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Can Godoy Cruz make history?

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Tim Vickery | 16:07 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

Buenos Aires is calling to the faraway towns this week. In Argentina and all over South America, plenty of attention will be given to the modestly entitled 'superclassico' - the Buenos Aires derby between River Plate and Boca Juniors.

Both clubs grew up in the working class docklands area of the Argentine capital. River have long since fulfilled the immigrant dream and moved out to the leafy suburbs. Boca have defiantly stayed put. The strength of the rival identities helps give the game its flavour. Over the years, the game has acquired a weight of tradition that makes it important even when it isn't - like this Tuesday.

After a run of disappointing results, River have just sacked coach Angel Cappa, looking for a quick pick-me-up before the game. Boca could well part company with Claudio Borghi if they are beaten. But there is very little at stake.

The clubs are 11th and 13 respectively in the table. They are not going to win the title or qualify for the Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League. River are flirting with relegation (worked out on an average of points over three years) but they still have well more than 20 games to save themselves, including another 'superclassico.'

It doesn't receive anything like the same amount of interest but something more important for the future of Argentine football could be happening hundreds of miles from Buenos Aires, over to the west near the border with Chile in the city of Mendoza.

A club from that region called Godoy Cruz lost on Sunday to a last-minute goal. Even so, a strong finish to the season should ensure they qualify for next year's Libertadores - an achievement which could have great significance.

omar595.jpgCoach Omar Asad hopes to guide Godoy Cruz to Libertadores qualification. Photo: Getty Images

Argentina is a huge country but, like many of its neighbours, is highly centralised. A giant port dominates a feeble hinterland. Football shows the trend with great clarity. Of the 20 clubs in the first division, 14 are from greater Buenos Aires, with another two from nearby La Plata. The rest of the country hardly gets a look in. Rosario is the only other city with a major national and international footballing tradition.

The only times the title has eluded the clubs from Buenos Aires or La Plata, it has gone to either Rosario Central or Newell's Old Boys. If this was England, it would be like restricting the title to the London clubs and a couple from Birmingham, only Argentina is a much bigger place.

Colon of Santa Fe are a provincial club now established as mid-table regulars. Otherwise, the representatives of cities such as Cordoba, Tres Arroyos, Jujuy, Tucaman, Bahia Blanca and San Juan share the same experience. They are promoted, only at best to hang on for two or three years before suffering relegation. Often they go straight back down.

Unable to consolidate themselves, these clubs cannot build a following or invest in a structure that generates major players. And while Argentine football is so restricted to Buenos Aires, it is clearly operating short of potential.

That is what makes the Godoy Cruz story so interesting. They went through this yo-yo experience, making their first division debut in 2006/7, only to go straight back down. But after a year out, they were back and have been doing surprisingly well.

In the current campaign, they are top scorers. The leading light is 29-year-old playmaker David Ramirez, a player of such talent that it seems amazing he was not discovered earlier, while veteran Colombian striker Jairo Castillo seems to have shrugged off his wild child behaviour to play the most consistent football of his wayward career.

Central midfielder Nicolas Olmedo, given a brief Argentina appearance by Diego Maradona, is a local lad but the vast majority of the squad are not home grown. That might change. Producing their own players will become much easier if Godoy Cruz can keep their momentum going - and that makes a Libertadores campaign all the more important.

In the 51 years of South America's premier club competition, participation from Argentine clubs has been almost entirely restricted to Buenos Aires/La Plata and Rosario. Colon had a run to the quarter-finals in 1998 and lost in this year's qualifying round. Talleres of Cordoba fell in the group stage in 2002. And that is it.

Godoy Cruz, then, are within reach of making history for their region. Of course, qualification for the Libertadores brings its own pitfalls. Competing on both the domestic and international fronts would be a huge strain. Talleres were unable to handle it in 2002, a factor in their relegation two years later.

But for Godoy Cruz, the timing might be more fortunate. Last week, the draw was held for the Copa America, the tournament for the continent's international teams that Argentina is hosting next July. For most countries, the most interesting aspect of the tournament is that it offers a chance to warm up for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, which get under way soon afterwards.

Possibly the most important thing about the Copa is the need to invest in stadiums. Eight venues are being used, with Argentina making a concerted attempt to decentralise its football. Only the final is in Buenos Aires, while Rosario does not feature. Instead, the action goes to Santa Fe and Cordoba, to Salta and Jujuy, to San Juan and Mendoza.

Godoy Cruz are in the right place to take advantage of this moment, to ride the wave of decentralisation and establish themselves as a national force. Their match against, say, Colon of Santa Fe will never have all the hype and the tradition of the Buenos Aires 'superclassico'. But maybe one day it is where the Argentine title will be decided.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) As a half-Colombian living in Europe, I have been well aware of the striking talents of both Hugo Rodallega and Radamel Falcao Garcia. Yet every time I check the Colombian line-up they are never partnered together in attack, particularly in in the case of Rodallega, who, a lot of the time, is not selected at all. Has he fallen out with the coach or is it tactical? And if one of these is true, how can Colombia become a real force when they are overlooking such a versatile striker?
Stephen Tew

A) One or the other has often been unavailable of late. They played together in September in the 2-0 win over Venezuela, while Rodallega came on for Falcao Garcia a few days later in the 1-0 defeat to Mexico. Scoring goals remains a huge problem for Colombia - just one in the last three games.

Coach Hernan Dario Gomez has gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Giovanni Moreno operating behind the lone striker and Rodallega often featuring on the left. It hasn't quite worked for me. In this system, the lone striker has to be good with his back to goal and Falcao Garcia, a fine player, has struggled here. Neither of your men are in this week's more experimental squad to face Peru, so Jackson Martinez may well get a chance up front.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Great article Tim!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think youre reading too much into godoy cruz.
    They'll have a nice little run, if they're lucky it'll last a bit longer, then they'll return to relative obscurity such is the merry-go-round of argentine football.

    Aguante Chaca!

  • Comment number 3.

    2 - you're probably correct - but, for whatever reason, godoy cruz have got themselves into a position when they are closer to making the breakthrough than any provincial team has been for a while.

    they've held on to the merry go round while everyone else has spun off - can they keep holding on? and with the decentralisation aspect of the copa america, is this the right moment for such a team to make a breakthrough? What do you think?

  • Comment number 4.

    Second week running - Great article Tim! Very informative.

    ............see, I can give compliments!

    P.S. It's turning into a fun game seeing how long the phrase "The Copa Libertedores, South America's equivalent of the Champions League" takes to work it's way in each week. lol ;-)

    Good stuff Tim!

  • Comment number 5.

    Cracking read as always, Tim.

    I like the fact that the Argentina FA are starting to unlock an overlooked potential. Considering they've just become the leading exporter of footballers, you can only see this continuing if they successfully tap into rural resources. However, should a provincial team have a diamond of a player, is it a case of said player almost invariably getting snapped up by the more established Buenos Aires clubs? If so, this is definitely not going to work in the favour of Godoy Cruz, who will need to keep some of their better players to make the establishment stick, so to speak.

    On that point about Argentina producing more footballers, Tim, has this had any sort of effect on other SA countries on the whole? I'd be interested to see if countries like Bolivia and Paraguay have seen an increase in producing footballers for export.

  • Comment number 6.

    My favourite South American player this week is Dario Veron. ¡Dalé Pumas!

  • Comment number 7.

    What an excellent article! It's nice to see someone carrying the baton for serious and informative journalism.

    Picking up on the point about infrastructure. Has there been (has there ever been?!) any concerted effort by clubs and the Argentinian Football Association to really put into place a serious programme for stadium development.

    I presume this could not be achieved without significant help from regional and central government and further, wider financial participation. The existing stadia have their charm, but rather like the old Wembley Stadium, charm runs its course.

    As one of the great football nations it would be good to see Argentinian stadia at least partially reach the level of some of the football the nation has produced during the last thirty years.

    Does the answer lie in the statement? - "It's the economy stupid".

  • Comment number 8.

    "they've held on to the merry go round while everyone else has spun off - can they keep holding on? and with the decentralisation aspect of the copa america, is this the right moment for such a team to make a breakthrough? What do you think?"

    ----------------------

    The problem as i see it is that argentine football has become almost cyclical by nature and its now virtually impossible for any team to establish itself at any recognised level.
    No matter how well they do now, soon there will be the inevitable sale of players (with little of that cash actually coming in to the club), managerial changes and presidential elections.

    Playing the copa in mendoza at the same time as a good moment for the club is a boost but im not sure how much real benefit they will get, they already play at the huge municipal stadium.
    And if they play the libertadores (s.a.e.o.t.c.l), it will be of sporting significance but it doesnt provide the sort of huge financial windfall that the champions league does in europe.

    So they might do well for now but if they were back in the second division by 2013 that wouldnt surprise me either.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Tim:

    Just a bit of background to Argentinian centralization... as mentioned often in past posts, British (and others') economic influence during the gestation of the country, mainly the 19th century has a lot to do with the concentration of power in and around Buenos Aires and the role it plays as the port for a vast fertile, sometimes impoverished innerland.

    Indeed, the Brits brought development and capital, invested heavily in the meat industry and railway cosntruction (we also mentioned how many football and social clubs descend from British tradition, born in the shadow of railway yards) and ensured a steady supply of raw resources to the UK. Sadly, not only most of the money stayed in BA due to duties levied on exports (keeping the provinces poorer than they should be), but also the transportation infrastructure was developed radially, from everywhere to one single exit door, the port. In 2010, you cannot board a commercial flight from Mendoza to Tucuman. You have to fly to BA and then back up to Tucuman from there. We might have to see some funky connections to move around during Copa America next year...

    Unfortunately, the power that BA has over the rest of the country makes it impossible for relatively healthy provincial clubs to develop their own young talent. Every major club (and even midsize clubs like Velez or Lanus) in BA has youth academies, complete with housing, psychologists, nutritionists, country wide scouting and development coaches to make sure that any 10 year old showing promise in Catamarca or Jujuy is scouted, plucked and moved to the capital.

    That Godoy Cruz is doing well is great, considering the above... and is a testament to good club leadership and conservative, smart spending. Ramirez was recently considered the best 'enganche' (link up midfielder) in the country by Riquelme. How was he missed by the 'experts' in BA?

    There is another factor as well, which is the legacy of newer, yet underused stadia left by the WC 1978. Cordoba, Mar del Plata and Mendoza have relatively modern facilities, but they only host Nacional B or Torneo Argentino A matches. That has changed with Godoy Cruz doing so well. San Juan is adding a new stadium for the 2011 Copa America.


    At the same Several Primera A teams in the capital can barely fill the stands and represent only local neighbourhoods, while giants like the two Tucuman teams, Belgrano, Instituto and Talleres in Cordoba, and several others get the occasional sniff, no more. When considering the sheer number of fans, the improvement to local economies and the passion shown by bigger followings I much rather have these teams doing well than minnows like Huracan or Arsenal.

  • Comment number 10.

    Talking about merry-go-rounds... The seventh coach out of twenty Primera A teams has just been let go, after only 14 rounds.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim,

    Why arent Colombia a real foce? They have several huge urban centre in Medellin, Cali, Bogota, Barranquilla etc that bypasses the problem you mentioned with Argentina, are football mad, and in the 80s had huge investment (even though it was drug money) in their infrastructure. Plus they are in the most competitive football zone on earth! And they have a polulation second only to brazil.

    What the hell is going on?

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with most of what bosterososvigilante (which could be translated as "Boca, you're the police friend") says. When a team in Argentina is successful, they quickly sell their best players, but most of the money goes to the agents, or it "disappears" but does not actually go to the club itself. If you add the ridicously short timeframe coaches stay at their clubs, most of the clubs do not stability of any kind.
    Velez and more recently Estudiantes appear to be -imho- the exceptions to this rule.

  • Comment number 13.

    just to add something about the coaches, Borghi, Boca coach who is under pressure "No se si voy a dirigir en el superclasico" ("I don't know whether I will be the coach in the superclasico" he said last week, was the last coach to win the title, while at Argentinos Juniors. His record in Chile (sorry, don't remember in which club) was good as well. However, at Boca he is expected to challenge for the title from the start, regardless of how good/bad the team did in the previous season or how good/bad the players are. Same for Cappa in River, thus he was asked to leave. I would be very surprised if the new coach has a much better performance.

  • Comment number 14.

    Fascinating blog Tim, nice to hear about some 'unfamiliar' Argentinian clubs not from Buenos Aires or La Plata. Their success can only be healthy for the league as a whole.

    Similarily, very positive to read about the 'decentralisation' of Stadia to be used in next years' Copa. With all the politics and vested interest the more 'powerful clubs' seem to pocess all over the world - how was it possible for the AFA to get a consensus together to make this possible? Are Argentine officials more forward thinking than their Brazilian counterparts re: World Cup host venues or is that being a bit unfair?

  • Comment number 15.

    Great blog, go go Godoy!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I for one do not think that Godoy Cruz will go back down soon. As a matter of trivia knowledge, the team was coached in 2007 by Checho Batista, the current national team coach.

    The complete name is Club Deportivo Godoy Cruz Antonio Tomba. It was a merger between a sports club and the A. Tomba winemakers, and the first 'stadium' was built on winery corral lands.

    And the club holds another honour that not too many provincial teams can boast of: in their almost 90 years of history they were demoted only once: they went up in 2006, down in 2007 and back up in 2008.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, tengo una pregunta para usted....

    If the relegation is based on a three year cycle, how does a club go straight back down as they only have one of the three years worth of points.

    Good blog as always but don't fall into the McNulty trap of basing long term predictions on short term results.

  • Comment number 18.

    Tim,

    I spent a few months travelling in Peru and I am a little miffed as to why Peru are serial underachievers in South America. The country is huge, and football definetely seemed like the sport of choice. I saw them play recently and they lost to Panama.. even with undoubted quality like Pizzaro, Farfan and Juan Vargas they looked like they had never played together before. Do the Peruanos have any reason for optimism at this time? Or is World Cup qualification utterly impossible?

  • Comment number 19.

    Newly promoted teams 'average' over one year (actual net points won), second year teams average over two years and the rest over three

  • Comment number 20.

    Great article as always Tim.

    I have a question for you - Im sure you have followed the football in Brazil over the weekend.

    What is your take on the referee controversy in the Corinthians Vs Cruzeiro game? There have been a lot of accusations that Corinthians paid the referee, as he gave them a dubious penalty, while he didnt give a couple of penalties to Cruzeiro.

    I was also quite surprised by the accusations by the Cruzeiro coach, probably because here in the UK its forbidden to even say the referee had a bad game!

  • Comment number 21.

    17 - I'm not making any predictions! Merely outlining a possible scenario.

    20 - blaming the ref - massive in brazil, where people like to see everything as the result of a conspiracy.
    for what it's worth, i thought the ref wasn't far out on the big decisions in the corinthians-cruzeiro game - though in general i think he is too whistle happy.
    i didn't agree with the cruzeiro shout for a pen... keeper goes down, gets a bit of the ball, striker falls over him.
    The corinthians pen - right at the end - maybe not stonewall, but i think it was prbably fair enough. it's a cross in from deep, so it's not a dispute for the ball between ronaldo and the defender (gil), because gil is on the wrong side - jumps into ronaldo, back first. It's one for working on the training ground on defensive technique rather than caterwauling about the ref.
    The following day i was at the fluminense-goias game - flu are corinthians' big rivals for the title - in the stadium you're a long way from the pitch, and i haven't seen the incident again on tv, but flu got a draw with the aid of a late pen that i thought was very iffy.
    the theory of the moment, though, is that corinthians are getting an easy ride - as i say, brazilians love these theories. I have to say that i haven't seen clear evidence of this - one of the things that gives credibility to this view is the close relationship formed recently between corinthians and the brazilian fa - club president was head of the world cup delegation, after lots of politics the club's projected stadium will be sao paulo's venue for the 2014 world cup, and so on.
    but where was this scheme to help corinthians when they recently went 7 games without a win?

  • Comment number 22.

    18 - you caught peru in by far their worst performance under new coach sergio markarian - a class act, and under him i do think they have a chance of making it to 2014.

    Will have to do it without farfan, though - more disciplinary problems.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim just wrote what I was about to say. I agree that Peru now have a chance of reaching WC2014 with Markarian as coach.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nice article. The Express are my foreign team since they were the first team I had the pleasure of watching at home outside of the UK, never thought I'd see an article about them on the beeb. Unfortunately they lost that day to Estudiantes 1-2 but I've followed their fortunes ever since. Awfully placed stadium, Malvinas was a right hassle to get too and I can't imagine it helps the crowds much and I lthought the atmosphere got lost a bit with it just being a big bowlr oofless bowl.

    Anyway it really suprised me that teams from large cities such as Mendoza, Tucuman and Cordoba are not a regular force in the Argentine game, is it because all the players are drawn away to the bright lights of BA or they're unable to get decent players in, you'd have thought it would be more beneficial for the bigger clubs in these places to have youth structure in place due to the large pool of talent they'd be able to pick from whereas the BA clubs would cancel each other out.

  • Comment number 25.

    Great article Tim! South American football is so different to the crushing repetitiveness of European football.

    Is 3-5-2 making a comeback in SA Tim? Have many teams adopted the tedious habit of playing one up front and packing the middle as so many Europeans seem to do these days? Mourinho, I'm looking at you!

    http://www.inofftheghost.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 26.

    Remember Sao Caetano? Made the Libertadores final in 2002 and then disappeared.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's good to see Godoy Cruz up there. From what I've understood they've shown uncharacteristic planning by using some of the money from the Enzo Pérez sale to develop the club and it's training facilities which is paying dividends.

    http://realfootballargentina.blogspot.com/2010/11/superclasico-preview-two-super-clasicos.html

  • Comment number 28.

    As a sometimes critic credit where its due a terrific article.Godoy Cruz are a wonderful example being run on the Velez/Colon/Estudiantes model.They have been making steady progress and I think they can continue.Two things it appears that from 2010/11 Argentinas primera will return to a 38 game single championship with a Copa Argentina being introduced giveing the winners a Libertdaores spot.
    One of the reasons for the continued dominance of Buenos Aires is the incredible Barrio rivalries in the major cities.Godoy Cruz are Mendozas only Primera A Club but would hardly be as popular as Independiente Rivadavia(nacional B)or maybe even Gimnasia Mendoza or San Martin
    Its the same in Cordoba similar in size to Rosario but with four "big" clubs Talleres,Belgrano,Instituto and Racing.
    As for Argentina now being the Worlds biggest exporter of talent its also notable with the economic growth the numbers returning

  • Comment number 29.

    One of the best blogs on the BBC, always gives you something interesting.
    Thanks.

  • Comment number 30.

    Although personally I much prefer the long tournament style (all teams facing each other home and away, like the EPL) the short tournaments have something very important going for them. They make it a fairer playing field, as it were.

    Smaller teams (like Godoy Cruz) have a much better chance of doing well in a short tournament as opposed to a long tournament where injuries or a drop in performance start creeping in, giving the "bigger" teams with more depth in their squads a clear advantage over the limited resources of smaller clubs.

    Btw, quite impressed Tim, second non-Brazilian related article in a row, well done!

  • Comment number 31.

    Great article, Tim, and spotted The Clash reference in the opening line.

    I thought Godoy Cruz might go into decline when they sold Higuain (the Real Madrid striker's brother)at the end of last season - he seemed to getting a lot of their goals, but they're holding thier own near the top of the league again.

    Perhaps maintaining the same manager for more than the standard few months in Argentina, has contributed to their current good showing.

  • Comment number 32.

    31 - delighted that the clash line wasn't wasted!

    And also delighted to recommend your book - "Animals!, the story of England v Argentina" by Neil Clack - excellent research, especially on the early clashes, and lots of humour as well. Those interested in this column will surely love it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Available fromm Amazon. Makes an ideal Chrismas Present!

  • Comment number 34.

    Blade Runner, it is somewhat true that thinner squads can do better in short tournaments, but please do consider the incredible amount of hysteria that short schedules bring.

    Any team, big or small has pressure to do well within three matches of the start. This Clausura, after 14 matches 7 coaches have gone home and there will be more (tomorrow?), next Sunday and maybe more the following week. No long or even midterm planning is possible, there is no player development (look at Cappa throwing green kids into the fire...), relatively low value of leagues won... who remembers the 2009 Clausura champion? Or the 2008 Apertura champion? Why are the two tournaments called Clausura (Closing) and Apertura (Opening) when the former is played first? I hate this system.

    Take the case of Lanus' Zubeldia. Lanus plays decent football and has stayed competitive, winning more points than any other team over the last two years, and all of this even though they sold some of their top players like Sand and Salvio. They have interesting players like Goltz and Blanco and their record today is 5W 3T 6L!!! Their 3 year demotion average has them sitting third from the top!!!... way ahead of all 5 'big' clubs and only behind the two flagship clubs in Buenos Aires: Estudiantes and Velez Sarsfield. Zubeldia's sin was to lose 4 in a row. This means that 4 weeks ago they were 5W 3T and 2L!!! Who took them there??? They lost two bad games, vs Olimpo and Colon (although Colon is a very good team) and then lost to the top two teams in Argentina, again Estudiantes and Velez.

    Lanus would be by all accounts a small team with a mix of budget players and home grown players. Irrespective, the short tournament format did not help their coach either.

    And look at the standings of the 19 match schedule: Racing 7th, San Lorenzo 11th, River Plate 12th, Boca 15th and Independiente 18th. So much for the deeper teams...

  • Comment number 35.

    Jairo Castillo is one of my all time favoirite players. his hat-trick against Boca Juniors for Godoy Cruz was a brilliant defining moment for the club.

    http://southamerican-futbol.blogspot.com/2010/10/classic-encounters-godoy-cruz-4-1-boca.html

    He is getting on a bit now, doesn't usually play whole games, i saw him a few weeks ago when the manager used his last substitute and replaced another player meaning that Castillo would have to play out the whole 90 minutes, the look of dismay when he realised he'd have to stay on for the rest of the game was something to behold.

  • Comment number 36.

    @34 "...relatively low value of leagues won... who remembers the 2009 Clausura champion? Or the 2008 Apertura champion?..."

    Indeed, having 2 champions per year greatly devalues the competition. And lo and behold if a club wins two years in a row, they'd be adding four little stars to their shirts instead of just two.

    Interestingly, according to wiki, the last time Boca won a title was back in 2009 while River's was in 2008, so it hasn't been really that long ago, although it seems like an eternity because of the sheer number of tournaments they've had since then.

    I guess the problem for the "bigger" clubs is to keep their teams together, considering that as soon as a player of some quality comes up, he'll be snapped up by the europeans/mexicans.

    This lack of mid/long term development, as you mention, impacts on teams to the point where they're only capable of winning "half" tournaments. The last club to win both Apertura/Clausura in the same year was Boca back in 2005/6 and before that, River in 2000.

    The end result is lower quality tournaments not only in Argentina but in most, if not all, of South America, unfortunately.

  • Comment number 37.

    Its really dull when people try advertising their own blogs in the comments....

  • Comment number 38.

    I went to Godoy Cruz vs. River 3 or 4 weeks ago, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. The best atmosphere I've ever seen at a football match. And if that Ramirez is the bald guy, he's a hell of a player.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D11KJMrjhOQ&feature=player_embedded#!

  • Comment number 39.

    Personally I think the averge points system is largely to blame.

    The clubs in situ benefit from having that system as it can easily mask a poor season, somethign that is necessary when you consider potential player turnover in the league. However those promoted do not have that benefit and are often relegated despite records that are better than 5 or 6 others that season.

    Perhaps allowing a promoted club at least a years grace to aclimatise would be a fairer system.

  • Comment number 40.

    #32, 33: I was at Wembley for the infamous quarter-final in 1966 when the crowd chanted "Animals! Animals!" at the seriously brutal Argentinians. Ironically, the first (?only) sending off was of the Argentinian skipper, Rattan (? - it's a long time ago!), who did not seem a dirty player, he wasn't responsible for any of the tackles which incited the crowd, and overall seems to have been a good and fair player whose foul tackle happened to be the last straw for the ref.

  • Comment number 41.

    36 - "Indeed, having 2 champions per year greatly devalues the competition."

    I don't think so. Imagine if it was a year long season, club X are top of the league and playing brilliant football then the January transfer window comes along they lose 3/4/5 of their key players to the Europeans 9as is the way) then they suffer a slump in form. Team X get no trophy despite the fact that they were easily the best team and the team that chugged along inconspicuously for the first half of the season in 6th place or so take advantage of the teams above them losing most of their best players to steal the title with a good run of form. Just because River Plate & Boca Juniors haven't won it for a few years doesn't mean the competition is devalued. Imagine how much fun it would be if the Premier League champions could be any one of about ten teams instead of the one of the same 3 teams we have had to endure since 1995.

    39 - "Perhaps allowing a promoted club at least a years grace to aclimatise would be a fairer system."

    No, why would the league benefit from having dross like Quilmes hang around for 2 years instead of 1?

  • Comment number 42.

    Tim - you might want to correct the spelling of "superclassico" in the first & 4th paragraphs. the correct spelling is Superclásico.

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi Tim,

    Very intersting article, it would be nice to see a team from outside of Buenos Aires/Rosario qualify for the copa lib,
    Regarding the semi's of the copa sudamericana, who do you think looks the strongest team left/as an Independiente fan, I would love to see the "king of cups" win it, but Id have to say I was very dissapinted with there performance in the quarters, if they can get a draw in Quito I fancy them to progress to the final, defintley the biggest club left in the competition not sure if its the best team though.

  • Comment number 44.

    ... and it is Tucumán, not Tucaman.

    And how did Tres Arroyos, with a bit more than 45,000 people make it into the list of 'representative' provincial cities? They do have a pretty decent team though (2004/2005 in Primera) but hardly a city of magnitude to be mentioned.

    Incidentally, when talking about BA-centered football it is interesting to note that the UAR (national rugby association) did tackle the issue of imbalance between provinces and capital about ten years ago and have managed to do so very successfully. Pumas, Jaguars and junior rugby teams now count many players from Salta, Tucuman, Mendoza, Rosario. International test matches are often played far from BA and just recently the clubs elected for the first time ever a president that is not from BA.

    The same thing is happening with professional field hockey, volleyball and basketball, and the potential of urban centres in the provinces is very attractive to sponsors and helpful to sports development.

  • Comment number 45.

    Do Ushuaia have a professional football club ? If so what division are they in ?

    I bet the teams from the warmer north of Argentina don't like going down there to play matches !

  • Comment number 46.

    One of my favourite Argentinian clubs is ferrocarril Oeste (Juan Eduardo Esnaider played for them before moving to R Madrid ).
    To Tim/marcelao/Bladerunner.. how are they doing these days ? Any chance of a return to the top flight soon ?
    I also have a soft spot for Rosario Central (always liked the kit..nice colours ! )

  • Comment number 47.

    45 - there aren't any professional clubs in Ushuaia though they do have a couple of teams who enter the Torneo del Interior which is the bottom rung of the national football structure.
    The only professional team down that way is CAI from Comodoro Rivadavia who play in the 2nd division.

  • Comment number 48.

    47# cheers !

  • Comment number 49.

    Tim - really enjoy the blogs. Very informative. Makes a change from the other journalists who seem to write a blog every other week on 'Pele or Maradona: Who was the greatest?'.

    Very interested to read that relegation is decided over three years. How does this exactly work? Seems very novel?

  • Comment number 50.

    There are more teams farther south than the unusually named CAI (Comision de Actividades Infantiles) of Comodoro Rivadavia. There is also a Huracan of the same city

    In the Argentino A and the Argentino B there are teams from Rio Gallegos, Puerto Madryn and Bariloche. Beware, the farther south you go wind becomes a factor.

    Ferrocarril Oeste or 'Ferro' as everybody calls them is sitting 13th in the 20 team Nacional B, effectively the second division of Argentina. They haven't been what they used to be, a model club like Velez or Estudiantes, although they maintain their status as a strong social club with other sports aside from football. They have been mired in financial distress since the late 90's and have not competed for promotion for a while. Nice little club though, there I saw Argentinos-River in 1979, my first time ever to see Diego single handedly destroy the Millonarios. They used to be a force in basketball and volleyball.

  • Comment number 51.

    42 and 44 - spelling mistakes entirely my fault - thanks for the corrections

  • Comment number 52.

    38 - ramirez is not the bald guy, but you can't have missed him. in that 2-2 draw you saw he scored the first godoy cruz goal and made the second.

    hope you stayed to the end - in injury time first carranza put a great chance wide for godoy cruz, and then funes mori lashed in a superb shot for river - only for it to be controversially ruled out for hands.

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi Pekster11 #45/48

    At the risk of promoting my own blog (!!!???) I wrote something about a year ago on the football scene in Ushuaia - it may or may not be of interest (or indeed accurate!):

    http://realfootballargentina.blogspot.com/2009/09/for-love-of-football.html

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Tim,

    Do you think Denilson and Lucas will ever turn from 'good' players to 'world class' players?

    Have they missed the boat or do you see them finally fully adapting to the physical demands of the PL?

  • Comment number 55.

    53# thanks ! good blog, enjoyed reading it !

  • Comment number 56.

    39 - "Perhaps allowing a promoted club at least a years grace to aclimatise would be a fairer system."

    No, why would the league benefit from having dross like Quilmes hang around for 2 years instead of 1?
    -----------
    With the kguarentee of having at least 2 seasons to prove themselves maybe clubs entering the division would have better prospects of recruiting players and sponsors and would thus not be serving up such dross?

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim, excellent article about football in the provinces of Argentina, but about Godoy Cruz we are making history. Thanks. Aguante el Tomba! "

  • Comment number 58.

    ... and poor Rosario Central! How can a team with such following, huge stadium and long history be struggling to make it back to top 4 in Second division?

    Btw, Madryn and Bariloche are not really south of Comodoro Rivadavia, but they are considered Patagonian teams. Rio Gallegos is indeed at the bottom end of the South American continent, with only Ushuaia below them.

  • Comment number 59.

    which is the bigger and better supported of the 2 Rosario giants , Newell's or Central ?

  • Comment number 60.

    Hi Tim,

    This River Plate vs Boca Juniors game is huge. One of the best derbies in the world. Has it ever been televised in the UK? I would love to watch it on TV like Sky, but cant understand how Sky cant/wont show it.

  • Comment number 61.

    Off to see Ronaldino tomorrow night in Doha.Can't wait as no such thing as an Argentina vs Brazil "friendly". Ironic as it will be the same day as my beloved 143yr old Sheffield Wednesday will go into administration -but that's another story.

    Anyway Tim, you know the teams and players - who will win? History says Brazil but my view is Mr Messi and co....

  • Comment number 62.

    Pekster, Rosario is Central!

  • Comment number 63.

    "If this was England, it would be like restricting the title to the London clubs and a couple from Birmingham"

    How many clubs outside of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have ever won the premier league?
    1 team, once and even they are only 20 miles from Manchester my friend.

  • Comment number 64.

    franko82... you just need an internet connection and a computer...

    go to: http://myp2p.eu/broadcast.php?matchid=94819&part=sports

    FOOTBALL OF THE END OF THE WORLD

    For all of those that are interested in Patagonian football, AFA's Torneo del Interior features teams from all over (78 different geographic groupings or zones!) with winners moving onto playoffs. In zones 70 to 78 you can find all the southern teams, surely all amateur rosters.

    Poetic names like Petrolero Argentino, Sporting Ferrocarril, Deportivo Patagones, Nahuel Niyeo, Estrella Austral and quite possibly the most original of names... Los Cuervos del Fin del Mundo from Ushuaia (associated with BA giants San Lorenzo) are just a few of the teams that we will never see in Primera, yet what incredible vocation, eh!

    Places like Trelew, Esquel, Neuquen, Viedma, Rio Grande, Rio Colorado, Caleta Olivia are for the most part windswept outposts, some of them even sporting permafrost, and with very long, harsh winters where the organized playing of football is a bit of a miracle.

  • Comment number 65.

    63 - brain full of gas, perhaps?
    there was life before the premier league - lots of it and for a very long time.
    i'm using as a reference the start of the professional era in argentina at the beginning of the 30s - and you seek to compare with english football from 1992. absurd.
    think of all the clubs who won the title before then - or even forest twice crowned champions of europe.
    but even inside your historically blind reference point, think of the number of english cities represented in the champions league - not just london and manchester, but the likes of liverpool, newcastle and leeds as well.
    if you know your history.....

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim:

    Great game! and yes the bald guy was Carranza who came in as a substitute. In the goal he missed it was easier to actually put it in than to miss the net.

    One hundred percent of the press, fans and players agreed that Funes Mori's goal was legal, which was a crime since his chest control at high speed was a thing of beauty.

    On the other hand the awful referee did not give a clear penalty to Godoy Cruz 5 minutes before the Funes Mori 'handball.'

    I have never seen such a low standard of refereeing in a league, consistently weak almost every game, every ref.

  • Comment number 67.

    English football for decades was artificially de-centralised by the combination of 2 factors - no freedom of contract, and the maximum wage.

    so someone as great as tom finney - all the contemporary accounts of knowledgeable football people stress how good he was - would play his entire career for preston north end - unthinkable from today's perspective, but preston 'owned' him, wouldn't let him go to italy and he couldn't earn any more playing for man united, so he stayed.

  • Comment number 68.

    The referees are generally very good I think in Argentina. Hector Baldassi is one of the best in the world, he's in charge of the River - Boca clash, watch him later.

    My favourite Argentine side are Banfield, and they seem to have gone off the rails after their title season. Such a shame they couldn't buy Santiago Silva off Velez, class act he is. Of course, they also lost James Rodriguez.

    Ramirez is class, but he was the only player to come out and say that matches shouldn't have been postponed because of the death of the former Argentine President. Thought that was a bit crude myself.

  • Comment number 69.

    marcelao...i'm aware of how to watch pretty much any top game of football but just think that this type of game should be shown on TV over here. Do you know if it is live on TV in Spain?

    Its difficult to follow south american football and normally only look out for the results on live score or by reading Tim's blog, can anyone direct me to some good websites covering south american football? english language of course :) many thanks,

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 69. English Language is tough, Bet365 is your best bet (no pun intended) they show Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the Copa Sudamericana.

  • Comment number 71.

    Ohhhhhhhhh vamo RIVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR PLEI el mas grande
    wonderful what an atmosphere marvellous how we needed this.River has the best young players in the World all we needed is alittle peace this gives us a big start

  • Comment number 72.

    JAJAJA te vas para la boca con el culo roto!!!

    What a disgrace to football boca are. riquelme robbing his cash every week, palermo should have retired....

  • Comment number 73.

    But of course, I agree. Palermo is the biggest lie in the land of mediocrity... only in Argentina he could steal his pay the way he does. Boca plays worse and worse and the Doce still do not boo them. The play is kick it up to Palermo... and he stands still getting eaten alive by the full backs... man, what horrible football! The worse part is he keeps younger players relegated while at 38 he can barely move. Boselli is gone, Viatri waits and Araujo is next. And Boca has been doing this since two years ago!!! Now they play Clemente Rodriguez, who is finished as first division player. Play the reserves before we fall into the Promocion!!! River Plate... here we come to rock bottom...





  • Comment number 74.

    @69-franko try this forum for English language discussion of South American futbol,

    http://z8.invisionfree.com/Soccer_Futbol_Forum/index.php?

    It is a message board discussing futbol around the world but the sections on South American futbol are I think very informative and along with this blog contain some of the best English language discussions of South American futbol available on the internet.

    Somebody else asked about which club is more popular in Rosario, Newell's or Central. They are roughly even although polls have shown a very slight edge favoring Central. But I am Newells to my core. I actually miss playing the clasico rosarino against Central. I like to see the canallas suffer at our hands! LOL

    Thanks Tim for bringing publicity to Godoy Cruz, they are a pretty well run club and they and Colon look like the teams not from greater BA or Rosario best capable of one day becoming champions. But not this season, 5 games remain and there is a good race between Estudiantes and Velez. Arsenal have an outside shot too as they are 5 points back of the leaders.

  • Comment number 75.

    #6 isn't Dario Veron actually Paraguayan?

  • Comment number 76.

    Apologies #6 I thought you wrote your favourite Argentinian player not South American.

  • Comment number 77.

    Great scenes from the Monumental yesterday! Pereyra looks a good player.

    It finished River 1 - 0 Boca, if anyone wants to know - early goal in the second half for river.

  • Comment number 78.

    @73

    I have to agree with what you say Marceloa but i don't think Borghi stood a chance with the Boca job. If you look back at his Argentinos team, their forward line had great movement, look at Calderon at 39 who showed tremendous desire, up front. Borghi was stuck with Palermo who offers nothing in that regard.
    I don't think anyone will want to touch that job until Palermo retires, it would take great courage for any coach to drop him, such is his standing amongst the fans and club. You remember back to the last Championship when he was substituted against who i don't remember and he caused a big scene. "We are losing 2-0 and you substitute me!"
    Boca need stability but they won't get it, too many influences on the park that undermine the performance and standing of the coach.

  • Comment number 79.

    I read in Marca that the superclasico last night was quite a poor match in terms of quality...
    Good win for River though, they need every point to boost their relegation average !

  • Comment number 80.

    hard to believe Palermo is still the striker at Boca ! He had no mobility 10 years ago !!!
    Can't imagine what he plays like now as he approaches 40 !

  • Comment number 81.

    And that is 8 coaches gone after 14 matches...

    Palermo could do well in the Nacional B at 38 years old, slow and stiff as a tree. I just hope it is not with Boca.

    What a regression to play the high ball to the old gladiator... while the rest of the world moves on.

  • Comment number 82.

    Watts:

    It was against Chacarita, the worse team in the Apertura 2010... Boca lost that game 4-1 at the Duco.

  • Comment number 83.

    Good article Tim. Especially interesting in seeing that Jairo Castillo is featuring for Godoy. I know there are a multitude of factors but do you think he could have been capable of carving out a career where he'd be featuring in the european competitions had he not thrown away his talent?

    I honestly think he was the most gifted attacker colombia have produced in the last decade. In light of his age is he now playing as a classic 10 or more of an out and out striker?

    Cheers

  • Comment number 84.

    Thanks Marcelao

    I do remember they got a sound thrashing that day!
    I have a soft spot for Boca but have no sympathy for them at all. I feel sorry for Borghi, a genuinely decent man. I lived in Buenos Aires for 9 months last year in La Paternal, and followed the fortunes of Argentinos, it was great to see them secure the title at Huracan on the last day.
    When he took the job at Boca i thought he would have problems imposing his will, looks as if its all over for him now.

  • Comment number 85.

    I meant the WORST team...

    It is a circus. Boca is in the hands of not too bright a board right now. I anticipate that they will continue to flounder until Riquelme and Palermo leave. To add to this, the geniuses in command brought fringe players like Mendez and Gimenez who did well in their original teams but have been unremarkable, they recycled Clemente who is burned out, an average Insaurralde and hard fighting but mediocre midfielder like Medel. They also brought Monzon back who is mentally unstable, Cellay who cannot handle the ball... way too many hackers in my opinion and they have not meshed, they look unhappy on the field and they are technically poor.

    As you say, no reasonable coach would want to deal with the Roman-Martin show, so I expect a low budget coach and/or an in-house replacement like Pompei.

    Riquelme has ruined his share of clubhouses: first Barcelona, then Villarreal and now Boca. But only in Boca the player is allowed to get bigger than the club.

  • Comment number 86.

    Hahahha its a bit rich to hear Bosteros talking about a lack of quality after spending 100 years kicking lumps out of the beautiful players.now they cant even do that.Another Boca tecnico dies in the Monu.In spite of everything even in our worst moment we have more than the bosta

  • Comment number 87.

    Thank you Moreno for bringing the level of discourse in this blog to your usual pimpled adolescent dung standard.

    Talking about beautiful, is River going back to Edmonton this preseason or are you getting invited to play Milan, Bayern Munich and Manchester United?

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    great blog, very interesting, great depth. keep up the good work

  • Comment number 90.

  • Comment number 91.

    Just to guide you all to tonight's action in Mexico. The Liguilla starts, America travel to San Luis, whereas Pumas host Cruz Azul.

    The action starts at 1am.

  • Comment number 92.

    46. Pekster11, here's an article in English on Ferro's troubles: http://www.argentinafootballworld.com/features/43-ferro-carril-oeste-the-downbound-train.html

    It's a shame to see such a well-supported club teetering on the brink of oblivion.

  • Comment number 93.

    Just watched Chile 2-0 Uruguay in Bielsa's last game in charge of Chile. The game was totally dominated by Chile from beginning to end and got some considerable help from the Uruguayan goalkeeper in both goals.

    Chile: displayed characteristic Bielsa style, entertaining, attacking and dominating, but just like at the World Cup a bit too light up front. This time though, they had the Uruguayan goalie to help them score.

    Uruguay: Played little and kicked a lot, it was a bit like the Uruguay of old (pre WC 2010) Surely they could get a better goalkeeper than Muslera. He cost them the 3rd place in the World Cup with an abysmal display against Germany and was responsible for both of Chile's goals in today's friendly. Forlan?, he didn't do much at all and ended up substituted.

    Will be interesting to see these two teams when they face each other at the Copa America next year. Unfortunately for Chile, Bielsa is gone so it remains to be seen if the new coach will get the best out of the squad.

    Hopefully Uruguay will combat their natural tendency to playing negative football and take advantage of the talent they have available to them and get a decent goalkeeper for a change, anybody with a couple of arms will probably do right now.

  • Comment number 94.

    Muslera cost Uruguay third place??? Isn't that forgetting that he was outstanding before then?!?!?!

  • Comment number 95.

    @Gauchito Gil (comment 92):
    thanks for the link, Ferro is my favorite Argentinian team.

    Slightly off-topic, since this is about Godoy Cruz and Argentinian clubs and not the Argentinian NT, but awesome goal by Messi yesterday. I was watching the match and when Messi recieved the ball back and started to run, I got the feeling the possible outcomes were: a nasty foul (unlikely since it was a friendly after all), a great save by the goalie or a Messi goal, which in the end was what happened.

  • Comment number 96.

    Pablo: there was a nasty tackle attempted by Lucas yet Messi's run continued after a stutter. I think there is something that nobody mentions about Messi: he is not a diver, even though defenders are often 1.5 times his height and weight and often charge against him from all directions.

    The other thing that is fantastic about Messi is that his brain is superquick when resolving a finish: I would say that 90% of his goals are intentionally and accurately placed. His goal seems bigger than for other attackers, and he can finish with his right foot too. Has someone calculated the goal scoring per minute played by this guy? He must be over 1.0 per 90 minutes played... amazing!

    A big difference with Diego was that Maradona dived often, especially if there was a possibility of being outmuscled or nudged out of possession. Referees were a bit more lenient with rough play in the 80's though.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    marcelao: agree about the non-diving issue, apart from that goal he scored with his hand for Barcelona a couple of years ago, I can't remember Messi cheating.

  • Comment number 99.

    Tim, great write-up;
    just wanted to follow up on your Q&A about Rodallega/Falcao for Colombia.
    I'm a die-hard Colombia supporter and have also been wondering/questioning some of Bolillo's tactics. Seeing how Falcao thrives at FC Porto, how come Colombia can't set up a similar system where falcao can thrive off of a stronger supporting cast?
    it seems that colombia has been best when the following players are on the pitch, but it has yet to be at the same time:
    Cuadrado, Gio Moreno, Dayro Moreno, Falcao and Rodallega.
    I would love to see Carlos Sanchez as the lone holding midfielder with Cuadrado, Gio Moreno and Dayro Moreno as the three attacking mids with Falcao and Rodallega up front. And if Colombia wants to go more defensive, they can replace Gio Moreno with Abel Aguilar, Restrepo, or Jhon Viafara
    http://bleacherreport.com/users/156261-chris-forero

  • Comment number 100.

    @98 "apart from that goal he scored with his hand for Barcelona a couple of years ago, I can't remember Messi cheating"

    Apart from the goal he scored with his hand against England 24 years ago or the handball on the line against Russia 20 years ago, I can't remember Maradona cheating either.

    Is that because Messi seems to be a nice guy and Maradona wasn't?

    As far as football is concerned, good to see Messi starting to perform for Argentina, about time. That should make Batista's job a lot easier. Although we'll have to wait until next year to see if he can perform in the real stage of actual competition.

 

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