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Godoy Cruz: The dark horses of Argentine football 




This time last year Godoy Cruz were lingering in the middle of the league table, a team that was consistently inconsistent.   


However, in April of last year, lifelong Godoy Cruz fan and veteran of the club Daniel Oldrá took charge.  


From then on, there has been a drastic change in fortune for the club, as the Mendocino side finished 5th in the annual table and even reached the semi-finals of the Copa de la Liga last year. 


Albert Hilton explains how excellent scouting and brilliant management have been the recipe for success in Argentina’s wine capital. 



Oldrá’s Godoy Cruz influence


When asking any Godoy Cruz fan who their footballing hero is, Daniel Oldrá’s name is sure to come up in conversation. A boyhood fan and academy product of the Tomba, he has been in and around the club playing, coaching, or managing for the last 25 years. 


Whilst playing a key role in the academy setup at Godoy Cruz since the early 2000s, he has also been a caretaker manager various times, even getting his beloved club promoted from the second division in 2008. Ultimately, he has always preferred to give up the job for someone else. 


This time it’s different. 


He has been encouraged to keep the job indefinitely after taking over from Diego Flores last year, forming his own management team out of club legends such as Nicolás Olmedo, Nelson Martín Ibáñez, and Marcelo Marcucci, all people who know what it means to play for Godoy Cruz.  


Since taking the reins this time around, the only way has been up for the whole team in Mendoza.


The players have bought into the counter attacking style of play, scoring goals for fun, but most importantly they are playing free flowing football.  


One question remains: how far can Oldrá take this group of players? 


 

Polishing rough diamonds


Another huge factor which has helped Godoy Cruz become one of the best teams in Argentina right now is down to their scouting.  


They've shifted away from old practices and are focusing on players who may have been out of favour at their clubs or who haven’t had a real chance to take a crack at the first division.


Godoy Cruz's scouting team are recognising signings which have potential and are allowing them to reignite their respective careers. 


Since the start of 2023 they have made four key signings.

Hernán López Muñoz, a mercurial midfielder, was signed on loan from River Plate in January 2023, before his deal was made permanent a year later for less than £1 million.  


The second key signing, Tomás Conechny, arrived from Argentinian second division side Almagro for an undisclosed fee in January 2023, and has since gone on to be an indispensable player. Their main outlet hasn't struggled in front of goal.



Thirdly, the central midfield powerhouse Nicolás Fernández was signed originally on loan from Uruguayan second tier side, CA Atenas, but his move was also made permanent at the start of this year after impressing with his performances in the middle of the park


Last but not least, goalkeeper Franco Petroli was signed from River Plate at the start of 2024 for a fee of just less than £200K and hasn't conceded in seven league matches (and counting). Another bargain buy who has turned out to be an instant success.

 

Team camaraderie key to success


Godoy Cruz couldn’t have asked for a better start to their 2024 campaign, as they sit top of their Copa de la Liga group, four points clear of 2nd place, zero goals conceded, and unbeaten with six wins and draw. 


Oldrá has preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation for most games this season but when injury and fatigue has affected his team selection, he hasn’t been afraid to change into a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. 


Godoy Cruz have been able to find a real footballing identity this year as the team seem to be fighting for each other, whilst their fluid counter attacking style of football has been highly effective.  


The focus of Godoy Cruz’s play is based on getting the ball from defence to attack as quick as possible.

With the most clearances in the Argentine league this season, an average possession of just 45.7% and the third most shots on target per game, it’s safe to say they don’t waste any time in getting the ball forward.  


There's also been a huge contrast in the accuracy of short and long passes per game, as Godoy Cruz have registered the 2nd least amount of accurate short passes per 90 in the league, compared to the 4th most accurate long passes.


Quick, direct football has proven to be effective. The concern will be whether this model is sustainable over the course of a season, but time will tell.  


Medals in Mendoza? 


It's too early in the season to say whether Godoy Cruz can win a trophy this year.


However, with a young, hungry group of players and a manager who has the fans believing, it is certainly a possibility.


Although their domestic performances have been much improved, a 1-0 defeat at home to Colo Colo in the Copa Libertadores qualifiers will have them worried.


A trip to Chile in the early hours of Friday morning will be a huge test of character for the players and coaching staff, but if any team can defy the odds right now, you'd be sure to back Godoy Cruz.

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