World Football - Fresh young air blows through Argentine league

The Argentine top flight has been rejuvenated by an injection of youthful energy from the bench in the run-in to the "Inicial" championship after last term's titles were won by teams coached by an older generation.

Eurosport
World Football - Fresh young air blows through Argentine league
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2011 Argentina Racing Club fans

With three matches to go in the "Inicial", 39-year-old Guillermo Barros Schelotto's Lanus and the Racing Club side trained by Luis Zubeldia, 31, have moved into strong contention for the first of two titles up for grabs this season.

Lanus, who won their only league title in 2007, are joint top with Velez Sarsfield on 32 points from 16 matches after beating Belgrano 2-0 in Cordoba on Monday.

"We played good football, on the ground, passing, we scored and didn't have defensive problems," said Barros Schelotto, who is in his debut season as a coach.

Racing share third place with Newell's Old Boys on 29 points after thrashing Quilmes 4-0 on Monday on the back of a bravura display of attacking skill from their young forwards.

Lanus host seventh-placed Estudiantes this weekend, while Racing face a trip to La Bombonera to play Boca Juniors on Sunday.

Boca, who are fifth, five points off the pace, won last season's Apertura championship unbeaten under Julio Cesar Falcioni but the coach has become unpopular with a growing number of their fans for his team's uninspiring football.

Falcioni, 56, had a poor relationship with Boca idol Juan Roman Riquelme, who walked out on the club in June after their Libertadores Cup final defeat by Corinthians of Brazil.

Playmaker Riquelme, out of the game now for six months, hinted recently he might make himself available again as Falcioni's popularity has decreased and his chances of earning a new contract have diminished.

Barros Schelotto, another Boca idol who shared a string of titles with Riquelme, has been targeted by club directors to succeed Falcioni.

At title holders Arsenal, 50-year-old coach Gustavo Alfaro has struggled to repeat the formula that won the Clausura in June for the small club's first crown.

Zubeldia is a former midfielder who had to quit playing at 23 due to injury. When he was 27 he became the youngest ever coach in the first division at Lanus.

After taking charge of Racing towards the end of last season, he has promoted exciting teenagers Adrian Centurion and Luciano Vietto as well as 21-year-old Luis Farina, who scored twice on Monday.

Their victory over Quilmes was so convincing that Uruguayan defender Ernesto Goni accused the youngsters of showboating as Racing overran his team.

"Our mistake was to get caught up in their game. We took the game to Racing and ran the risk with the three kids up front," Goni told reporters.

"They don't know the football codes because according to the codes of football you don't do that. They indulged in some showboating close to the touchlines to lift the fans."

In a league deprived of Argentina's best players, who ply their trade in Europe, a bit of sparkle has been long overdue amid a whelter of results-oriented pragmatism.

Not all the relatively youthful coaches in the league are having such an easy ride, though.

River Plate, still finding their feet back in the top flight after last year's traumatic relegation, were slammed for playing poorly and lacking style after a 0-0 draw at home to Argentinos Juniors on Monday.

Critics argue that 38-year-old coach Matias Almeyda, who steered River to the Primera B Nacional (second division) title in his first season in charge, is just not up to the task after having had 60 matches to find a team and style.

Others blame club president Daniel Passarella for not investing in better players, saying few in the squad are good enough to be part of team famous for its attacking skills.

Almeyda, whose side are eighth with 22 points, hit back by saying only Velez of the teams River had faced so far in the championship had dominated them.

"To play badly is to have no game," he said. "If I look at the Velez match, River played badly, but they were the only team that were superior to us, so we don't play badly.

"If today's football is not of a standard people expect, that's another matter."

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