Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

The two South American arch-rivals come face to face in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018

Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

  • Argentina legend admits side is in transition and says the performance matters more than the result.
  • Argentina likely to be changed from the side that thrashed Iraq 4-0 on Thursday.

LONDON: Argentina legend and 1978 World Cup winner Mario Kempes said the Albiceleste must focus on building a team as they take on Brazil in a friendly on Tuesday in Jeddah. 

“The game against Brazil is important because I wouldn’t attribute too much importance to the result, but rather focus on how you can form a good team,” Kempes told Arab News.

“It is a new team, it is a new coach. For me, the result isn’t interesting, but the development and the performance of the players are.”

On Friday, Argentina thumped a hapless Iraq 4-0 with a dominant display as Lautaro Martinez, Roberto Pereyra, German Pezzella and Franco Cervi all beat Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan to ensure a resounding victory.

The South Americans fielded an experimental side without star players Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but overcame a defensive opponent in the second half following the introductions of Eduardo Salvio and Santiago Ascacibar, the substitutes allowing Argentina to play more direct. 

“It was important to win in this new chapter with new players and a new coach,” Kempes explained.

“These are players that haven’t really been long with in the squad of the national team and that is why it was significant to beat Iraq.” 

Brazil will provide Argentina with a first stern test after a disappointing World Cup in Russia, where they exited the tournament 4-3 at the hands eventual champions France in the second round. Argentina’s interim coach Lionel Scaloni, who took over from Jorge Sampaoli, has confirmed that only Sergio Romero, Pezzella and Paulo Dybala will be retained from the Iraq friendly, with the coach pondering Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa as a replacement for Martinez. 

In the final third Scaloni will count on Mauro Icardi. The Inter Milan striker, who has endured a lackluster start to the Serie A season, debuted for Argentina in a 2013 World Cup qualifier, but never established himself in the squad. It was rumored that Messi was behind Icardi’s exclusion from the team over personal entanglements. Icardi also did not make the final squad for the this summer’s World Cup. 

“Icardi hasn’t had a great past with Argentina, because he couldn’t show himself much,” said Kempes. “I think that Icardi should always be in the squad. He played only against Uruguay and later he wasn’t called up again. This time he gets a new chance and he has to seize it.” 

Whatever impact Icardi may have against Brazil, the striker will not camouflage the glaring absence of Argentina’s superstar and talisman Lionel Messi, but Kempes, who scored two goals in the 1978 World Cup final against the Netherlands to secure Argentina’s maiden world title and today commentates for ESPN, believes this is a chance for Argentina to plant the seeds for a new team and rebuild. 

“You need a competitive team, a team that doesn’t simply depend on Messi,” the 64-year-old said.

“The team and Messi played together for practically 10 years and it is a pity that Argentina never won anything. Good, a change is needed from all, but not from Messi. I think Messi wants or needs rest. You need to give him rest and he may return fresher. Let us first find a team that plays without Messi. Once you have that team, you can play Messi again. Why? Because he is going to make the difference.” 

Messi’s national team future remains in doubt, but Argentina will look to next year’s Copa America in Brazil as a benchmark to measure progress. In 2015 and 2016 the Argentineans were on the wrong end of the last two continental finals when Chile prevailed twice on penalties after goalless draws, but Kempes sees next year’s tournament being a more transitional one for the Albiceleste.

He said: “I believe that Argentina has to use the Copa America in the sense of informing the team about big games when you will form a team, and not to win the tournament.

“Argentina can play a good role, seeking a balance between the players on the field.” 

Canadiens beat Canucks 7-3, add to season-opening road run

Updated 23 January 2021

Canadiens beat Canucks 7-3, add to season-opening road run

VANCOUVER, Canada: Tyler Toffoli had two more goals and an assist, and the Montreal Canadiens became the first NHL team in 46 years to open a season with at least a point in five straight road games by beating the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 on Thursday night.

A night after scoring a hat trick against his former team in a shootout loss to the Canucks, Toffoli helped the Canadiens improve to 3-0-2. The Los Angeles Kings also accomplished the five-game road feat to start the 1974-75 season.

The Canadiens and Canucks will complete their three-game series Saturday, ending Montreal’s season-opening trip.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, too. We can’t get satisfied here,” Montreal captain Shea Weber said. “We’ve done a lot of good things here, but there’s a lot of season left here as well.”

Joel Armia had two goals and two assists, and Josh Anderson, Jake Evans and Ben Chiarot also scored for the Canadiens. Jake Allen made 14 saves for his 150th NHL victory.

Bo Horvat scored twice for Vancouver, Brandon Sutter had a goal, and Thatcher Demko stopped 35 shots.

“We gift-wrapped probably four to five goals,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “It wasn’t a game where we’re hemmed in our zone the whole game, it was just giving breakaways. In this league if you give up chances that are gifts, you are going to lose bad and we did that tonight.”

Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers had two assists, but also took a major penalty and three minors.

Myers caught Armia in the chin with a hit late in the game, dropping the Canadiens forward to the ice. Armia went directly to the dressing room and later was diagnosed with a concussion, Montreal coach Claude Julien said.

Myers was given a match penalty for the play, a decision Julien praised.

“I know (Myers is) 6-foot-7, it just seems like a high hit,” the coach said.

“I don’t control what happens with the league and the disciplinary actions coming from there. But we’re trying to clean up our game, make sure we take disciplinary actions for vulnerable hits or unsuspecting players. And I think in this case, Armia didn’t see him coming.”

Armia and his linemate, Toffoli, combined for seven points. Two of the duo’s goals came on Canucks power plays.

“We’ve got guys that can fly and tonight there was a couple of good reads,” Weber said. “Obviously, guys picked off pucks and were able to give guys breakaways and guys finished off.”

Horvat said the Canucks simply weren’t good enough.

“We’ve got to figure it out within our dressing room and buy in,” he said. “I think everybody’s got to step up, including myself, and take responsibility for our play and get back at it again. It’s a long year, we have another game against these guys and we’re going to try to win this mini-series here.”

At times, the Canucks have looked “a little bit immature” this year, Green said.

He believes it could have something to do with their playoff success last season, and the group forgetting how hard it is to win.

“We’re not a team that has ever won easy,” Green said. “We’ve got to grind out wins and we’ve got to realize that and remember it’s hard to win in the league. And we had that mentality last year. We’ve got to get back to that.”