GOLPE DE REALIDAD Y VUELTA A CASA

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Malí sabe a lo que juega. Entiende sus limitaciones. Explota sus virtudes. Obliga a un nivel de coordinación e inspiración al que una Selección Juvenil Argentina, hoy por hoy, le será difícil encontrar. Malí concede el primer gol tras un error no forzado, y algún argentino ríe con aire burlón. Pero Malí reacciona, va al frente, sale del letargo y demuestra que tiene más virtudes de las que había descubierto hasta el momento. El conjunto africano pone a la Albiceleste contra las cuerdas y de forma merecida, llega al empate. Y no sólo llega al empate ahí, cuando promedia el complemento: también resiste hasta el final sin pasar demasiado sobresaltos. Con orden, disciplina, una capacidad física envidiable y una sobriedad colectiva que más de un futbolero recién ahora descubre.

La fortuna le vuelve a sonreír a Argentina, que en el arranque del tiempo extra, se pone otra vez en ventaja. Y esta vez, toma nota de lo ocurrido un rato antes: los chicos dirigidos por Fernando Batista permanecerán atentos, con la tensión competitiva a flor de piel, para evitar que nuevamente Malí vuelva a sorprender a pura fiereza y virtud. Además, el conjunto africano ya da muestras de cansancio, después de haber corrido mucho tiempo atrás de la pelota con puntualidad casi intachable. Hasta que el cuarto arbitro levanta la chapa: tres minutos más. El argentino que antes río y luego sufrió, ahora saca chapa y piensa que las cosas, otra vez, están en su lugar: la Selección Sub-20, entre las ocho mejores del mundo. En donde debe estar.

Pero a veces el fútbol es demasiado fútbol. Y a Argentina, al país en el que se repite hasta el hartazgo que el fútbol es para vivos, la duermen. Un tiro libre rápido, cuando todos esperaban centro al área. Malí festeja. Festeja porque otra vez las cosas están igualadas. Festeja porque otra vez, algún argentino desprevenido entenderá que una selección africana es capaz de mostrar recursos suficientes como para forzar los penales en esa competición que nadie ganó tantas veces como la Albiceleste; pero que pocos, en los últimos años, descuidaron tanto como la propia Argentina.

Y Malí no sólo fuerza los penales, sino que en los cinco remates desde los doce pasos, ejecuta con una frialdad, con una calidad, que los argentinos, desprevenidos, confiados, confundidos, no imaginaban. El que falla viste de celeste y blanco. El que festeja es uno de los dos países africanos que está entre los ocho mejores. Porque el fútbol se ha igualado tanto que a día de hoy, Argentina no sabe ni siquiera en qué falla. Simplemente entiende que tiene talento para llegar más lejos, que esta camada es la mejor de los últimos años. Pero ahí está Malí, el campeón africano, para denotar una realidad: antes Argentina se floreaba en la competición; hoy, a pesar de contar con jovenes de muchísimo talento, con minutos en Primera y varios meses de trabajo, no le alcanza para terminar de confirmarse como candidato. Tiene calidad, sí. Y mostró buenos pasajes de fútbol, también. Pero no tuvo en estos cuatro partidos ninguna actuación descollante ni de clara superioridad. A pesar de sentirse bien encaminada, Argentina no cuenta aún con una estructura suficientemente buena, confiable y preparada en lo futbolístico y en lo mental como para no depender de detalles. Detalles como apariciones de Gonzalo Maroni, que hace unos meses le sirvieron para encaminar la clasificación al Mundial cuando el Sudamericano era un dolor de cabeza. Detalles que hoy, lo hacen volver de Polonia antes de tiempo. Con la cabeza gacha y sin entender demasiado en qué falló; y con una certeza oculta que deberá hallar lo antes posible: dio demasiados años de ventaja; el fútbol ha cambiado y la paridad es cada vez más grande. Quizás esté por buen camino, es cierto, pero apenas si ha dado un par de pasos.

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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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