Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Football in sun and shadow 7

- Department of great Argentine Players you've never heard of Number 1: Dario Conca
Somewhat predictably, Conca is a playmaker and classically Argentinean in his range of skills; short and pacy, he is a sublimely gifted dribbler on the ball, can pick virtually any type of pass due to his excellent technique, and has the vision to see things on the pitch before they've even happened. At the moment he is spearheading Fluminense's charge for the Brazilian title - he was named the best player in Brazil by much of that country's football media last season, no mean feat for an Argentine - and if anything, he has improved this year. He'll probably never play for his country, such is the range of talent in the queue ahead of his for his position, but he has impressed during spells at Chile's Universidad Catolica and Vasco Da Gama before Fluminense signed him in 2009 after a Season-long loan. He had initially emerged at River Plate, not the first brilliant little enganche that club has produced. He's also not alone as a foreign playmaker in the Brazilian League; it seems to be a position that Brazil has trouble filling these days. Promising Brazilians in the position are generally whisked off to Europe - Ederson and Diego are good examples - or are utilized in slightly different roles, like Hernanes or even Kaka. That leaves Big Brazilian clubs employing the likes of the Chilean Valdivia (Palmeiras), Serbian Petkovic (Flamengo) and Argentines D'allessandro (Internacionale) and Montillo (Cruzeiro) in the position linking midfield and the strikers. Conca is one of the best in the business:

- Speaking of attacking midfielders who emerged at River Plate, Fernando Belluschi has finally started living up to some of that potential at FC Porto this season, playing a crucial part in their dazzling attack, alongside Hulk, Moutinho, Varela and Falcao.
He's also done things like this piece of magic:

- One of the big mysteries of South American Football is Colombia's consistent underachievement. Aside from the great team of the mid-90s (Valderama, Rincon, Asprilla etc) which played some dazzling football on the way to a couple of World Cups before choking for various reasons (including death threats in one case), the Colombian National Team has never performed as well as you feel it should have done. Colombia is, after all, a football-mad Nation with the second biggest population in South America, some massive clubs and a steady stream of young talent emerging, if the Country's appearances at Youth tournaments are anything to go on. It should be the third Football Nation in South America. Yet in recent years, that position has been held by Colombia's neighbours and arch-rivals Ecuador, lowly Paraguay or the more traditionally powerful Uruguay, a country with a population one tenth the size of Colombia. At the moment Chile are also ranked above Colombia, leaving them above only Peru, Bolivia and Venezuala in the Continental stakes.
Aside from the obvious socio-political factors (Colombia remains a troubled Country in many different areas) it seems Colombia doesn't produce footballers with the same artistry and creative talent of a generation or so ago. Indeed, the only Colombians currently playing at the highest level in European Leagues are Luis Perea of Athletico Madrid, Mario Yepes of AC Milan, Juan Zuniga of Napoli and Ivan Cordoba of Inter Milan, all defenders, alongside Faryd Mondrag├│n of FC Koln, a goalkeeper. There are also a couple of strikers: the exceptional Radamel Falcao of FC Porto and Hugo Rodalega of Wigan, and Freddy Guarin, Porto's defensive midfielder. Colombian players do generally tend to stay in South America, and many play in the big Leagues across the continent, in Argentina, Brazil and also in Mexico.
One young Colombian has been making waves in Argentina this Season, and he displays the kind of technique and imagination that recalls Valderama and Asprilla. 24 year old Giovanni Moreno, who plays either as an attacking midfielder or support striker, has put in a few breathtaking performances in a struggling side at Racing Club, and he has the potential to be a massive star.
This is him embarrassing some hapless Boca Juniors defenders a few weeks ago:

And scoring a lovely chip for Nacional in Colombia:

- Javier Pastore: I've written about him before, but the hype around his immense talent keeps growing, and he more than lives up to it. The idea that Argentina will be able to construct an attack around the talents of Pastore, Messi, Banega and DiMaria over the next decade is frankly mind-boggling. Recently, Pastore has performed wonders for Palermo. Firstly, this splendid hat-trick against Sicilian rivals Catania :

And this stunner against Bologna:

- El Superclasico: Having just sat through a pretty disappointing River Plate vs Boca Juniors match, time to revisit a Classic from that fixture. In 1981, Argentina were still World Champions, and young genius Diego Armando Maradona was still playing for his beloved Boca. Facing him for River was Mario Kempes, el Matador, hero of the 1978 World Cup. Except Maradona was at his unplayable best that night as Boca ran out 3-0 Winners:

Heres a map of the movement of the players from that game, fascinating if you're a tactics geek and from this Portuguese site.

And, from the same year, a victory for Kempes and River in what looks like a cracking game:

  • Goal.com
  • 101 Great Goals
  • Football 365
  • Guardian Football
  • Hasta el Gol Siempre
  • BBC Football
  • Football Shirts