It is Argentina’s very own mission impossible. Alejandro Sabella’s domestic soldiers set out their stall and defended valiantly in the first leg of the Superclasico de las Americas, almost holding out for a draw against a richly-talented Brazil team until a bone-headed handball from Leandro Desabato condemned the away side to a 2-1 defeat in Goiania. For Wednesday’s decider, however, fans of the Albiceleste should not hold out hopes for a team that will attack to the final breath in order to reverse 2011’s defeat in the same fixture.
Pragmatic and cautious almost to a fault, all indications suggest that the coach will keep faith with both the 11 players and the five-man defence that was roundly criticised by the local media as a damage-limitation exercise last month. Desabato for one will almost certainly keep his place, alongside such tried and tested, if limited, Primera battlers like Sebastian Dominguez, Rodrigo Braña and Clemente Rodriguez; while young talents like Juan Sanchez Miño and Ricardo Centurion will watch on from the bench.
The question going into this clash is not so much if Sabella is right to take a conservative view, rather if he has any choice in the matter. Lining up against the Selección are players of the calibre of Neymar, Leandro Damiao, Dede, Lucas Moura and Ralf, young prospects already either in or on the fringes of the full national team. These starlets are bolstered by returning veterans from Europe, led by Sao Paulo playmaker Jadson and Thiago Neves of Fluminense. In comparison, Argentina’s line-up contains just a handful of men who can even be considered as hopefuls alongside the likes of Messi and Sergio Aguero; the advantage held by the visitors is confirmed by the likes of Youwin Sports Betting, who put Mano Menezes’ men, despite playing away from home, almost level with their rivals when it comes to the odds.
This is the quandary for Argentina’s coach. There is no doubt that the young talent, inexperienced and untested as it is, is coming through the ranks. The excellent Gino Peruzzi will be one of the starters in Chaco after proving both with Vélez and the national team that he is a permanent thorn in Neymar’s side, while Lisandro López is also in line to continue in the middle of defence. But while Brazil’s starlets have consistently been fast-tracked into the senior side since Mano took over, Sabella’s selection policy has remained as conservative as his tactics. Neymar, Lucas, Dede, Oscar and Damiao have all become regular features in the starting XI over the last two years; for Argentina, meanwhile, only former Estudiantes pair Federico Fernandez and Marcos Rojo can claim to have received the same boost under the coach that took them to both continental and domestic glory.
On the other hand, the trainer’s reticence can be understood. He freely admits that the players he can call on locally are far inferior to those megastars in Spain, Italy and England. Why destroy the confidence and trajectory of the new budding talents by subjecting them to humiliation against Brazil in what is largely a meaningless fixture – although to the press, no clash against the old enemy goes unnoticed, especially if it ends with defeat – when by packing the side with the same old faces he can get through the fixture with the minimum of fuss.
That argument is valid enough, but it is running out of time. Wednesday may not be the right moment to blood the Incial’s most promising talent against a Brazil team hungry for another Superclásico triumph, but if Sabella ever wants to see his Argentina outfit become a production line of talent in the same way as their neighbours, the moment will come to put his faith in the kids.
Buenos Aires-based Dan Edwards is a freelance journalist specialising in Argentinian football, you can follow him on Twitter here