The 1986 World Cup champions were automatically qualified for Italia’90, and could prepare for the tournament in Italy with a team largely unchanged since the triumph in Mexico: Most importantly, still graced by the world’s best footballer in Maradona, and coached by the tactical nous of Carlos Bilardo
Since the triumph in 1986, Argentina had however also experienced heartbreak as they finished the Copa América in 1987 on home soil in a highly disappointing fashion, crashing out 1-0 to Uruguay in the semi-finals. (Bilardo’s team eventually finished 4th in that competition.) The friendly against Spain in October would be their final match before the build-up to the 1989 edition of the Copa America.
Argentina World Cup appearances: 1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986.
Manager: Carlos Bilardo
Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville
Argentina concede an early goal, but equalise through Caniggia after a free kick. The two wide forwards Caniggia and Calderón create all sorts of problem for Spain before the break, while the 2nd half is more pedestrian. Positive showing against a Spanish team trying to to find their shape.
Line-up (4-3-1-2): Pumpido – Cuciuffo, Brown, Ruggeri, Fabbri (Olarticoechea 55′) – Troglio, Batista, Giusti – Maradona (Tapia 75′) – Caniggia (Dezotti 76′), Calderón.
Estadio Nemesio Camacho, Bogotá
Cuvi (56′ pen.)
Alfaro Moreno (7′, 35′)
Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo, Quito
Espinoza (69′ pen.)
Estadio Nacional, Santiago
Estádio Serra Dourada, Goiânia
Argentina back to winning ways, in what was a dominant display in their opening match of the 1989 Copa. The 4-1-3-2 formation with Maradona as a central forward and Caniggia in a wide position, proved very efficient for overloading the midfield, without always finding a way through the Chile defence. The goal came in the 2nd half after Caniggia was asked to play more in the middle. Maradona not at his best – was he tired, suffering in this formation, or saving it for later?
Line-up (4-1-3-2): Islas – Clausen (Basualdo 72′), Brown, Ruggeri, Sensini – Batista – Troglio, Burruchaga, Calderón – Caniggia (Alfaro Moreno 68′), Maradona (c). Unused subs: Falcioni, Cuciuffo, Gorosito.
Estádio Serra Dourada, Goiânia
Line-up (5-3-2): Islas – Clausen, Ruggeri, Brown, Cuciuffo, Sensini – Burruchaga (Troglio 62), Batista, Maradona (c) – Caniggia (Alfaro 72), Calderón. Unused subs: Falcioni, Basualdo, Gorosito
In a highly competitive opening 45 minutes, the Argentinians were probably somewhat unfortunate not to be ahead, as both Maradona (Izquierdo) and Caniggia (Quiñónez), the latter played through by a more inspired captain this time around, had efforts saved on the line. The Albiceleste had Ruggeri (Tenório) and Cuciuffo (Avilés) look after each their striker, thus changing their formation from a back four to a back five since the opening game, leaving out Troglio in midfield for defensive cover in the alert Cuciuffo. Batista had some tussles with Rosero, while Burruchaga wasn’t all that visible, with Maradona dropping deep and staying up front in equal measures. The Napoli superstar had linked up well with Caniggia on a couple of occasions. Both full-backs, Clausen along the right and Sensini opposite, played some part coming forward, but with the two forwards taking up each their wide position, the full-backs rarely made it further than halfway into the opposition’s half. Sensini found Aguinaga a tough adversary to handle defensively, and Islas on one occasion had needed to bat away a long distance drive from the Ecuadorian starlet. The final 45 remained intense, and Argentina survived a scare when the opponents’ right-back Izquierdo fired a penalty well over, while a Clausen effort from 20 yards rebounded off the crossbar for Caniggia to head into the back of the net, only to be adjudged offside. The game had several bookings for both teams, and in a tight affair through to the full-time whistle, Maradona came close to winning it for his team with a late 25 yard free-kick on to the angle of the post and the bar. Troglio had replaced an ineffective Burruchaga, while Caniggia was later replaced by Alfaro. The latter earned himself a red card after a display of aggression against Rosero. This was four minutes into injury time already. Draw was probably just about the right result.
Estádio Serra Dourada, Goiânia
Line-up (4-2-2-1-1): Pumpido – Clausen, Brown, Ruggeri, Sensini – Basualdo, Batista – Burruchaga (Cuciuffo 81), Troglio – Maradona (c) – Calderón (Caniggia 53). Unused subs: Islas, Díaz, Gorosito
Bilardo left behind the five man defence which he’d made use of against the Ecuadorians, and made two changes in his starting eleven. Cuciuffo and Caniggia made way for Basualdo and Troglio. This was indeed Basualdo’s first start of the championship, and he filled in alongside Batista as a defensive midfielder. They knew just how strong the Uruguayan attack was, and the idea, too, must have been to prevent their most expressive players, Paz and Francescoli, from excelling. Maradona appeared where it would suit him, while Calderón started towards the right, although he would invariably operate along either flank and also through the centre. Troglio was allowed greater attacking freedom than Burruchaga. Having needed an early save by Pumpido from Sosa, Argentina saw Ruggeri sent off for two yellow card offences just after the quarter of an hour mark. Considering what was at stake, and that defeat would most likely signal the end to their campaign, this was a massive blow. Their physical approach saw them rewarded with four yellows and a red during an intense, goalless first half. They did manage to take the sting out of the opposition’s approach. Argentina as an attacking force were before the interval restricted to two Maradona efforts off target from free-kicks. Eight minutes into the second half, Caniggia replaced Calderón, and Argentina were increasingly looking the team more likely to break the deadlock, despite playing ten v eleven. The quick striker came close within minutes after entering, and then the excellent Troglio fired over from inside the area. La Albiceleste had got the game precisely where they had wanted, totally frustrating the opposition. Caniggia ultimately benefitted from a Maradona through pass, and he finished low with his left foot, via Zeoli, halfway through the final 45. Only after a double substitution did the Uruguayans come to life, though a Pumpido save from Perdomo was the closest they’d ever get to an equalizer, and down the other end, Troglio could have capped his possible MOM performance with a goal after another Maradona pass. The 1-0 win was enough to see Argentina through and into the final group stage. Tactical masterstroke from Bilardo, who sured up his defence by replacing Burruchaga with Cuciuffo with less than ten minutes to go.
Estádio Serra Dourada, Goiânia
Line-up (3-4-1-2): Pumpido – Sensini (Basualdo 65), Brown, Cuciuffo – Monzón, Enrique, Gorosito, Díaz – Maradona (c) – Caniggia (Troglio 54), Alfaro. Unused subs: Islas, Clausen, Calderón
Since the other final-day tie in this group had finished in time for the 9.30pm kick-off here, Argentina were already group winners, while Bolivia would finish bottom. Bilardo made both a formation change as well as several changes in personnel, seeing the group stage out in a 3-4-1-2 formation in which Pedro Monzón and Hernán Díaz had come in at right and left in midfield respectively, with José Cuciuffo back in the heart of the defence alongside Sensini and libero Brown. World Cup winner Héctor Enrique had come into the side in central midfield alongside Néstor Gorosito, also making his competition bow. Carlos Alfaro Moreno started as the left-sided forward (his first starting XI inclusion following a couple of cameos). As expected, Argentina saw most of the ball in an opening 45 minutes where Alfaro (side-footed wide from Caniggia’s low cross on 20 minutes) and Monzón (headed into the arms of Galarza following Gorosito’s deep cross from the left 35 minutes in) came closest to opening the scoring. The Argentinians had to surivive a late scare when Takeo shot wide from a position inside the area. The opponents started the second half strongly, and looked improved having pulled Etcheverry back into midfield, leaving Peña alone up top, where Cuciuffo now was the solitary Argentinian defender performing man-marking duties. This left Sensini somewhat surplus to requirements after his earlier marking of Etcheverry. The first Argentinian to come off, though, was Caniggia, who, apart from that first half burst to set Alfaro Moreno up for the chance on 20 minutes, had been more or less invisible, and Troglio came on for him, temporarily pushing Gorosito up front from his previous midfield position. Ten minutes later Basualdo came on as a defensive midfielder for Sensini, a substitution which, in all honesty, could’ve been done earlier. Maradona would then take over for Gorosito up top, and he’d arrive at a fine chance on 72 minutes, drawing a save from Galarza following his right-footed attempt from inside the area. The final ten minutes were little more than keep-ball exercise from the Argentinians, who rarely looked best inspired. Brazil next!
Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Line-up (4-4-1-1): Pumpido – Clausen, Brown, Ruggeri, Sensini – Troglio, Batista, Burruchaga (Giusti 59), Basualdo – Maradona (c) – Calderón (Caniggia 56). Unused subs: Islas, Cuciuffo, Balbo
Having scored just two goals to make it out from the first group stage, Argentina had hardly set the world alight so far. Bilardo had made use of various formations so far, in fact deploying an extra man in defence in a couple of matches where they would have been expected to be dominant (against Ecuador and Bolivia), though like against another strong opponent in Uruguay, they were back with four defenders for this clash against their arch-rivals. The four men in midfield were sitting quite compact, with Batista sweeping behind the other three, among which Burruchaga this time was allowed somewhat more attacking freedom. Troglio, arguably among their better players so far in the tournament, drew a yellow card from opposing captain Gomes after a big foul, while the Argentinians were doing their best to keep their shape intact defensively. They had seen the opposition test Pumpido on a couple of occasions through Dunga and Bebeto, though the experienced ‘keeper had not been breached. The Argentinians themselves had been unable to impose on Brazil as an attacking force, but they just needed a lucky bounce from a set-piece to upset the odds. Could it happen after the interval? The simple answer to that was ‘no’. 54 minutes: 2-0 Brazil. Argentina didn’t have the ingenuity defensively to stop Bebeto and Romário, and once behind, they also didn’t have the necessary tools available to stage anything even remotely resembling a comeback. Burruchaga and Calderón were taken off for Giusti and Caniggia, but to no avail. Troglio moved into Burruchaga’s somewhat more advanced role, but Brazil remained dominant and were good value for their win. Argentina were now next up against a Uruguay team bent on avenging the defeat from the first group stage.
Sosa (38′, 81′)
Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Line-up (4-4-1-1): Pumpido – Clausen, Ruggeri, Cuciuffo (Gorosito 55), Sensini – Basualdo, Batista, Burruchaga (Balbo h-t), Troglio – Maradona (c) – Caniggia. Unused subs: Islas, Monzón, Giusti
Argentina came into this their second meeting with rivals Uruguay in six days without their usual libero Brown. He’d most likely been axed thanks to a less impressive performance against the Brazilians, where his error had led directly to the hosts’ second goal. Ruggeri took over as the spare man at the back, while Cuciuffo started as a man-marker on Francescoli. However, as the latter often retracted quite deep, Cuciuffo would even take shifts marking Alzamendi, who was prone to working in quite central spaces from his original wide right position. Bilardo kept with the midfield diamond, in which Batista sat at the back, with Basualdo switching from the left against Brazil to right here, and with Troglio this time more across towards the left, while Burruchaga lent the two more forward players support from his attacking midfield position. He still couldn’t quite get it right in this tournament, the matchwinner from the 1986 World Cup final. Maradona once again sat just behind Caniggia, who was back in the starting eleven at Calderón’s expense. While Uruguay started the stronger, and drew saves from Pumpido, as well as striking the upright and firing just wide, the Argentinians slowly grew into the contest, and by the half hour mark, they were looking the more adept side. Maradona fired a free-kick just wide of the post. It was the Italy based superstar, rumoured to be on his way to Marseille for £16mill, who next stole the show, as he picked up a pass in the centre-circle and tried his luck on the bounce as he’d spotted Zeoli off his line. His 55 yard effort came back off the crossbar! It would’ve been an outrageous goal had it gone in. Only minutes later, he watched on in agony as Sensini’s back pass only found Sosa, who rounded Pumpido and slotted home for the opening goal. That’s how it remained until half-time. Bilardo made an attacking change at half time, when he took off the continually disappointing Burruchaga and brought on forward Abel Balbo, who had only joined the squad once they had qualified for the final series. With Balbo and Caniggia each their side of the more retracted Maradona, and with Troglio also pushing forward from midfield, as well as Clausen offering his support down the right, the Argentinians were pushing long and hard for an equalizer. Troglio drew an early save from Zeoli, and just after the hour mark, Argentina would lose their cool when they had a headed goal from Balbo disallowed due to offside in the situation prior to the ball reaching him. They protested furiously, and continued to perform heatedly for a few minutes. Next, they had Ruggeri sent off for the second time in less than a week against the same opposition; he had kicked Sosa to the ground. They had earlier brought Gorosito on in midfield for Cuciuffo, and now with Ruggeri off, they were short in numbers at the back. Not that they seemed to make defending a priority anyway. They had improved with ten men against Uruguay last time around, and kept searching for an equalizer. Batista and Sensini, at times aided by Clausen, remained at the back, and they created further opportunities, with Balbo a big threat. Just beyond the 70 minute mark, they should’ve had a penalty when Gutiérrez unceremoniously hacked Caniggia down inside the area, but the referee, incredibly, let it pass. By then, the Argentinians must have given up on him; they weren’t even protesting very hard. They had shown their indiscipline earlier, but battled bravely. They could do little, though, when Sosa decided to accelerate past Sensini and dink the ball over Pumpido for 2-0. That’s how it stayed. Argentina, despite all their efforts, were beaten again.
Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Line-up (4-2-2-2): Pumpido – Clausen (Gorosito 68), Sensini, Monzón, Díaz – Giusti, Basualdo – Burruchaga (c), Troglio – Calderón (Alfaro Moreno h-t), Balbo
This was the game which would decide third/fourth positions. Argentina, with just two goals to show for from their six matches so far in the tournament, again made a few changes, and the most eye-catching absence was obviously that of Maradona, who probably had not felt in the right mind to feature. He had, by his own outrageous standards, had a poor Copa, and his captaincy had been passed on to Burruchaga, who himself had also looked relatively bleak throughout the campaign. The formation was effectively a 4-2-2-2, where Sensini took over as libero, with Ruggeri, who had performed there in their previous match, himself taking over for Brown, being suspended following his red card, and Monzón made his second appearance of the competition, previously as right-back, now as the stopper ahead of Sensini. Díaz came in at left-back, while Giusti and Basualdo made up the defensive midfield pairing. Troglio, most likely their best player during the tournament, was alongside Burruchaga as the advanced midfield man, with Calderón (right) and Balbo the pair of fairly wide forwards. The latter had looked impressive when he’d come on for the second half against Uruguay last time out. On this occasion, though, he, like just about everyone else, failed to excel. It was a lethargic first half performance by an Argentina which just didn’t seem to bother a whole lot. Balbo had failed to connect with a lofty ball which just reached him behind the outstretched arm of Fernández, while Díaz had had a late effort from the edge of the area straight at the Paraguayan ‘keeper. Down the other end, the Argentinian rear line had been somewhat more worked, and Monzón had been fortunate not to have been given a penalty against when he handled in an aerial challenge with Palacios. Rather than award a pen, the referee brought the ball outside for an ultimately wasted free-kick. The 0-0 half-time scoreline was almost inevitable. Calderón was replaced by Alfaro Moreno for the start of the second half, and Argentina looked a more keen unit for 15 minutes. They created some chances, most notably when the substitute failed to connect with Troglio’s ball across the six yard area. Had he done, he’d have scored. Argentina were the better side for the majority of the half, and they had Gorosito making a decent cameo in central midfield after replacing Clausen. This meant that Basualdo saw the game out in a right-sided defensive position. Palacios headed wide for Paraguay, while Balbo couldn’t get his header on target four minutes from the end. Forgettable. Argentina finished third.
International friendly 21.12.1989: Italy 0-0 Argentina
Stadio Sant’Elia, Cagliari
International friendly 17.01.1990: Mexico 2-0 Argentina
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
International friendly 28.03.1990: Scotland 1-0 Argentina
International friendly 03.05.1990: Austria 1-1 Argentina
International friendly 08.05.1990: Switzerland 1-1 Argentina
Wankdorf Stadion, Bern
International friendly 21.05.1990: Israel 1-2 Argentina
Ramat Gan Stadium, Tel Aviv