You don’t need a great manager to win the World Cup. A simply good one can be enough if you have the right mix of players. What you can’t have is a totally incompetent manager.

Unfortunately France and Argentina have terrible managers, which is why they will not win the World Cup. Now, you may have spotted that the current French manager Raymond Domenech was a headbutt and penalty shoot-out away from winning the last World Cup, which seems to disprove my theory.

The thing is that French team was a shambles before Zidane decided to take it by the scruff of the neck all the way to the final. Argentina has Lionel Messi who is the most unique talent since Maradona and is probably the greatest player in the world today.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that his style leads to taking a team over single-handedly in the way that Zidane did. There were times during the season that Barca were struggling and he had to carry them. However, it was still Barca and Guardiola’s system which put Messi in a position to succeed.

On the other hand in the World Cup qualifiers, every time Messi got the ball he seemed to be surrounded by multiple defenders, and the other players weren’t put in a position to punish the opposition.

Back to Maradona – firstly lets acknowledge that he has relented by picking both Higuain and Milito, neither of whom got much of an opportunity during the qualifiers. The problem is that he has also picked Martin Palermo, a slow 36 year old who wasn’t international standard, even during his prime.

As a result the squad had 6 strikers, which in a 23 man squad means you are leaving yourself light somewhere else.

That position is central midfield – arguably the most important position for Argentina, where having players who can both get the ball to Messi, but also switch it to the other wing when Messi is surrounded by 4 players.

Unfortunately neither Ever Banega (Valencia) or Fernando Gago (Real Madrid), both of whom are fantastic passers of the ball and have been effective in La Liga, have been picked. Instead the creative responsibilities have gone to Veron and his understudy Javier Pistore.

You can make the argument that Veron has been a great player. Also, he’s been doing really well since returning to Argentina and leading Estudiantes to the Copa Libertadores. There are two huge problems though:

1) In the cooler South African winter, the game will be played at a faster pace than is usual in the world cup and Veron, who prefers to play at a slower tempo, may struggle to impose his will on the game.

2) In a 4-4-2 which Argentina seem to be playing, he isn’t really quick enough as part of a 2 man midfield with Mascherano.

This seems to be why Jonas (Newcastle) has been picked on the right side of the midfield to provide some running. This isn’t a bad compromise if you then have an attacking right back.

Of course, in his infinite wisdom, Maradona seems hell bent on playing a back 4 with 3 centre backs (4 if you count Heinze) and hasn’t picked Javier Zanetti – you know, the guy that just lifted the Champions League trophy.

There should have been and may still be a lot to enjoy from Argentina in this tournament – Messi, the running and finishing of Higuain and Milito, and the wing play of Angel Di Maria (Benfica). Unfortunately, I don’t think they will come close to winning the World Cup, which is a shame as it would have been awesome to see Messi dominate the tournament.

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