Spanish translation by Steve Amoia.
Editor's Note: Oscar discusses the theme of high altitude and its effects. Both from a personal and footballing perspective after the recent WCQ between Bolivia and Argentina.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA -- Friday, 03 April 2009
You have to respect the altitude of La Paz, without a doubt, you always had to keep it in mind and must give it much respect. Always, teams, their trainers, their medical staffs, their directors, and obviously, their players had adequately planned for these games in the altitude of Bolivia.
Personal Experience and Formulas for Altitude
I know (personally) of the altitude of Mexico City and Bogota, Columbia, both are higher than 2000 meters from sea level, and I can assure you just to climb a few flights of steps can tire you and make one lose your breath. I imagine that playing soccer, not at 2000 meters but at 3600 meters, would really complicate matters.
The medical doctors associated with football teams have tried out many formulas to address altitude. For example, to arrive about the time for the game, to leave a few days before the game, to take preventative medicine, and I remember for one qualification campaign in Argentina, I believe we had a "ghost team", a team especially selected and trained only for the game in La Paz. This team was trained at altitude for awhile, and it was done by gradually climbing up (heights) to acclimate them.
No Adequate Strategy
Little was done or thought out about a strategy for playing at altitude, where the ball has to do the running instead of the player, where a player doesn't have the luxury to run many meters, where you have to take care of your oxygen use, where it is not easy to make the ball rise many meters off of the ground, because all of these things make you lose oxygen.
They didn't make changes in the team thinking about the altitude, with heavier (more robust) players, with better ball control, with more concentration, perhaps with less pace, but with more caution.
Errors by Experienced Players
Despite the altitude, they also had very bad plays, errors that you shouldn't see at this national team level. Javier Zanetti, a very experienced player, a "European" (Inter Milan) player, can't try to jump from behind inside the penalty area, then give the ball to the keeper, who was obligated to commit a foul that resulted in a penalty kick. Carrizzo, the keeper, can't try to outdribble an opposing striker, as he did, and not to end up as a goal. That produces a twin effect. It provokes danger on one side, and charges up the rival on the other.
These two questions, only examples of many others, are ones that have to be seen by the manager. Everything seemed improvised, unfortunately.
Everything in life serves a purpose, and obviously, also in soccer. I hope that they take into account that only with sacrifice, that only with talent, that only with star players, that only with motivation, in modern day football, these things are not enough.
Nothing is black or white, Argentina was not better than anyone for having beaten Venezuela at home or having won a friendly in France. Nor is it a complete disaster for having lost in a very convincing and embarrassing way in Bolivia. But take note: It was a formidable warning flag for all Argentina directors. This football that seems not to find order, discipline, and organization that for some time it had, and which gave us many great joys.
CRONICA DE UNA VERGUENZA
Por Oscar R. Amoia
Tampoco se hicieron cambios en el equipo pensando en la altura, con jugadores más pensantes, con más quite de pelota, con más contención, quizás con menor explosión, pero con mayor cautela...
A pesar de la altura, igualmente hubo actuaciones malas, errores que no se pueden ver en jugadores del nivel de selección. Zanetti, un jugador experimentado, un jugador "europeo", no puede tratar de salir jugando dentro del área, luego del rebote que dió el arquero, y que en definitiva lo obliga a cometer el penal. Carrizo, el arquero, no puede tratar de gambetear a un delantero rival como lo hizo y que no terminó en gol por casualidad, eso produce un doble efecto, provoca el peligro por un lado y enerva al rival por el otro.
Estas dos cuestiones, solo ejemplos de otras muchas, son en las cuales se debe ver la mano del entrenador. Todo pareció improvisado, lamentablemente.
Todo sirve en la vida y, obviamente, también en el fútbol. Espero que se tenga en cuenta que solo con voluntarismo, que solo con talento, que solo con estrellas, que solo con motivación, en el fútbol de hoy ya no es suficiente.
Nada es blanco o negro, Argentina no es candidato a nada por haberle ganado de local a Venezuela o haberle ganado un amistoso a Francia, ni tampoco es un desastre absoluto por haber perdido en forma muy justa y bochornosa con Bolivia... Pero cuidado, es un toque de atención formidable para todos los responsables del fútbol argentino, ese fúbol que pareciera que no encuentra el orden, la disciplina, la organización que alguna vez tuvo y que nos deparó tantas alegrías...