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World Cup Comment: Defensive Frailties Are Finally Exposed For Devastated Albiceleste

In our World Cup Comment series, individual writers at offer their views on the hot World Cup topics of the day with local expertise and a global outlook...

It was the elephant in the room, the nagging suspicion that we all had as Argentina steam-rolled its way to the World Cup quarter-finals. While Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez and even the geriatric Martin Palermo were scoring goals for fun we could put it to the back of our minds, but even then the questions squeaked in the distance.

Yes Argentina have the best attackers in the world, but what of the defence? Can Argentina really do without such international class defenders like Javier Zanetti and Gabriel Milito? Will the relatively slow backline be able to deal with an attack of real pace and potency? Can Nicolas Otamendi be a viable solution to the crisis right-back area?

Unfortunately, as the Albiceleste were humiliated 4-0 in a game many a commentator expected them to triumph in, the answer can only be an emphatic no to every question.

The scoreline perhaps doesn’t do justice to the effort and possession the Argentine players demonstrated throughout the game. Tevez and Angel di Maria in particular continually searched for the ball and looked to create, before the hammer blow of the second goal deflated la seleccion and left no way back.

In contrast Higuain did his very best Harry Houdini impersonation throughout the match, meaning countless tasty crosses and balls into the area went nowhere.

But Argentina’s persistence in searching for an equaliser was bettered by an incredible German determination to keep out their opponents. Rarely desperate and solid as a rock, they incredibly managed to keep Tevez, Lionel Messi, Higuain and Sergio Aguero from having a single clear-cut chance; something which alone could point to the 2010 title flying over to Munich.

It was when the team in black went forward however, just like against England that they look really scary. And just as against the Three Lions the Argentine wounds were at least partly self-inflicted, with nobody in the defence coming away with any credit.

Gaby Heinze was embarrassingly left in the dust by Thomas Mueller on more than one occasion, although cannot be blamed directly for any of the goals. But the real fall-guy in the woeful rearguard action was young Otamendi.

A player of undoubted talent, the 22-year-old Velez man has a brilliant future in the game. Playing out of position at right-back however he was given a torrid time by the excellent Lukas Podolski, conceding the free kick which led to the first goal and proving himself unable to compete with the Koeln forward.

So what now for Diego Maradona and his men? El Diego himself will undoubtedly fall on his sword; an incredibly proud and patriotic man, he will feel the pain and shame of steering his nation out of South Africa like a bullet to the gut - unlike a certain Italian ringer still at the helm of England.

Maradona however does not deserve to take the flak, as he led his team admirably and provided many of the brilliant moments and sparks somewhat lacking throughout the tournament.

For the team itself as well, the solution will be different to that needed by Germany’s last victims. The Albiceleste have a young core which deserve to stay in contention for next year’s Copa America and beyond - players like Di Maria, Pastore, Aguero, Messi and a central playing Otamendi have the ability to bounce back.

Whoever takes over from Maradona though will have to look carefully at those anchoring the backline; as if nothing is done they will come up short time and again - for all Argentina’s attacking talent they need to start at the back.

Who has the best chance of winning the World Cup? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 FIFA World Cup Winner Predictor.