There are two kinds of Argentineans. Those who watched a young Diego Maradona score with his left foot, right foot, head — from a distance — and even with his hand. Then there are those who did not.
As different as their outlooks may be in regards to the country’s national sport, they both have the same desire and the same dream: to watch the two-time World Cup winners and internationally fourth-ranked Argentinean team return to their former glory.
Since their victory over West Germany in 1986, the world-renowned Argentinean squad, with Jorge Burruchaga, Jorge Valdano and the illustrious Maradona, has not been able to return to glory.
Argentianian hopes have been slowly withering since the 1990 World Cup, when on the 85th minute West Germany scored on an undeserved penalty kick.
Maradona’s banishment from the 1994 World Cup for his alleged use of ephedrine left his squad in the Round of 16 in 1994. Then their old rival, the Netherlands, left a star-studded ’98 squad in the quarter finals. Bad leadership under an indecisive Marcelo Bielsa and Jose Pekerman saw Argentina out in the group stage in ’02, in ’06 by penalty kicks against Germany and, most recently, in the unspeakable massacre in South Africa in 2010.
How much hope is left in my Argentinean countrymen? As a fan who has lived through four World Cups, I’m already tired of the false hope and the talk that the Argentine Football Association officials and players throw at us.
Yes, the inherent pride in an Argentinean soccer fan keeps the flame of hope lit, but it can only last so long. The young Argentinean who never saw his country win the cup, like me, can boast on having the strongest offense in the world, “The Trident” of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, but I must admit that expectations have never been met. The last chapter of La Copa America was closed in another embarrassment for
Argentina in 2011.
As a fan, I can finally rest knowing my team is going somewhere. Argentina has been nothing but convincing under their new defensive-minded coach Alejandro Sabella. There have been little hiccups here and there, but the goal scoring power in team captain Messi gives fans a notion of tenacity in the team.
Today, Argentina won’t need an 89th minute goal from now 40-year-old retired Boca Juniors forward Martin Palermo to carry them to the World Cup. There are six months left of qualifying matches, but the fresh-faced Argentina squad gives hope to the entire nation, and I’m sure they will take us to Brazil in 2014.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 18 print edition. Francisco Navas is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]