The Backpost AV Team went out to Red Bull Arena last night to watch Argentina train ahead of their Clash-of-the-Titans friendly with Brazil tomorrow, and, well, any concerns we had about spending $48 (the Son of Backpost was in tow) to watch a practice session were immediately dispelled when we caught sight, from the fifth row, of Lionel Messi, Angel DiMaria, Sergio (Kun) Aguero , Javier Mascherano and the rest of the Albicelestes pinging the ball around in tight spaces like magicians.
It was well worth it, and thousands of others agreed. Here’s a completely professional, ESPN-worthy* pan of the crowd, where you can see that the lower bowl of RBA is just about full, which would put the attendance close to 10,000 (capacity is 25k):
When we arrived they were playing 11 v 11 in less than half the field—one goal moved to midfield, pitch narrowed to the width of the 18-yard box—and the display was awesome. Mistake-free, one- and two-touch passing, rarefied skill level. Here’s a sample:
A few observations from the session:
• Leo Messi’s first touch is made of rich, creamery butter. No matter what kind of pressure he’s under—and in an 11 v 11 drill in a compressed field, you’re constantly under pressure—his first touch leaves the ball right where he needs it.
• Angel Di Maria looks slight on television, but in person he’s got some starch, and he can absolutely thump the ball. He rocked the post with a shot during the 11 v 11 and later, in a shooting drill, sent one whistling past our ears in the stands. It was wobbling and shifting in the air as it went past.
• As much as we hate to admit it, we wondered how the U.S. national team would have looked running the same exercise. Probably … not quite the same.
They wrapped up the practice with some shooting. Click here to see Messi, at the 24-second mark, bending one into the side netting:
*This statement has not been fact-checked.