Ally MacLeod left Scotland for the World Cup matches here as a minor folk hero, rich in the possession of a newly acquired pub and a bouyant reputation. There is now every fear he will return a figure of fun, a target of embittered abuse.
Quite simply, when Scotland played its first soccer match in Cordoba against Peru, Ally Macleod blew it.
For the past few days the man who, after a mere year's experience as an international soccer coach blithely announced that Scotland had nothing to fear, had no bothered even to watch his adversaries. Trouble was, he still didn't seem to know enough or, when confronted with the harsh facts of what was happening in Scotland's 3-1 loss to Peru Saturdays, was not alert enough to make changes in personnel and tactics.
A few weeks ago, one of the best Argentinian soccer journalists visited MacLeod's Scottish training camp, near Glasgow, and asked for an interview. MacLeod responded that he had nothing to say to an Argetinian journalist.
I imagine he would have even less to say now. How could be conceivably leave as clever and cunning a player as Teofilo Cubillas virtually unmarked? Why did he take so long to bring fresh players into his waning midfield.
Scottish fans, as they flew back to Buenos Aires from Cordoba, were mortified, though they could scarcely blame MacLeod for Don Masson's inept missing of a penalty kick when Scotland was still hanging in by the fingernails, the score 1-1.
There was more dismay for the Scottish fans yesterday when Argentina's government news agency reported that Willie Johnston failed a dope test after the team's defeat.
Quoting "high sources within FIFA," the international soccer federation, the agency said traces of the drug Fencamfamin were found in the player'surine test. He will be retested today.
There were no Cup matches yesterday or today.
Having set up the first goal and brilliantly scored the last two for Peru, Teofilo Cubillas deserves to take a bow. Certainly he has the last laugh on all who were calling him too plump and too old. As he wryly pointed out before the tournament, he's still only 29.
Great players make their own rules, and I think Cubillas can claim to be among them. In 1970, in Mexico, he was a marvelous striker, a forward of dazzling speed and ball control.
Lesser players would keep on trying to do what they could do when they were younger. Not Cubillas.
He has dropped back into midfield where he does what he still superbly can - beat opponents with ease, pass beautifully, short or long, and hit shots of paralyzing power. You can bet that when the Dutch play Peru in Mendoza on Wednesday, they won't give Cubillas the freedom of the park.
It wouldn't surprise me to see him marked by 22-year old Jan Poortvliet, whom the Dutch coach, Ernest Happel, is said to be saving for such duties. He didn't play against Iran.
Te Argentinians have paid an American public relations firm vast sums to burnish their bleak image. They might have done better to spend the money more directly on better press relations. Much has been chaos. Hotels have profiteered shamelessly, often doubling their price.
An astute young West German noted that when Argentinian reporters interview the foreign press, as they endlessly do, their pens stop when any criticism is made.
When Argentina played Hungary in the River Plate Stadium, the huge scoreboard flashed "goal" when Argentina scored but not when the Hungarians did.
"Is there something wrong with the electronics? the West German slyly asked some Argentinians.
The West Germans, I understand, have been thinking hard about their poor opening performance, but still won't go back to using two wingers when they meet feeble Mexico at Cordoba on Tuesday. Instead, right winger Rudi Abramczyk is likely to give way to Karl-Heinz Rumennigge, who can play on either flank, with center-forward Dieter Mueller joining Klaus Fischer in the middle of the attack. The curious thing is that the Germans should be trying these experiments in the actual course of a World Cup, a sure sign of the anxieties of theirmuch maligned, amiable coach, Helmut Schoen.