Diego Maradona still has plenty of issues to deal with.
When Diego Maradona was appointed national coach, many in Argentina felt his mere presence on the bench would be enough to drive the players to new heights.
All went well until his fourth match in charge, when a 6-1 defeat in Bolivia proved that motivational slogans were no substitute for effective planning for playing at altitude.
From that moment on, the ride became very bumpy indeed. It never looked likely to be easy. Maradona inherited a side which had won one of its previous seven World Cup qualifiers, with fixtures easier than those to come. A place in South Africa was by no means guaranteed, so the pressure was quickly on after that calamitous loss in La Paz.
Suddenly all that emotion from the little figure on the touchline was not looking such a good thing. Prominent players who become coaches often complain about the difficulty of acquiring the patience necessary to carry out their new function. This has seemed especially pertinent in the case of Argentina’s coach.
Maradona has always been fuelled by emotion. As a player he could transform it into physical energy. As a fan he could take off his shirt, swirl it round his head and lead the chanting. As a coach there is nowhere for that emotion to go – so it comes out in restless and occasionally destructive changes to his side.
In his eight World Cup qualifiers, Maradona used 38 players – far too many for his team to develop a coherent identity. And there have been some panicky half-time substitutions where he ripped apart the structure of his starting line-up.
Not that his reign has been entirely a case of King Midas in reverse. His championing of Juan Sebastian Veron paid off with a good, gutsy display from the midfielder in Montevideo.
Mind you, more experienced coaches than Maradona have found themselves in similar problems in South America’s highly competitive qualifiers. Eight years ago Luiz Felipe Scolari struggled to get Brazil over the line. After winning the World Cup the following year his conclusion, shared by 1994 winner Carlos Alberto Parreira, was that the hard part was qualifying.
On that basis things should now get easier for Maradona.
The nagging, insistent pressure to qualify has gone. So too must go the temptation to keep changing the side. Just like Brazil eight years ago, Argentina discovered in this campaign that having so many players to choose from can be a curse.
Now, though, Maradona has to focus on his squad of 23, and his favoured first XI.
He must also find a collective structure in which Lionel Messi can shine and work out a solid defensive system. These are challenges that require calm and rational thought – the emotion can be thrown in later, when his team line up for the national anthem in South Africa.