- Jorge Burruchaga, the Mexico 1986 Final hero, is now Argentina’s general manager
- He believes no country has a better squad than Argentina
- ‘Burru’ has urged his compatriots to forget about ‘revenge’
By Diego Zandrino with Argentina
Jorge Burruchaga looks on calmly as Argentina are put through their paces at the Bronnitsy Training Centre. The general manager of the national team prefers to keep a low profile, his face betraying not a flicker of emotion at the sight of a wonder strike by Lionel Messi, a flying save by Nahuel Guzman or a fancy trick by Maximiliano Meza.
If he is nervous, he is hiding it well. But then to say that Burruchaga knows what it means to play at a FIFA World Cup™ would be an understatement: this is a man who has appeared in two Finals and whose goal won the tournament for Argentina at Mexico 1986.
The former Albiceleste star, whose screams of joy following that 3-2 win over West Germany in the Final were heard around the world, is taking a more phlegmatic approach to Russia 2018.
“I think the team is in good shape,” Burruchaga told FIFA. “From the first training sessions in Ezeiza up until today, they’ve been making progress, without a doubt.
“With every day that passes, they’re feeling better within themselves, looser, more engaged in the sense of what the coach is looking for. We’ve got a great squad, as good as any in the world, and we’re hopeful of having a great tournament.”
And what does that mean exactly, in terms of results on the pitch?
“I say that we have to reach the last four at the World Cup," Burruchaga responded. "That way, you’re guaranteed to play seven games. It’s not easy to get to the semi-finals of a World Cup when you consider the great teams who’ll be there, so it’s not an easy target.”
According to Burruchaga, the difficulties involved only serve to put into perspective what Argentina achieved four years ago, when the team reached the Final. Nonetheless, he insisted that “dwelling on what happened is no use for anyone”.
“It was a target well achieved: coming runners-up at a World Cup is no mean feat. Of course you end up wanting more, turning things over in your head, and with a knot in your stomach. But it’s in the past now – you have to move on.
“Right now, we’ve got to focus on what’s about to begin. Without thinking about revenge, because I don’t like that word. They’ve been given a new opportunity to win, or aspire to win, another World Cup.”
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Brushing off the criticism
In Burruchaga’s opinion, it is not helpful to compare recent criticism aimed at the national team with the negative press received by his own team in the lead-up to Mexico 1986: “That team was criticised for its style of play and because we hadn’t been getting results. Today it’s more based on whether one player or another should be playing.”
He acknowledged that some of those doubts surround the apparent inability of a talented group of players to function well as a team, above all during the qualifiers. However, according to Burruchaga, it was understandable that the team did not reach their peak in those matches: “There was a lot at stake for Argentina, it wasn’t easy. The most recent change of coach, when Sampaoli replaced Bauza, was very intense. It’s normal for that to have an impact.”
Above all, he underlined the importance of experience: “Those of us who have played a World Cup know that there will always be criticism, but that what’s important is to remain calm, to stay solid.”
For that reason, he thinks that the team’s opening match against Iceland will be crucial: “The way I see it, the game on Saturday – the first one – is always the most important. Getting the win gives you confidence, assurance and a boost to your self-esteem.”