banegas, Kun and the goalie all look set to have their chances in the near future. Full back Mercado looks very solid in defense. Zarate is a very interesting prospect as well, he has been very impressive at Velez these last couple of seasons scoring some spectacular goals but has unfortunately been sold to the United Emirates and will surely loose chances to stand out playing in that remote league. His team mate Escudero, very much involved in the recent hotel-room vandalic acts, also looks very interesting as an offensive midfield player and even more so, in that same postion, Rosario Cemtral's Demaría

file said...


really well-written piece, loved the first paragraph especially

in all, a very positive response to the punctuation that is Brazil, deserves rewards...thanks for sharing Paulita, as an England fan I completely understand the 'process' of dealing with losses tho can only dream of your rightful hold on hope

paulita said...

thanks file.

as the expert on words and rabbits you are, I'm glad you find this 'well written'.
but as the english fan you are, I'm not allowed to feel sorry for you. maybe feel sorry that I don't feel sorry but that's all.

(at least there's no hold without hope?)


file said...


Oh I understand that too, sympathy for England would be something like sympathy for the nation state of Isreal (and could I really look Simeone in the eye? Or Maradona? even now)

but a vibrant and exciting youth setup would be nice, as you know! :-)

paulita said...

oh empathetic file

NO-ONE looks maradona in the eye


file said...

hmm, pathetic file perhaps! Pathetic Engerland anyway

if you did, and just supposing, try to look Marodona in the eye, how would you know if he was focusing or not?

paulita said...

no no, I'm sticking with empathetic file :)

'how would you know if he was focusing or not?'

it's that kind of thing that you just know. if you have doubts, it can only mean he wasn't.

file said...

generous Paulita :))

but then your leagues aren't getting usurped by the world's greediest, tho you might argue that your players have to move abroad to get their just rewards

and even tho it is really not in my best interests! en force Argentina, always a wonderful footballing side and love learning about it from you, Marcela, Pipita and Eric et al

I don't know enough yet about footie Argentine to join in such an excellent thread, very interested to hear of Menotti's switch from the first team to the youth, no wonder you keep producing quality, imagine Erikson (!) or Keegan or Robson taking a step down, HAH! impossible for them to sacrifice their own wages for the common good, no need to ask why England don't win anything

not sure that size isn't important, it's not the only thing but managers such as Wenger often try to build the biggest teams they can (while obviously going for skill and speed first)

paulita said...

ok file, I guess we could hug.

maybe shake hands if you smell of rabbits... :)

'but then your leagues aren't getting usurped by the world's greediest, tho you might argue that your players have to move abroad to get their just rewards'

the glass is always half empty half full, no? because the more usurped your leagues, the more footballers they atract from 'minor' leagues, like the argentine for example. I haven't read the entire blog on the 'sell out' but, despite understanding concerns about it, which I honestly do, in the end you get to see many of the best players in the world wearing 'your colours'. and the supporter will always remain supporter whoever the owner might be.
on this side of the world, sometimes it's (very) hard to see your heroes leave, but then you see tevez 'saving' west ham from relegation and it makes you happy, possibly in the most idiotic kind of way, but happy is happy :)
and new talents keep growing... and leaving... if only it wasn't so fast it wouldn't be that bad...

file said...

Paulita, I don't smell of rabbits! But I'm not sure how we're gonna hug either...

the glass is half full half empty, yes but is it being filled or being drained?

it's great you can feel pride in watching Teves (and Mascherano) do their thing for their clubs and sad that those clubs aren't nearer you. I love the internationalism of football these days but I mourn the passing of days where clubs were local institutions which represented their areas.

as things are now they are just the playthings of the rich and status-challenged, as always the 'common man' gets robbed blind of the things he made and loved.

by 'common man' I mean all the generations of dads (or mums) who took their kids to their local teams games who now can't afford it, the Boca Juniors fans who watch a promising kid for a year or two before he's lost to Spain or England and the English players who will never get a chance as they have to compete now with the best from all over the world

the folk who built their clubs from the ground over the last 130 years, called them Manchester or Liverpool and now spin in their graves as they watch corrupt and nefarious Thais and Americans getter richer

not to mention the small clubs who have now missed the boat and will NEVER win the FA Cup, League Cup or ever get into the premiership again

sorry to rant at you, it's just in the front of my mind at the moment and it's probably not your fault! :-)

...but Teves and friends will never be seen in my teams colours unless they suddenly become raving socialists or get bitten by a dog suffering from charity

if there is consolation for Paulita, then perhaps it is that the proving ground of European football may bring a sharper edge to your national team, I wonder if that is compensation enough for not being able to enjoy your best players week in week out representing the clubs they grew up supporting? I hope so

paulita said...


no apology needed, I can be empathetic too :)

and all the points you raise are fair ones, I wouldn't question any of them.

I think macro-football and the world of football inside every single league is staggered in a certain order and the gaps in between seem to grow bigger by the day. because there is some special form of attachment in football, we all seem to think that that's a sphere of life that shouldn't be touched by the forces of globalization... and also perhaps the feeling that they can't be stopped anyway?

but it seems to me that internationalism in football works in different directions. it grows some (tepid?) support in very distant parts of the world but some sort of locality remains. in fact, it becomes more local. I never supported west ham, I was supporting my club, boca, when I watched tevez.
in all honesty, I'm supporting my club when I watch argetina too. argetina's national team is no consolation, and I know I don't only speak for myself.

and now I'm ranting too. because file's drained my glass :)

ps: which are your colours? worst than west ham? really? I'm so sorry :)

file said...

Paulita, I met an old Boca fan in Lao last week and he was saying nearly the same; that he follows 'his boys' no matter where they go or who they play for

you're right about feeling that our sport should be kept in a glass ball protected from the negative effects of globalization and capitalization and of course it can't, tho I can't help wishing that the changes could be chosen (by me!!) rather than evolved randomly and destructively, which of course they can't either!

never meant to drain your glass, let's refill it again with Cava; "Tocalli: "The objective is always the same: collaborate in the growth of footballers"... of all of us

my colours are faded black and white :-)

paulita said...


I would leave the control panel of the world in your hands too :)

old boca fans are the best!

black and white faded stripes?

file said...

just seen this quote from the Sheffield Utd manager Neil Warnock's new memoirs of the last day of last season, after first blaming Sir Alex of not fielding a full side:

"And then Carlos Tevez, football's equivalent of a murderer out on bail, had scored the goal that kept West Ham up and put us down. So much for the integrity of the Premier League. So much for fairness and justice in English football."


paulita said...


'new memoirs' is very telling. maybe if he had long memory he would remember all the previous games in which they could've avoided relegation.

this can't possibly be a murderer

file said...


YouTube is banned here but I'm sure you're right, it was just one man's egocentricity getting the better of him, think a few of the characters involved in Teves' story will end up regretting their positions and strategies

pretty sure you'd regret giving me the control panel if it ever came to pass but thanks for the offer

: )

paulita said...

and I still don't know file's club... well... not really 'file's' but let's not spill any more beverages.

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