Argentina’s subplot is by far and away the most engaging narrative of the World Cup so far.
And that’s their biggest problem.
Lionel Messi has already gone from zero to hero in the eyes of the Argentine media.
Jorge Sampaoli appears to have surrendered control over the team.
They’ve changed their starting formation for every game.
And then there’s the Diego Maradona sideshow…
The blue and white flying circus will continue to engross neutrals in the knockout stages thanks to Marcos Rojo’s unlikely winner against Nigeria.
In terms of entertainment, they’re great value.
But if they actually want to improve, they need to become a lot more boring.
Take Uruguay and Portugal for example.
Like Argentina, the Group A winners and the Group B runners-up have superstars in attack but are relatively low in resources elsewhere.
To combat this imbalance, Oscar Tabarez and Fernando Santos have embraced the dark side and set up their teams to frustrate opponents.
Neither Uruguay or Portugal would claim to be the most entertaining team at the World Cup, but they’ve recognised their optimum tactic.
Both teams have a sense of purpose and the players seem aware of their respective roles.
Argentina, on the other hand, are making it up as they go along.
It’s entirely possible the only reason Javier Mascherano still makes the starting line-up is because he’s picking the team.
A great player in his day, the years have now caught up to the former Barcelona man.
He’s a second behind the play at all times and has seemingly become allergic to forward passes.
What does Giovani Lo Celso have to do to get a game?
It took two games for Ever Banega to be awarded the start he fully deserved — the Sevilla man justified the decision with a superb showing against Nigeria.
River Plate’s Enzo Perez wasn’t even in Argentina’s preliminary squad.
But after coming in for the injured Manuel Lanzini, he appears to have locked down a spot in the starting line-up.
The disorganisation on the touchline and on the pitch has been mirrored in the column inches back in Argentina.
The media hanged, drawn and quartered Messi and co after the first two games, with premature post-mortems being the order of the day.
Oddly enough, Diego Maradona has embodied the spirit of the current side.
Flavour of the month for television directors everywhere, the 1986 World Cup winner has exhibited every known emotion while watching on from the stands.
Riveting, compelling? Yes.
Out of control? Probably.
This Argentina side is a runaway train.
At some point, they are going to be derailed in spectacular fashion.
It’s way too late to change their ways now, and they’re great for the spectacle, but they would be wise tone down the drama.
Easier said than done…