Sun. 2 July 1989
Estádio Serra Dourada, Goiânia
Ref.: Arnaldo David Cézar Coelho (BRA)
L1: José Francisco Ramírez Calle (PER)
L2: Jesús Díaz Palacio (COL)
Estádio Serra Dourada in Goiânia was welcoming its second fixture of the day, having earlier hosted the opening match in group B between Ecuador and Uruguay, which had ended in a shock win for La Tri.
Argentina team news
It had been a quiet 1989 so far for Carlos Bilardo and his national team, in which they only had been involved in three international friendlies (vastly fewer than some other teams from South America). Perhaps worryingly, they had not won a single one of them. The outcome had been draws against Ecuador and tonight’s opponents Chile, as well as a loss to Colombia.
The lack of appearances and some unimpressive results only corroborated the uncertainty about the national team’s form that had lingered since the disappointing 1987 Copa America on home soil that had started Bilardo’s rejuvenation of the team after the 1986 triumph in Mexico.
Carlos Bilardo opted for a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Maradona alone up front and Caniggia as a wide forward. Apart from the choice of formation, which often was subject to changes under Bilardo, the line-up itself was more or less as expected. If anything, perhaps someone had expected to see Cuciuffo as right-back instead of Clausen.
Of notable absentees from the squad travelling to Brazil for the 1989 Copa America can be mentioned Olarticoechea and Fabbri. Otherwise this was more or less a full-strength squad at Bilardo’s disposal.
Chile team news
A slightly lopsided 5-3-2 was the formation of choice by manager Aravenes, who assigned Héctor Puebla to man-mark Maradona, effectively altering the formation according to the whereabouts of Maradona…
Fernando Astengo and Patricio Yáñez, usually regulars in the team, were notably not named among the subs. Exciting Reims prospect Ivo Basay was not even part of the Copa America squad.
It is also worth paying attention to the fact that Chile were lining up without a striker in the conventional sense of the term. Jaime Vera was more an attacking type of midfield player, while Juan Covarrubias would often hug the line.
The encounter between the two arch-rivals became a very one-sided affair, not least because how the two teams had set up. Chile manager Aravena had instructed Puebla to man-mark Maradona, and with the latter playing as a lone central forward, Chile found themselves playing 3 vs 1 in their central defence. Argentina thus had a numerical advantage in the midfield area, and fully exploited this to create overloads.
Argentina were patient and systematic in their build-up. The shape of their formation provided them with plenty of good passing angles: Batista was sitting deep, Burruchaga was in the middle, while Calderón and Troglio shuttled into the half-spaces. As a model, Batista and Burruchaga would build up through the middle, drawing on pressure from the Chile midfield line, in the process creating space for Calderón and Troglio between defence and midfield to receive the ball.
Aravena had ended up with a good counter-measure against Maradona, but on the expense of handing complete dominance of the game to Argentina. Perhaps sacrificing Puebla as a man-marker and freeing him for a midfield position would have helped Chile’s cause more here, leaving Maradona to Gonzáles and Contreras.
The focal point of Argentina’s attacks
Argentina’s main shortcoming here was ostensibly their lack of presence in the penalty area. They were excellent in the midfield department, but were lacking options / focal points as play moved into the final third. Maradona constantly found himself surrounded not only by man-marker Puebla, but also two central defenders.
The kind of player Argentina’s midfielders were looking for, was however not playing in front of them, but on the shoulders of the Chilean defence: Caniggia. Usually he was playing to the right hand side, or suddenly turning up on the left. Caniggia usually stayed in a wide position, and not always in the best position to receive the ball when Argentina penetrated through the middle.
The erratic Clausen
Another feature of this game was the erratic positioning of Néstor Clausen, who continued drifting inside from his right-back position to join Burruchaga et al. in central midfield. This unexpected ploy contributed to increasing the overload in midfield. At times there seemed to be some plan behind this as Sensini tucked inside to provide cover as a third central defender, making Argentina appear in something akin to a 3-5-2.
At other times, Clausen gave more orthodox interpretations of the role as attacking full-back, motoring forward (often into space vacated by Caniggia, dragging with him Chile’s right back Reyes).
Despite Argentina’s vast dominance and a few good goal scoring opportunities, the score remained 0-0 at HT.
Bilardo had evidently recognised that his team was lacking in front of goal, as he changed things somewhat in the break by instructing Caniggia to play in the middle of Argentina’s attacks. Vice versa, Maradona would drift more wide. Since Argentina were dominant in midfield, Bilardo must have reckoned that having the speedy Caniggia as an option in the middle could provide them with better opportunities for the final through ball.
Bilardo’s tweak seemed to be justified when, in the 55th minute of the game, Caniggia found himself in the right spot (just in front of the opposition goal!) when Chile goalkeeper Rojas had to give a rebound after Troglio had attempted a long shot. Caniggia was quick off the mark to pick up the loose ball, and slotted the ball home behind Rojas. 1-0 to Argentina.
Chile’s late revival
The tempo of the game changed not longer after the goal. Having bossed the entire time match until then, Argentina took the foot off the pedal and their attacking movements to an increasing degree became half-hearted and left to individual efforts.
Bilardo also brought on forward Carlos Alfaro Moreno for Caniggia. The Independiente forward, who was enjoying a superb season for his club season, replaced Caniggia and got into the latter’s previous role as a wide forward. Alfaro Moreno’s performance here was perhaps emblematic of this phase of the game, with vain individual efforts, and without too much help from his team mates.
Chile had struggled in possession all evening, but tried to mount a comeback as Argentina evidently found it a bit difficult to switch from an attacking to a defensive mode. Having not come close in the 1st half, La Roja showed that they are a side able to cause problems with their counter attacks, and created a couple of chances that easily could have produced the necessary equaliser.
Argentina’s turnovers left a lot more to be desired. Admittedly, they have a player in Caniggia with blistering pace, who easily could leave an opponent for dead with the ball at his feet. The Verona striker’s acceleration was probably unparalleled in world football. However, the team as a unit seemed a bit lacking in terms of stringing together good counter-attacking movements.
Maradona? Mainly absent from this report, and strangely remained a fairly anonymous player in this encounter, looking tired as the 2nd half unfolded. Some of his involvements in the 2nd half were even somewhat below his usual class. At times Maradona dropped deep to collect the ball, without causing Chile much of a problem. Was he saving it for later in the tournament?
12 Islas 4.9
9 Clausen 6.1
5 Brown 4.4
17 Ruggeri 6.2
18 Sensini 4.5
19 Troglio 5.3
4 Batista 7.4
6 Burruchaga 5.6
7 Calderón 6.0
10 Maradona 4.8
8 Caniggia 6.2
1 Rojas 6.1
2 Reyes 5.0
5 Gonzáles 4.5
4 Contreras 5.3
6 Pizarro 4.1
7 Puebla 4.7
8 Ormeño 3.8
18 Hisis 3.8
15 Olmos 4.0
13 Vera 4.8
10 Covarrubias 4.0