Lausanne, September 4, 2018 - International football is back, in various incarnations with the Nations League, African Cup of Nations qualifiers and friendlies, but for plenty of teams September signifies a chance to start afresh and rebuild. AIPS takes a look at how Argentina, Nigeria, Brazil and Serbia approach a new cycle after the World Cup in Russia.
Argentina crashed out 4-3 against France in the round of sixteen in Russia. That result was even a bit flattering for Argentina were in crisis mode throughout during the tournament. They navigated the group stage with the utmost difficult and whatever was left of Jorge Sampaoli’s authority and the cohesion of his players group was scarcely enough to mount any serious challenge at the World Cup.
Martin Mazur analyses: “It was a traumatic World Cup for Argentina, and the effect of Russia 2018 will hurt until next year. After an arduous process and continuous pressing by the AFA authorities, Jorge Sampaoli agreed to step down, but that does not mean a fresh start for Argentina: while other teams secured their new managers in days, the AFA failed to impress Simeone, Pochettino and Gallardo, leaving the national team with a caretaker until further notice. That man is Lionel Scaloni. It is time for a makeover, everyone agrees, but so far, only Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia decided to retire from international football.”
Nigeria had been labelled Africa’s strongest representative in Russia, but the Super Eagles failed to progress from the group stages, in arguably the tournament’s toughest group with Argentina, Iceland and eventual finalists Croatia. Yet, German coach Gernot Rohr was at times overly cautious, according to his critics back home, and Nigeria failed to live up to the expectations. The German’s honeymoon period is well and truly over.
Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam explains: Exactly a month after Russia 2018 on August 15, a key member of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, Victor Moses announced his sudden retirement from international football – at just 27 - so as to focus on his club career and his young family, while also making way for the next generation of Super Eagles players “to step up and to flourish.”
“Having paraded the youngest squad at the World Cup in Russia, progression is what many want to see in the Super Eagles and coach Gernot Rohr understands this very well, considering he is still in charge of the team in spite of a disappointing group stage exit. Rohr is hoping that Moses will reverse his decision and return to the team someday, but in the meantime, he is faced with the task of qualifying Nigeria for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.”
“Following a home defeat to South Africa over a year ago, Nigeria need a victory against Seychelles on Saturday. To tackle the match, Rohr has kept faith with many of his Russia 2018 stars, including under-fire China based attacker Odion Ighalo, while also handing call-ups to a few new faces.”
Brazil had a disappointing World Cup, often straddling the line between the outlook of a dynamic, modern team and a ghost from the past. They arguably played the game of the tournament against Belgium and were unlucky to exit, falling short of the semi-finals, the minimum requirement for every Brazil coach at a World Cup.
Samindra Kunti reflects: "Brazil - Belgium was a game of fine margins, but it was surprising that Brazil looked so frail without Casemiro. They also took too long to respond to Roberto Martinez’s ingenious move of deploying Romelu Lukaku on the right. In the dying minutes of the game, Neymar nearly equalized, but his outing in Russia was controversial overall, his performance overshadowed by his childish antics. His demeanour hamstrung the team, which from the start seemed burdened. A quarter-final exit would normally be the end for Tite, but, for once, the CBF have been sensible in retaining the coach, the first time since 1978 and Claudio Coutinho. Tite will need to renew at the back and solve Brazil’s lingering strikers problem, as well as get Brazil to play more proactive football when they meet European opposition. Next year Brazil will host the Copa America, which will be Tite’s first big test in the new era."
Serbia had a mixed campaign, not progressing from a feasible group with Costa Rica and Switzerland. They defeated Costa Rica as planned, but suffered a crucial defeat in the last minute of the game against Switzerland, which left them with too much to do against Brazil.
Sonja Nikcevic looks ahead: "Serbia go into the new Nations League era with a much younger team, especially in the back line. The likes of goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković, most capped player Branislav Ivanović and defender Duško Tošić - all over thirty – have been left out, demonstrating that coach Mladen Krstajic will be looking to give the younger generation and the future of this Serbia team space to show their worth. Another notable player missing is Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojević who is said to have clashed with the manager during the World Cup. Players to keep an eye on: midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić, who after much talk of a record-breaking transfer to Europe’s biggest clubs is staying in Lazio for the time being, 20-year-old Nikola Milenković who proved his worth as starting center back at the World Cup and goalkeeper Milos Dmitrović who was a standout in goal last season for Eibar."