Marcelo gallardo he always used the word “reinvent”. The River that won the 2014 South American Cup was not the same team that won the 2015 Libertadores. The one that beat Boca in Madrid in 2018 found a higher point (very close to total football) even in the 2019 Libertadores, although it lost the final with Flamengo de amazing way.
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The coach who took each fall as an impulse to keep winning, was adapting to the moments, but he was always finding foundations so that the solutions beat the problems. And what was experienced in the conquest of the 2021 Tournament was no exception.
The issue was that, like never before, Gallardo had to “reinvent” the team several times in the same tournament. It is worth as an example to take the starting eleven of the first date in the current 2021 Tournament, the one that he lost with Colón 2-1 in the Monumental, on the day of the 50 centers to the goalkeeper Ignacio Chicco’s area. River formed 3-4-2-1 with Armani; Maidana, Rojas and Pinola; Vigo, Enzo Fernández, Bruno Zuculini and Angileri; Carrascal and Paradela; Fontana.
On the second date, beaten 4-0 by Unión, also at the Monumental, he changed to a 4-1-3-2 drawing with Armani; Montiel, Paulo Díaz, Héctor Martínez and Angileri; Enzo Pérez; Carrascal, Zuculini and De la Cruz; Matías Suárez and Braian Romero.
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The setbacks were just starting, because Montiel had not yet been transferred to Seville, and because Julián Álvarez, who was going to end up being the great figure of the millionaire conquest, was going to take several dates to start being a starter and determining factor with his goals.
In the middle, the Millionaire had prolonged casualties and with questions regarding his recoveries, such as the cases of Matías Suárez and Nicolás De la Cruz (two very titular footballers) but he found oxygen with the explosive appearance of Santiago Simón and an Agustín Palavecino who He showed qualities to be taken into account with continuity.
But each time he seemed to stabilize, a new setback: he suffered the unexpected loss of Felipe Peña, with the rupture of the cruciate ligaments in his right knee. A great solution became a problem.
If the one who went out to play against Racing is taken as a reference, on the 22nd date, the differences are revealed: Armani; Robert Rojas, Paulo Díaz, Héctor David Martínez and Javier Pinola; Leonardo Ponzio; Santiago Simón, Enzo Fernández and Agustín Palavecino; Julián Alvarez and Braian Romero. The 4-0 was overwhelming at the Monumental, faithful to the River style, to the Gallardo DNA, to a consecrating day.
Against Boca, in Núñez and after the expulsion of Marcos Rojo, River stopped 2-1-4-1-2, with Rojas and Paulo Díaz; Enzo Pérez; Casco, Simón, De la Cruz and Angileri; Palavecino; Romero and Alvarez. It was similar to the initial position with 4-4-2, but positioned in a different way (and in the rival field) to exert pressure with the extra footballer.
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However, the “reinvention” party, the flagship of what Gallardo is capable of doing from tactical variables and resolutions based on what reality was conditioning him, was in Junín, against Sarmiento, on the 9th date. Among the selected footballers and the casualties due to injury, he located a scheme with three central midfielders as defenders.
Felipe Peña, Enzo Pérez and Bruno Zuculini in a 3-5-2. Then he corrected the system and moved Enzo Pérez to the middle zone to have more control in the recovery: it was the night he ended up winning 2-1 in the last minute with the goal of the team’s standard-bearer: Enzo Pérez.
What points does that River of 2014 have in common with the current one? For starters, the desire to win. The desire to excel, the desire to prevail with prominence, but also from intelligence. In the “final” played against Talleres, in Córdoba, the early expulsion of Felipe Peña in the first half modified the initial plan.
And River, with ten, grouped behind and counterattacked, surprising a Cacique Medina who had not planned the game with a millionaire team that was going to withdraw to close the spaces. But even in that, Gallardo knew how to play with “contexts”.
It is true that not all players performed or were up to the task, but most did. Even footballers like Jorge Carrascal or Federico Girotti -who did not earn ownership-, contributed imbalances in goals for triumphs that gave units to the tour.
The “mentality” was the player N ° 12 and in the case of River it can be explained in how that footballer who has to enter does it but responding to a role, to a consolidated group context from the idea and training, such as Braian Romero entering as “8” before Workshops. If a true team overcomes everything and manages to sustain its identity beyond individualities, it has a better chance of being champion. River had to reinvent itself more than once and several dates before the end of the contest found the prize so sought after.
Christian Leblebidjian – THE NATION