In an interview with Olé, head coach Edgardo Bauza provided insight on his tactics, future prospects, how the team picked themselves up after a disappointing run of results and, most importantly, how he believes Argentina can succeed in Russia next summer.

Asked how he plans to convince his team of their ability to succeed, Bauza outlined the problem of relaying tactics: “The first talks are always the most difficult because you arrive with an idea in your head, but you have to be able to transmit it to the players. If you manage to convince footballers, you can achieve anything you want.”

Bauza also revealed, among other plans, his intentions to rejuvenate the often lambasted Leo Messi: “I want to put him in the place where he began, out on the right, where Guardiola put him in Barcelona.”

It seems Messi’s positioning isn’t the only aspect of the high-pressing Barcelona model that Bauza has looked to for inspiration: “I also want to work on defending and getting back, because a team that doesn’t know how to defend cannot attack. But, of course, to defend isn’t to simply put yourself in the box; one can defend by attacking, with the ball in the other half.”

Bauza aims to lift the somewhat crestfallen Messi
Bauza aims to lift the somewhat crestfallen Messi

For a team that has conceded 7 goals in their last 5 outings, Bauza can do no harm in trying to address this area of play. But, he does cite bad luck and untimely errors, such as Mascherano’s poorly timed backpass against Peru, as making for unfair indicators of overall team performances: “After that game, he [Mascherano] called me and said: ‘What a balls-up from me!’ It is what it is, it happened, but it was a game we could have won.”

“The thing I’m trying to make them understand is that balance forms part of a great team. We still lack balance in that a goal can be conceded from anywhere.”

El Patón did stress, however, that there have already been improvements in the side’s defending, something he points out in their 3-0 victory over Colombia in November: ‘I think we’re on the way to achieving it – Colombia didn’t score, and they’re a difficult side from the midfield forward.”

Should Bauza get these ideas right, he believes Argentina could be in with a real chance of winning the World Cup in Russia next summer – particularly if young talents such as Juventus’ Paulo Dybala and River Plate’s Lucas Alario continue their development.

“I’ve been watching [Dybala] for some time. He has a tremendous ability to unbalance defences on his own, and a lot of ease in finding the goal. But he’s young, and you have to give him time to adapt himself to play in the national team.”

The future of Argentina's attack, according to El Patón
The future of Argentina’s attack, according to El Patón

As for 24 year-old Alario, Bauza said “without a doubt, he’s a player with an enormous future ahead of him. He’s an intelligent guy and the the day that he goes to play in Europe he’ll continue developing – I have no doubt that in a few years he’ll be Argentina’s number 9”

Inevitably, Bauza was asked how the ongoing situation with AFA is affecting the national side – but it seems he is just as fed up with the saga as anyone else: “We don’t care what’s going on. It is a complex issue, and I hope it’s resolved soon and in the best way. What I want is that the football resumes. Afterwards, if there’s elections and someone wins and they say, ‘Bauza, I want so-and-so as manager’, no problem, I’ll go home.”

Argentina currently lie in fifth place and trail their next opponent, Chile, by one point in the qualifying group, who they’ll face next month at River Plate’s El Monumental. La Selección will be confident of making 4th place, but they will be keen to catch up with Brazil who sit top of the group, eight points clear of their southern rivals.