RIO DE JANEIRO
Flailing, failures and formations seem to be the current hot topics at the World Cup.
During Saturday’s press conference at Maracana Stadium, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella found himself deeply entrenched in all three F’s, and his team hasn’t even taken the field yet.
While the questions were intended to address Sabella’s team in particular, they could also be representing an overall impression many have taken away from the first three days of the Cup.
Sabella remained calm, not taking the criticism as an insult or dismissing it as nonsense. Instead, he almost sounded philosophical at times.
The penalty given in Thursday’s opener, when Fred threw up his arms and went to the ground despite getting only a small tug, is exhibit A for the prosecution of the dive and it’s prerequisite overacting.
In other Brazil 2014 matches, TV has shown players making a meal out of fouls.
There were as many questions asked about Fred’s theatrics as there were about Argentina’s superstar forward Lionel Messi.
“We’re all human beings,” Sabella said through a translator while sitting next to his goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, on the dais. “We all make mistakes. Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes. Referees have to pay attention to many different things. Some are clear, some are not.”
Whether he feels that way if his team is on the other end of a faux foul in today’s match against Bosnia and Herzegovina is another story.
Also the subject of many questions Saturday was the way in which some of the game’s most powerful teams have struggled and in some case fallen flat on their faces.
Host Brazil stumbled at times against Croatia in the opener. Defending champion Spain is probably still trying to pick itself up after being roasted 5-1 by the Netherlands on Friday, and, while Saturday’s press conference was in full swing, Uruguay was being knocked to the canvas by Costa Rica 3-1.
Asked if it will affect how Argentina plays at Maracana today, he also took the high road.
“It just means that the teams are really on the same level,” the 59-year-old said of the upsets. “I think this word ‘favorite’ really means nothing.
“You can never foresee what is going to happen in football.”
The other subject of great concern is what formation his team will use.
Formations have been a source of discussion, at times to the point of overkill, since the game switched from having just one man back in the late 1800s.
This subject is definitely trending big time in the Argentina camp.
Members of the press are aching to know whether
he will put five men in defense — an oddity these days — and if there will be enough men up front to help Messi.
It was like an old comedy shtick with Bob and Ray where one of them is being interviewed about the Komodo dragon and the other keeps repeating the same questions over and over as if he hasn’t been listening to a thing the interviewee has said.
Even when one scribe had the gumption to say Saballas knew what shape his team would put out on the field and was “hiding,” Saballas didn’t take the bait.
“It’s not that I’m trying to hide something,” Saballas said, never really showing any sense of frustration. “I think quantity isn’t important. It depends on how the players are feeling. … We will wait until the last minute.”
That’s his prerogative because he’s searching for a W, not a bunch of F’s.