When you play for Argentina, the spotlight will always fall on you sooner or later. Yet at this particular FIFA World Cup™, the men who form the Albiceleste rearguard are going to find themselves under more scrutiny than would usually be the case.
knows that only too well. Now 27, the central defender is playing some of the best football of his career, excelling with Benfica last season and cementing his place in the national side under Alejandro Sabella. Buoyed by his excellent form, he is unEzequiel Garay concerned about having his every move analysed and receiving the occasional piece of criticism.
“Obviously we’re aware of all that,” the serene Garay told FIFA on the eve of his side’s Brazil 2014 debut against Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We know that in midfield and up front we’ve got some great players who can change the course of games at any given time. That makes it a tremendous challenge for us defenders, but that’s not because we’re not good enough but because our team-mates further forward are so good.”
Garay is entitled to regard some of the criticism that has come the defence’s way as unjustified, especially with Argentina having conceded only 15 goals in their 16 Brazil 2014 qualifying matches, the second-best defensive record in the CONMEBOL Zone.
Discussing the subject with the same elegance he displays on the pitch, Garay said: “We defenders need to keep calm. We improved an awful lot during the course of the qualifiers and we ended it as a pretty solid unit. And obviously if we’re going to win games then we need to do our job pretty well.”
A very special debut
Argentina’s first test comes against a Bosnia and Herzegovina side that look sure to provide stern opposition, despite this being their FIFA World Cup™ debut.
“We know they’ve got some fine players, not least the centre-forward (Edin) Dzeko, but the main thing for us is to avoid being complacent and not make the mistake of thinking it’s going to be easy,” said the centre-half, contemplating Sunday’s meeting with the Bosnians in Rio de Janeiro.
All the same, he accepts Argentina are favourites for this game and are expected to go far in the competition: “With the history and the players we’ve got, some of whom are among the best in the world, we’re seen as one of the contenders for the title, though all our thoughts right now should be on beating Bosnia.”
A FIFA U-20 World Cup winner in 2005 and an Olympic champion in 2008, Garay is preparing to make his debut on the biggest stage of all, a debut that will come, in of all places, the legendary Maracana.
Relishing that prospect, the assured stopper commented: “I’ve never played there before and I want to enjoy it. It’s going to be very special. I’d love to play one more game there, though, and that’s the Final itself, which is what we’re all aspiring to. That’s still a long way away, though. It’s our obligation to show all our rivals the same respect and to take this one step at a time.”