FOOTBALL: Pekerman restores panache of champions to Argentina

IT MAY have taken a late equaliser by Hernan Crespo to earn Argentina a 2-2 draw, but their performance in Wednesday night's friendly here against Germany underlined their status as one of the favourites to lift the game's ultimate prize in 2006. Less than three years after their disappointing performance in the 2002 World Cup, the global champions of 1978 and 1986 appear to be back in business.

The world rankings published by Fifa, the game's international governing body, show Argentina behind Brazil and, bizarrely, France. On present form, however, a case can be made for the Albicelestes as the world's outstanding team, despite their loss to Brazil in last year's Copa America final. Olympic champions last summer, Argentina head the South American World Cup qualifying competition and took on Jurgen Klinsmann's resurgent German team here with all the confidence and panache which had deserted them.

Coaching Argentina is never straightforward, but Jose Pekerman appears to have what it takes following his appointment to succeed Marcelo Bielsa, who surprisingly resigned shortly after his team's Athens triumph. Having made it the hard way as a coach, working with junior teams at club level after his career as a journeyman midfielder was ended by injury, Pekerman, 55, led Argentina to three Under-21 world championships.

Some of the old guard have been pensioned off, with the 2002 World Cup captain, Juan Sebastian Veron, the most notable victim. Crespo, rediscovering his striking form with Milan after in-and-out seasons with Internazionale and Chelsea, was recalled here for his first international since June and responded with a masterful display, his late lob over Jens Lehmann preserving Pekerman's unbeaten record in his five games in charge.

"It was an excellent match between two teams who wanted to win," Pekerman said. "A match like this is very useful for the future." The coach had particular praise for his playmaker, Juan Roman Riquelme, and for Crespo, who scored Argentina's first equaliser from the penalty spot. "Crespo was effective, but he also knows how to play for the team, working hard, and he did that here."

One of the keys to the recent success is the excellence of the 26-year- old Riquelme, who was given few opportunities by Bielsa. Pekerman has placed his faith in the Villarreal midfielder, whose form alongside his international colleague, Juan Pablo Sorin, has taken the unfashionable Spanish club into the upper reaches of La Liga.

One major nettle Pekerman must grasp is what to do with Carlos Tevez, the outstanding player at the Olympics, who joined Brazilian club Corinthians from Boca Juniors last year for $18m (pounds 9.7m). Saddled with the burden of being labelled "the next Maradona", Tevez has rarely been out of the news as a result of his colourful private life. Tevez, 21, expressed public disappointment when Pekerman dropped him last year and was not in the squad here.

The formidable line-up of Argentinians earning their living in Europe gives hope for the World Cup, but Pekerman said: "We need this generation of new players to understand that the senior team have not won anything for years. We must ratify all that with results, because that is what counts."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test