RIQUELME 10 | ARGENTINA 2006 AWAY JERSEY
One of a fair few potential heirs to Diego Maradona, Juan Roman Riquelme was in the lead to that very title as Argentina embarked on their 2006 World Cup campaign. Enjoying good form in the qualifying round, and for La Liga side Villarreal, Riquelme was arguably the world’s best playmaker going into the tournament, and proved instrumental in Argentina’s surge to the quarter-finals.
But in a tight match with hosts Germany, coach Jose Pekerman, after 72 minutes and his side dangerously leading 0-1, decided to substitute Riquelme for Esteban Cambiasso to tighten the ship. Argentina went from outgoing to conservative, and after 79 minutes, lost their slim lead, and were eventually knocked out, losing 4-2 to Germany on its dearest friend, penalties.
What could have been. Argentina were one of the favourites to win the World Cup that year, and excelled in the group stages. Riquelme was the orchestrator behind an entertaining team put together by a coach who, although made that change against the Germans, should not have his largely positive spell marred by that. Riquelme still displayed why he is revered as one of the games great and last classic no.10s.
Riquelme was an Enganche; how Argentines describe the link between midfield and attack, and performed that role to a tee for the national side. Languid and slow-moving, yet graceful with a speed of mind, Riquelme roamed the midfield, looking to receive the ball and create space and chances for teammates.
Pekerman took over from Marcelo Bielsa as coach in 2004, and whereas Bielsa set up the side in a 3-3-3-1 like that seen more recently at Leeds United, Pekerman deployed a 4-3–1-2. Captain and first-choice left-back Juan Pablo Sorin was attack-minded, and typically advanced higher up the pitch than the right-back. The midfield quartet was very technical, with Javier Mascherano anchoring, Cambiasso or Lucho Gonazales acting as box-to-box types, Maxi Rodriguez could play on either the right or left and made runs into the opposition penalty area. Riquelme was expected to supply passes to two mobile forwards; ranging from Javier Saviola and Hernan Crespo, to Carlos Tevez and teenage sensation Lionel Messi.