DOHA ( Associated Press) – Nicolas Otamendi is one of the best defenders at the World Cup. And his mother has her share of the credit.
Silvia Lemos – who encouraged Otamendi to play defender as a child – followed her son’s future rivals to warn them about scoring players, a practice that originated when the defender Was playing for Manchester City and that continues in the World Cup.
At 34, the “Commander” star is just behind Lionel Messi, Argentina’s most regular and best-scored player with three goals in five matches, one against all.
He always played as a starter and his performance did not decrease even when coach Lionel Scaloni changed his teammates twice and even the left back position. He is among the defenders who have won the most number of doubles in the tournament.
Otamendi told reporters after a 2–1 win against Australia in the Round of 16, “I feel great, I’ve prepared a lot for this World Cup, I’ve focused on it and I want to play for the national team.” I am enjoying an unforgettable moment.” ,
Otamendi was crucial against Poland at the end of the first round and again against the “Soccerous” – two rivals with a better height average than Argentina – winning aerial balls. Australian defender Harry Soutar, the tallest player in this World Cup at 1.98 m, never beat him on top.
And he also assisted Messi in the first goal.
“We go from small to large,” Otamendi analyzed.
Coming out of Vélez Sarsfield’s youth academy, Otamendi dazzled Diego Maradona, leading him to the 2010 World Cup aged only 22. But the experience was fortunate. The star improved as a winger in the quarter-final match against Germany and was responsible for the first goal when Thomas Müller anticipated it with a header.
Having already entered European football, he was not part of the World Runner-up squad at Brazil 2014. At the beginning of the following year, Otamendi established himself as one of Albiceleste’s starting defenders.
In his third World Cup, Otamendi made 97 appearances for Argentina and equaled the great defending world champion Oscar Ruggeri in 1986.
He was never expelled.
His only mole in Qatar was a short deflection which was picked up by Craig Goodwin and ended up on goal before Enzo Fernandez’s own goal.
“It hurts when they score against you. For a defender, not converting is like celebrating a hat-trick, more or less. But every accepted goal also serves as a learning. And that helps you not to relax”, reflected the current Benfica defender from Portugal.
Otamendi will be crucial for Argentina to stop Memphis Depay and Cody Gapko against the Netherlands on Friday in the quarter-finals.
“Beyond the fact that this is a good team, our mindset should be to be the hero and put in a good offensive and defensive performance. I think what is our specialty is always trying to play and that will help us in the next game.” Have to do it again”, Otamendi warned.