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    SportsThe revenge of Nicolas Otamendi

    The revenge of Nicolas Otamendi

    The balance in the World Cups of Nicolas Otamendi (Buenos Aires, 34 years old) was quite improvable before landing in Qatar. In 2010, Maradona placed him on the right side in the quarterfinals and Germany began the destruction (0-4) on his wing. It didn’t even last 10 minutes on foot. The center-back admitted some time later that he was still very tender. In 2014, he wasn’t even called up. And in 2018, he participated in the collective disaster. At the moment, in Doha, waiting for his appointment with France and the Mbappe gazelle, his personal revenge has evolved well.

    Lionel Scaloni’s lineups have been corrected on the fly, except with Messi, De Paul and this rude-faced defender who flirted with boxing in childhood with a cousin of his. A new god (awaiting confirmation) and two fixed in any Qatari circumstance, in addition to the goalkeeper I drew Martinez. Otamendi has been the head of a defense that has not been very subdued in the tournament, except in specific sections. With the 19 on his back, a symbolic number because it was the same one worn by leading figures such as Daniel Pasarella and Oscar Ruggeri (champions in 1978 and 1986, respectively), the final against the French team should be his 100th game (he debuted in 2009 ). And every time he played, except for a 2011 friendly against Costa Rica, he started it.

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    Two months after turning 36, the Copa America that he won a year and a half ago in the Maracana calmed a personal journey with the team that accumulated more frustrations than the World Cups. He was also the main actor in the two Copa America finals lost against Chile (2015 and 2016). Just like Di Maria and Messi, the surviving shortlist of the old guard that now links up with the new puppies.

    At the University of Qatar, the Argentine residence empty of students this month, a space as big as everything that is built in this country, he shares a room with Rodrigo de Paul, from an intermediate generation and very close to Messi. A relationship that goes beyond coexistence. They met at Valencia, in 2014-15, and the rojiblanco ended up becoming the godfather of one of Otamendi’s children.

    In defensive matters, no one in the team presents better Excel cells than the Benfica central defender on the way to the final. He has been the one who has won the most duels per game (5.8), the one who has recovered the most balls (5.3) and the one who has made the most clearances (3.5). Scaloni’s plan to demand caution from his team and move carefully, even openly pushing the matches into wide stretches of boredom, has also benefited him so as not to see himself very exposed. The same as the little offensive rennet of some contarios (Poland and Australia).

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    The technician, who has in his staff with two old central defenders (Walter Samuel and Roberto Ayala), he has oscillated between lines of four and five behind, replicating if necessary the disposition of the rival team, and at all times with Otamendi in the axis, accompanied by Cuti Romero, Lisandro Martinez O The two. The sum of the individual and collective factors has produced an Argentina that is the one that has conceded the fewest shots (5.7 per game). Always below the 0.6 expected goals (metric that calculates the chances of conceding according to the quality of the chances they have generated). On Sunday, yes, the subject will be new and, by far, the most complex. France have the highest average expected goals (11.9) without taking penalties into account. On paper, the greatest danger for Otamendi and his team will be attacks in the open.

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    Otamendi makes the Topo Gigio gesture to the Dutch.
    Otamendi makes the Topo Gigio gesture to the Dutch. Francisco Seco (AP)

    A serious guy, not very talkative and with a defensive soul, his reaction in the harsh outcome against the Netherlands was one of the most intemperate. When Lautaro Martinez scored the final penalty, the Benfica center-back imitated Messi in his way and also made the Topo Gigio gesture to the Dutch players several times (on the run). “They had put pressure on our shooters,” he later justified himself.

    Trained in the Velez quarry (as a child he took three buses to go to training) and a fan of River (where they wait for him), he was always considered a classic center-back, one of those who go by right. He went through Porto and a campaign for Valencia before City paid 44.5 million for him in 2015. He spent five years at the Etihad. There, Guardiola appreciated his ardor and he improved his footwork. It was also the time when Otamendi recognized that he had a scouting very particular: his mother, Silvia, who analyzed the rival forwards and sent him her conclusions by Whatsapp.

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    Source: EL PAIS

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