Argentina's search for elusive final key continues

Reuters , Sunday 5 Jul 2015

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, reacts after Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain missed his penalty kick against Chile during the Copa America final soccer match at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, July 4, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa says you learn more from defeat than victory.

So Chile will be eternally grateful to the Argentine for having sowed the seeds of their first Copa America triumph, carried through by his disciple and compatriot Jorge Sampaoli.

Bielsa changed perennial losers Chile's mentality and built a team that reached the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010 -- their first appearance in 12 years.

They reached the last 16 in both competitions, but more than half of Sampaoli's team that won the Copa America beating Argentina on penalties after their goalless stalemate had played in Bielsa's team in South Africa five years ago.

Argentina, meanwhile, cannot quite seem to learn from a string of lost finals, including the 2004 Copa America under Bielsa, despite boasting the world's best player in Lionel Messi.

Messi's failure with Argentina raises again the debate of how best to have him play for his country when he carries all before him with Barcelona.

It would appear to justify unfavourable comparisons with Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to their second World Cup title in 1986.


Messi is a brilliant player who has enjoyed so much success with Barcelona also because he has been accompanied by some great players - first Ronaldinho, then several Spanish World Cup winners notably Xavi and Andres Iniesta, now Brazilian Neymar and Uruguan Luis Suarez.

Would Messi have done as well, breaking scoring records galore and winning tons of silverware at another club?

Would he have been able to do what Maradona did at Napoli and lift the southern Italian club out of mid-table mediocrity and make the sum of its parts better than the individuals, inspiring them to two Serie A titles?

Former Argentina coach Sergio Batista fell on his sword when he said he wanted Argentina to play like Barcelona before their ignominious quarter-final loss on penalties to Uruguay in the 2011 Copa America that cost him the job.

But he must have had a point, that Messi needed the right context to bring out the best in him for Argentina and his successors on the bench have continued with the quest without quite finding the key.

Coach Gerardo Martino sees his own team, brilliant in a 6-1 demolition of Paraguay in the semi-finals, as a work in progress towards the ultimate goal, the World Cup in 2018.

"The defeat doesn't mean anything with respect to the future," Martino said. "I'll carry on with these 23 footballers plus some who weren't here.

"I imagine tomorrow exactly the same as today in terms of the search ... Today we carry on, as these same lads did after the World Cup final in Brazil. I'm with this team to the death."

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