In the first days of October 1974, a few months after the end of the World Cup in Germany, The Argentine Football Association hired César Luis Menotti as coach of the national team that was to participate in the 1978 World Cup, to be held in the southernmost country on earth: Argentina.
His appointment and the duration of the commitment assumed by both parties posed an unprecedented event in the country that had given players as notable as Orsi, Di Stéfano, Pedernera or Sívori but had never been able to figure at the top level of the world after the runner-up achieved in Montevideo. in 1930.
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Menotti was a young and successful coach, who had accomplished in 1973 the miracle of classifying the AFA champion to the Huracán club, which had not obtained a first division title since 1925, in the romantic times of amateurism.
He was hired until after the 1978 World Cup, thus allowing him to undertake a coherent, orderly and unchanging work for three and a half years.
The new technician took advantage of science and conscience that splendid opportunity. His search and selection of securities throughout the country was persistent and successful, the preparation process was equally effective.
The first thing Menotti did was to make every good strategist: put his ideas in order. Define what you wanted to achieve and how you planned to achieve it. His initial proposal was clear and concrete based on a very accurate diagnosis of the recent past of Creole football:
“In all these years, the Argentine style of play, our ball handling, our ease with the dribble and the touch have not failed. We failed due to lack of conviction to do what we know, to try to play in the national team a different football from the one that is usually played on our fields. What we really lacked was complementing what we know with other aspects of teamwork, such as playing without the ball, permanently supporting the teammate who carries it, pretending to carry the ball instead of playing with one touch when we have our backs to the goal On the contrary, do not unnecessarily complicate simple plays … ”.
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Regarding the player model that he intended for his team, the new coach had a firmly taken position: “Between a player of skill and an athlete, I prefer the former. Because working, from a skillful I can make an athlete. From an athlete, no matter how much I train him, I can only get a better athlete ”.
Consequently, for Menotti, the direction to follow was equally clear: 1. to deepen the individual technique of his footballers; 2. work hard at perfecting collective mechanics; 3. precision achieved, adding speed and dynamics to the whole.
The Argentine coach also did not believe that football had entered the era of polyfunctional players as a consequence of the impact produced by the explosion of Holland in 1974. Some gifted may be born to play throughout the field, such as Alfredo Di Stéfano. But specialists will continue to exist for a reason of inevitable logic, since all the activities of today’s life tend to specialization. In the last World Cup Germany won playing with specialists like Muller, Beckenbauer, Overath or Berti Vogts … Based on this reasoning, he chose the interpreters he needed.
Newell’s Old Boys, also champion for the first time in 1974, and the powerful River Plate directed by Angel Amadeo Labruna, winner of three championships between 1975 and 1977, after spending 18 years without obtaining a title, were the basis of that selection. With one goalkeeper, five defenders and five forwards. Something totally unusual for a time when everyone played 4- 4-2 with some differential nuances, but with a common denominator: more footballers applied to destroy and recover the ball than to play it and attack.
That return to the good old days was the most novel thing that Argentina proposed and showed in its World Cup. A line of four defenders to defend in the area, the concept that the Argentines best dominated, in which their central defense and captain Passarella, with a powerful shot and accurate header, were free to send themselves on the attack by surprise.
A stopper wheel equipped with great tactical intelligence to balance all the movement of the set, relieving the last-line man who started forward. Two offensive midfielders: Oswaldo Ardiles, authentic ideologist of the team for his generosity and judgment; Mario Alberto Kempes, formidable director, with acceleration and power in the last 30 meters of the opponent’s field that made him irrepressible.
Above, a center forward and two pointers. Leopoldo Jacinto Luque, the most advanced of the attackers, he was the ideal companion for Kempes because of the way he led the way with his movements without a ball to take the rival markers. Ricardo Daniel Bertoni, right or left wing, was of deadly precision returning walls in the midst of the opposing defense.
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With this concept of game, Menotti’s box risked opening spaces in his defensive zone. To solve that problem he had the ideal archer: Ubaldo Matildo Fillol. He knew how to play outside his area and shrink with remarkable security against the rival who cut himself off since in River, his club, had become accustomed to doing so.
Thus, respecting its essence and revalidating its history, Argentina returned to the forefront of world football.
For the time
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