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Maradona singing in the rain

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Tim Vickery | 08:45 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

As the heavens opened in Buenos Aires it took Diego Maradona a few seconds to go from King Lear to Gene Kelly, from howling in the storm trapped in tragedy to singing, dancing and sliding in the rain in celebration.

Peru's equaliser in the last minute of normal-time was swiftly followed by Argentina's last-gasp winner. In all the drama and the emotion, one question should not be overlooked - how on earth could Argentina get themselves in such a mess against opponents whose away record in the campaign going into the game was so appalling? (eight games, all lost, two goals scored and 24 conceded).

After his injury-time winner, lumbering centre-forward Martin Palermo goes home as the hero. But he was also the villain - or more so, Maradona was, for introducing Palermo at half-time. It was yet another panic change at the interval where Maradona tore apart the structure of his side.

Martin Palermo Martin Palermo celebrates his dramatic last-gasp winner for Argentina

It was goalless after 45 minutes, but the ball had hardly been out of Peru's half. Argentina had created chances though, to be fair to Maradona, and had at times suffered from a lack of presence in the opposing penalty area.

If the second half was going to be exactly the same, then Maradona could have felt justified in his decision to take off Perez on the right of midfield and bring on Palermo.

But a game of football is a process, its pattern liable to change. Soon after the restart Higuain put the hosts in front - and Peru realised they now outnumbered Argentina five to three in midfield.

And their most dangerous player, Juan Manuel Vargas on the left of midfield, was now free. It was a different game, one which Argentina were no longer tactically or psychologically equipped to play.

While it was goalless and they were dominant, Argentina had looked over-anxious, trying to walk the ball into the net. But after taking the lead and then finding themselves under pressure they had a collective attack of nerves.

As the storm erupted around him, Maradona had to work out how to correct the mistake he had made, responding to the growing Peruvian threat by withdrawing Higuain and sending on De Michelis as an emergency right-back - weakening his attack without, as it proved, doing much to shore up the defence.

It is always easier in hindsight, but surely Maradona would have done better to have sent the same side out for the second half. Part of the team's nerves can be attributed to personnel - the back line does not look at all solid. But part is coming from the coach and his endless changes.

diegomaradona595335ap.jpg Diego Maradona shows his relief at the victory after the game

Half-time in Buenos Aires was a moment when they needed to be calmed and reassured, told to keep passing and keep playing. A change at the interval - especially one which left them so light in midfield - inevitably set the panic bells ringing.

But they stay alive to panic once more - and there surely will be plenty of nervous moments away to Uruguay on Wednesday night.

It is a re-run of the first World Cup final, Uruguay against Argentina in Montevideo's Centenario stadium - with the difference that at stake this time is not the trophy, but South America's last remaining automatic qualifying slot for next year in South Africa.

And if extra spice were needed, it's a game where both teams have the tools to hurt the other.

As they showed in fine style on Saturday, coming from behind to win away to Ecuador, Uruguay are a dangerous attacking force. Forlan and Suarez are a high-class duo, with options off the bench of the rangy Cavani and big Abreu for the aerial assault. No other side has scored as many goals at home as Uruguay. They will ask plenty of questions of the Argentine defence.

But with Uruguay pushing up looking to win, Argentina might be able to grab control of midfield. I would expect a return after suspension of Juan Sebastian Veron, who, if selected, faces one of the most important games of his long international career. If he can control possession he will not only be shielding his defence, but also providing the platform for Messi and Higuain.

A draw is good enough for Argentina - unless Ecuador win away to Chile by a five goal margin. But if Argentina lose, and Ecuador win by any score, then Maradona and his men will even miss out on the chance of a play-off.

Wednesday's forecast for Montevideo is for only light rain, so there is little chance of Maradona repeating his Gene Kelly celebrations if Argentina come through intact. But the Centenario stadium does have a huge tower, so maybe he'll go in for a parachute jump.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) There was an interesting interview with Stephen Ireland in one of the tabs, in which he stated that international football would become an anachronism, and top players would start to retire young from the "chore" of the international scene. I personally agree with him, and think the World Cup as we know it will be gone in 20-30 years (or sooner). It will probably be replaced by a genuine "World Club Cup" or "World Super League", (Corinthians v Arsenal, L'pool v Boca juniors, etc...).

What is the view in S. America? Is there appetite for a "global league"? Surely it's in their interests, financially, to break the European stranglehold on the game? The top clubs there could easily compete against English, Spanish or Italian opposition. Are South Americans generally more loyal to their club or country?
M W Goble

A) Over here it's true that diehard supporters are often not so into the national team. But for the rest of the population, even for many who are not normally football fans, the shirt of the national team is the most potent symbol of Brazil, Uruguay or Argentina.

I've seen the difference here between Brazil winning the World Cup and Corinthians winning the World Club title. The latter was football. The former is an event that transcends sport entirely and becomes a statement about a nation - for this reason international football will continue to have the power to reach more people on a deeper basis than the club game.

If Stephen Ireland had the chance to represent a nation of over 190 million all desperate to win the World Cup I doubt very much that he'd see it as a chore. He would probably view it as the highlight of his career.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Argentina really could miss out. I've been to the Montevideo stadium to see Uruguay's qualifier against Australia four years ago. Uruguay won 1-0 that day and I think I'm right in saying their record at home is unbelievable. I think Brazil only won there for the first time in history this year.

    I personally would hate to have a world cup without Argentina and Messi.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for the interesting blog Tim.

    I have been very impressed with Chile so far, how do you think they will fare in SA 2010?


  • Comment number 3.

    If Stephen Ireland had the chance to represent his own country maybe he would say differently..!!

  • Comment number 4.

    It's so clear that tactically Argentina are well below par - it's not really Maradona's strong point. Who does he have in to advise him tactically?

    If the result of the match was important so was the inclusion of Higuian. The goal was typical of Higuian and now he's secured for the future rather than be tempted by France.

    Quick question - are the Argentines put off by Higuian at all due to the fact he was born in France?

  • Comment number 5.

    Bielsa will not take a dive vs Ecuador. He is still Argentine by heart. Chile will play well at home and I can not see Ecuador doing much vs their attack. Ecuador dug themselves into a hole at Quito and now they will pay for it. They could of at least been a lock for a play-off now they have to hope for a win and a win for Uruguay. Poster 1, I would not go as far as saying URUGUAY have a AMAZING record at home in these qualifiers. Drew vs Chile,Venz,Ecuador, they beat Bolivia,Peru,Paraguay, and got crushed by Brasil. If you think the pressure is on for Argentina, Uruguay has just as much pressure. Playing at home, a win will send them straight to the WC. If Argentina shot themselves in the foot they left 6 a total of 6 points at home vs teams they should of beat. Now will Argentina go and play for a tie, I hope they do not go and defend the entire game. That will be disasters. Suarez and Forlan vs Heinze and co.... Argentina will play a 4-4-2, Messi and Higuain will be the duo up front. Quite similar to Forlan and Suarez. Whoever scores first then that will be the winner. Higuain is something Argentina really needed and his size and skill will put pressure on defenders. Aimar will need to create, maybe leave off Enzo Perez and add another DMF. We will all be watching this game with a lot of nerves.

  • Comment number 6.

    U13844141- Not at all, some did not like it when he turned down to play for the U-20's because he wanted to have a vacation. Some say he played the France card, that he would of joined France if Argentina did not call him, again not true. Both his parents are Argentine and he left France when he was a baby. His brother Federico is another player in Argentina. So nobody really cares that he was born in France. The River supporters really adore him, the women love him and he is a very humble guy. Scoring in his old stadium I am sure brought back a lot of memories. His launching point was vs Boca when he scored 2 goals vs them. Pasarella said he was going to be a star in the future and he sure is. Personally I was very nervous waiting for his call up, Diego and Higuain ran into each other at the airport a few months back. I think Real were coming back from a US trip. Maradona told him, "You scored a couple goals" Higuain quietly nodded and said yes. If I am not mistaken, this was Argentina going to a friendly or something. Can not fully recall where the national team was going.

  • Comment number 7.

    Watched the Arg v Peru match live at the weekend.
    The second half was crazy !!
    Even after Palermo scored in injury time, the drama didnt finish !
    Peru hit the crossbar from the centre circle from the re-start !

    Agree Maradona'a tactical change at half time was shocking ! They lost complete control of the match.
    Plus point for Argentina was Higuain.. Admittedly he missed a few chances in the first half, but his movement off the ball, verticalidad, and physical presence made for a better balanced forward line.

    In Montevideo anything can happen.. Uruguay are under alot of pressure themselves to qualify.. Alot will also depend on how an already qualified Chile play against Ecuador.

    My prediction:
    Uru v Arg......draw
    Chile v Ecu....draw

    Arg qualify automatically
    Uru to beat Costa Rica/Honduras in playoff

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm an Irishman with Uruguayan connections and as Ireland now play soccer akin to a Saturday morning under16 team I've adopted Uruguay for the World Cup and have throughly enjoyed following their progress in the WC qualifying group. Their inconsistancy I'm reliably informed is a feature of their play but their pride in the sky-blue jersey is equal to any in the world. After watching Argentina's shambolic attempt to qualify these last few matches and Uruguay's stirring victories since their humbling by Peru I look forward to Wednesday's encounter with confidence. Argentina have some great number 10s but have lacked a number 9 (altough Higuain may resolve that) and real width. In my opinion they have ended up crowding out Messi with their slow, centralised build up play. Furthermore they have no number 1, no full backs and dodgy cerntre halves. They come up against a team with 70,000 fans behind them that are willing to die for their team (I wouldn't be surprised if the violence that will accompany this match ends in a fatality). As mentioned previously Forlan and Suarez are a match for any international strike partnership, in midfield uruguay contain creativity in the likes of Rodriguez and power in Perez. At the back they have made errors but are still a better unit than Argentina and on the bench they have impressive players such as Eguren and Cavani. I can't wait for Wednesday night, it'll 2 hours of though, skillful football, what seperates top class international for club competitions!

    On the previous topic of Stephen Ireland i couldn't resist putting in my 2cents. He said recently he won't play for Ireland because they have "insulted" him. Fine, if thats his opinion I don't want him but anyway, as with Andy Reid, he wouldn't get a game, Trap doesn't want footballers like him, he wants lads happy to see the ball fly over their head as the defenders hoof another long one to Doyle, Foley, Best or Keane.

  • Comment number 9.

    What rubbish written by M W Goble in his question. Since when is Stephen Ireland the gospel of football? He couldn't possible have any sour grapes that he will probably miss out on the chance of his lifetime if Ireland qualify for the World Cup, could he?

    As Tim says, 190 million Brazilians worship their national team. Next summer an estimated 40,000 English people will travel half way round the world to South Africa. Billions will watch the World Cup on television. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent on improving South African Stadiums and infrastructure in time for next summer. Does this sound like the World Cup is something that is dying out or becoming less popular?

    To say it is out dated is equally absurd. If anything the World Cup has yet to reach its full potential. Emerging football nations like Japan, the United States and numerous African countries joining the established European and South American nations mean that it'll be more competitive than ever in 20 years, not gone altogether as Mr Goble predicts.

    Players will not retire early either. This would have happened already if it was going to. Only idiots like Jamie Carragher have quit the 'chore' whilst in his prime and frankly he's hardly a major loss to England or International Football generally. Even if we assume for a second that some players do find international football a chore, they get paid (indirectly) millions of pounds for doing it. Would Rooney, for instance, have half the endorsements and sponsorship he has if he didn't play for England? I doubt it. I certainly wouldn't mind a chore like that!

  • Comment number 10.

    Argentina will probably qualify in spite of Maradona, not because of his contribution.

    On the Irish angle: The original concept of "Team Ireland" has been lost on little Stephen. Although the vast majority Irish fans (& squad) don't want him back, it is clear that Trappatoni will do all he can to rehabilitate him in the squad - hence Andy Reid's continuing omission.

  • Comment number 11.

    Re M W Goble:

    I'm sorry but to believe that the world cup will be gone in 20-30 years is crazy talk. It is the biggest sporting event in the world which is watched by a millions and generates billions in revenue. Yes there may be a global club competion in the future where we can all be bored watching Barca/Man U/Chelsea etc winning every year, but international football is here to stay because victory cannot be bought.

    Plus Stephen Ireland is a petulant little child who has no concept in the pride that comes with playing for your country. So his thoughts on the matter carry little if any weight.

  • Comment number 12.

    The big story in Spanish sports papers today is that Maradona and Messi don't get on and hardly talk to each other. The main reason seems to be Maradona's disappointment with Messi's form while Messi's supporters claim that the teams tactics are chaotic at best or non existent at worst.
    It is a surprise, though, that a player considered by many to be the best in the world puts in such dire performances with his national side.

    Could it be that Maradona really isn't very clever and that the whole situation is above his head? Another Kevin Keegan moment with the rejoinder that KK at least had the dignity to admit it? Too many years of being told that he walks on water by his accompanying sincophants have led him to believe he's a miracle worker, perhaps. Time to get somebody in who knows what he's doing.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Tim,

    Just wondering, if Argentina don't qualify will it end any players international careers? Surely some players would carry a stigma with them, whether accurate or not.

    Insua and Higuain both made debuts. You would think Higuain would be picked by a new coach in the future (if/when that happens), but what about Insua? I think he has a lot of promise, but how is his selection seen in Argentina? Justified or an eccentricity?

  • Comment number 14.

    To play international football has to be the pinnacle of any footballer's career. I would personally rather play in one World Cup Finals tournament than a dozen Champions League finals. To me that's what it should be all about, representing your country - it's almost the only thing that's pure in football any more. The polar opposite to the money chasing, no class chavs of the domestic game. The fact that some players don't like international football, probably because of how little money is involved, speaks volumes about the players themselves and not the game.

    Keegan was a great manager who had led three teams to instant promotions and made all three immediately competitive in the Premier League. He had earned his chance and didn't shirk when it was offered, unlike some. Alas it wasn't to be for him, and he admitted as much when he walked - at least his teams played great attacking football though.

    Higuain is a great talent, quick and powerful he is exactly what Argentina need to complement their myriad wee strikers. Surely their talent will shine through and they will qualify, though Uruguay do look strong as well. Perhaps Diego should look at the Spanish approach and try and mimic it? Few changes and a patient approach based on ball retention.

  • Comment number 15.

    If Stephen Ireland had the chance to represent a nation of over 190 million all desperate to win the World Cup I doubt very much that he'd see it as a chore. He would probably view it as the highlight of his career.

    Who knows? He's crazy!

  • Comment number 16.

    Argentina don't have a great team, nor a great manager. They have some great individuals in the offence but the defence is just weak. Uruguay is a team and at home i think they will beat Argentina without problems. I hope Ecuador lose to Chili and Argentina qualify through the playoffs.

  • Comment number 17.

    Great Blog - I watched the game on Saturday and couldnt believe the ending and Maradona being saved from the gallows! I guess we shouldnt be surprised at the rollercoaster ride Maradona will take his country on.

    But if they do qualify - it will calm the country down and maybe Maradona too as he can then plan for 23 players to take to South Africa. In a strange way it could resemble Scolari and Brazil when they won it in 2002 - when i remember he was getting slated as Brazil barely made it through qualifying and then ended up winning it.

    I was amazed to see Aimar back in the side, but im puzzled at Messi just being stuck out on the wing having no effect on the game at all. What must Tevez be thinking sitting on the bench?

  • Comment number 18.

    hey man, give pamelro some credit he was there to stick it in the onion bag, lets all be happy that he did that. personally, world cup needs argentina and not paragway. but u gotta earn your stripes brother, and maradona is not what this is now. he not a manager, not the gaffer. he is slidiing like klinsnmann cos he is relived, not because they have just done something incredible. as far as i can see peru are in the relegation zone, and they should be beating them as comfortable. palemro ius a player i admire, he missed the 02 WC because a wall fell on his leg man, and to come back shows guts,. to miss 3 penatlies in 1 game is aas bad is it comes, but he is still there, still about and wanting to win. a good striker. i like

  • Comment number 19.

    Why is a country with such a rich heritage of tactical and technical prowess happy to have Tubby D in charge? I know he's a hero, but its the equivalent of Newcastle hiring Gazza (wouldn't put it past them).

  • Comment number 20.

    Maradona managing Argentina is like Gazza managing Newcastle. When you make more idiotic decisions than the Newcastle board you know it's beyond repair.

  • Comment number 21.

    I've said all along that Aregentina will qualify - the only reason it was ever even a story that they may not was because Maradona is in charge.... and people wanted to discuss the Maradona factor - rather than simply say "it is usual, this often happens in the CONMEBOL region".

    I've said all along that even if they finish outside the top 4 they will play off against a country that (with the greatest amount of respect) is about as good as a 2nd Division Football League side from the CONCACAF region.

    Qualification from the South America qualifiers - whilst on paper to people who don't know about the region, looks easy - never see's Brazil and Argentina win every game they play - and quite often they don't qualify as 1st and 2nd place... which is the often mis-guided views on it....- e.g Brazil qualified in 3rd place for the 2002 world cup which they won... finishing behind Ecuador - and then only level on points with the 4th placed side Paraquay)... also in 1994 Argentina finished behind Columbia in qualification and only made the finals by beaing Australia 2-1 on aggregate... yet many think that Brazil and Argentina simply rock up to every world cup having won every qualification game 5-0...

    Good luck to Maradona, good luck to Argentina - hopefully Messi and Co will light up the world cup (and lose 5-4 to England in the best final ever!)

  • Comment number 22.

    Argentina are in serious danger of not qualifying for the WC in South Africa, this has to be seen as not only a travesty for the country and Maradona but for the world of football also. There will be something very wrong about watching a World Cup with no Argentina taking part, let alone the prospect of arguably the greatest footballer on Earth not being able to kick a ball in anger on South African turf.

    So who should get the blame? Maradona? The team as a whole? Individuals such as Messi? For me the real culprits can be found sitting in the Argentinian FA's headquarters. The decision makers, the pen pushers the men and women behind the scenes that seem determined to make Argentina miss out.

    Whilst bitter rivals Brazil have found the winning technique again under the guidance of no-nonsense Dunga, the Argentian FA decided that they too should follow Brazil and Barcelona's example by appointing a former fan favourite, someone synonymous with Argentian football. The man they chose was a certain Mr Diego Maradona.

    Maradona was un-rivalled by his contemporaries as a player, on the pitch there was no-one capable of even hoping to emulate his ability. Off the pitch however there has always been a huge question mark hanging over him. Many younger fans will have heard of this mercurial player from the older generations, yet only ever seen him on the news as the bloated, washed up, drug fueled mess of a man he was but 10 years ago. His lifestyle descended into chaos after he hung up his boots and he seemed hell bent on following the like of Gascoigne and Best as the poster boys for government drug and drink awareness campaigns.

    So, flash forward ten years and a gastric band to sort out his weight problem (rather than turning his life around through exercise and self control) this ill-discipined, un-professional former genius player is charged with steering his beleaguered squad towards qualification for the World Cup.

    With little or no managerial or coaching experience to draw upon Maradona would be forced to trust his instincts (because that has always worked for him hasn't it?). He has tried for all his might, some would say too hard hence the obscure changes during matches (the latest being on the weekend) and bizarre squad selection inconsistencies, to get Argentina to play the football we all remember and love about the sides from days gone by.

    The pressure this guy is under cannot be adequately summed up by words alone. He is fighting to sustain not only his place amongst the footballing elite but also to preserve the dignity of such a proud footballing nation and the rich history they have in international competitions.

    For me the blame for any failure on the national side's part to qualify for South Africa ultimately falls on the coach in charge. But surely the FA will have to take a large amount of the expected flak for entrusting the hopes of a nation to a man incapable of running his own life smoothly and without controversy?

    Dunga and Guardiola, with both being defensive midfielders by trade, are tactically astute. They appreciate the fact that a team with no backbone, no base to the side from which to build will ultimately fall apart, regardless of the quality of the "match winners" in the side. For every Messi or Kaka in their relative sides there is a Yaya Toure or a Gilberto Silva ready to do what is necessary at the back.

    A team is more than a few world class individuals imposing their own game on opposition. A team needs stability, direction and most importantly discipline. I would suggest that perhaps these are the areas that Maradona is most ill-equipped to impose as a manager and ultimately why his dream of lifting the World Cup once more but as the coach of his great country will never come to pass.

  • Comment number 23.

    Dunga isn't a tactician, he's the Wimbledon managed from the 90's. He's got Brazil playing route one, boring and annoying. Not comparible to what Pep is doing, really.

  • Comment number 24.

    In response to the question from MW Goble.

    Stephen Ireland is an idiot of the highest order. He is a disgrace to international football and also to human beings in general (who else claims family members are dead without it actually being true?) - he is a liar who when found out to be a liar... well lied again... and then lied again...and again (read about him on Wiki for my justification).

    If Stephen Ireland says international football is dead then i for one say it's a good reason to keep it going... Maybe Ireland would like to tell Kaka, Messi, C Ronaldo, etc that their international achievements are meaningless and a chore.... they would never feel that way

    Ireland will (hopefully) end his career without winning anything and look at his view that international football is a chore as something he regrets... ask the Jack Charlton era of Irish players about their best memories in the game and all will no doubt say the world cups!...

    top class idiot

  • Comment number 25.

    Argentina will lose on Wednesday, their fate is really in Chile's hands - how motivated will they be ?

    As for Palermo's goal .. did anyone notice that it was offside ???

    There was one defender in front of him, but not the goalkeeper when the cross shot was made - this was totally over-looked .. but typical Maradona devine intervention you could say. Watch it again, you will see Palermo was clearly offside when the ball was struck across.

  • Comment number 26.


    You said "Next summer an estimated 40,000 English people will travel half way round the world to South Africa." Since when was South Africa half way round the World?!

  • Comment number 27.

    I read recently that Kempes was openly questioning the absence of communication between Maradona and his team, in effect the players don't have a clue what's going on, what their role is etc - throw in some major tactical changes during a game, add a revolving door to the national side when players are capped, dropped, recalled after 10 years, given their first caps in their 30's etc and confusion rules.

  • Comment number 28.

    Maradona is bad, only marginally better than Bielsa and Pekerman.

    Three years on I can't get over, well, Zidane's headbutt for one, but also how Argentina threw away the World Cup in Germany.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Tim,

    Just wondering what your opinions are on the continued absence of players like Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti, and more importantly (in terms of the length of his absence), Esteban Cambiasso?

  • Comment number 30.

    What's that coming over the hill?Is it Nemanja? It is Nemanja!!, you say that it's because Dunga and Guardiola were defensive lynchpins that they have the tactical nous that Maradona doesn't have. However, I don't think that their former playing positions has anything to do with it.

    Kenny Dalglish was an excellent tactical manager, yet like Maradona he was a player with real verve and creativity. Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson, probably the two most successful of British managers, were both out-and-out strikers in their playing days. The list goes on...

    Tactical intelligence is not limited to your playing position; knowing when to play that clever pass, when to nutmeg an opposing player or how to strike the ball are important attributes that creative players need. Heck, Jose Mourinho didn't even play the game professionally and he's one of the most astute managers of the modern era!

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm from Australia - a country that until last world cup was mocked by the rest of the footballing world. When we reached the WC finals a large number of Aussies got on board and followed the matches. Admittedly we had Gus Hiddink as coach - the best in the business - but we played well and were robbed by a great Italian dive. Good effort Aussies.

    Now this world cup qualifying everyone in the country it seems is following the sport. The World Cup isn't just a footballing competition its so much more than that. Its a pure form of football, where money, transfers, contracts and oil tycoons mean nothing.

    My point is that football (the world cup) brings nations together on a world scale. Cahill, Kewell and Emerton are now household names in Australia, not because they play for big clubs but because they play for Australia. Furthermore it builds bridges between nations - USA v IRAN in the WC etc. The World Cup will never die.

    P.S. Ireland is a mindless fool who isn't even good enough to represent a country that got spanked by Australia 3 - 0!

  • Comment number 32.

    Anyone who pays the amount of money that Steven Ireland paid for that Bentley doesn't deserve to have an opinion on International Football. I only hope that Clarkson gets him on Top Gear just so he can tell him what rubbish car taste he has live on TV.

    Back to Argentina, the fact remains that Maradona should ONLY of been part of the set-up, if at all in a motivational sense. Tactically the man hasn't got a clue. His idea of 4-4-2 is 4 Pints, 4 Currys, and 1 Lady of the night!!

    They badly miss Juan Roman Riquelme also, he is a master of keeping hold of the ball and ensuring possession stays with them, I don't know the full ins and outs of why he retired once Maradona got involved, maybe he could see this crisis coming....... his best attribute was always his vision.

  • Comment number 33.

    Stephen Ireland is a disgrace! If I was Brian Cowen, I'd rescind his passport! Everyone that ever plays football dreams of playing for their country and of winning a world cup. We hoped he'd come back and play. We still do but every regular guy on the street is losing patience with!

    If he has a bad season at city, finds himself out in the reserves the following city or playing for a relegation favorite, let's see how quick he is to slam playing for his country

  • Comment number 34.

    Tactically the man hasn't got a clue. His idea of 4-4-2 is 4 Pints, 4 Currys, and 1 Lady of the night!!

    Make that 2 Ladies!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Considering the number of class forwards available to Argentina, I find it bizarre that the long-proven journeyman Palermo was on the pitch at all. Where is Kun? Lisandro?
    Maradona is one of the very worst managers around, alongside Tony Adams.

  • Comment number 36.

    #35: Lisandro is injured, Aguero I have no idea.

    And what Ireland is saying is non-sense. Both on more affective and competitive levels as well as in the commercial one, international football is essential to any footballer and the game as a whole.

    In the future, this line will be put in the "visionaries" category alongside "geniuses" like the former FOX studios chairmen saying "TV won't last; people will get tired of being sitted looking at a wooden box"

    Oh, and Tim, sorry, but Corinthians didn't win a World Club title for real. That was just a FIFA summer tournament they had to threaten clubs to play.

  • Comment number 37.

    Stephen Ireland a few years prior to the arrival of Trappatoni was down to his girlfriend having a miscarriage. At the time he ended up lying about what had actually happened, which is probably why he feels unable to play for Ireland anymore.

    I think anyone who's girlfriend has a miscarriage at the age of 21 is likely to mess things up in someways, and Mr Vickery I do think this is to about playing for a country of 190 million or not. We all make mistakes in our youth, and sometimes being to amend them is not as easy as it may seem.

    Stephen Ireland's point of players retiring at a young age could be partly explained by players such as Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer, who both had distinguished international careers but both retired around 30 to extend their club careers.

    Anyone who is dismissing Stephen Ireland's claim that players are retiring at a youngish age (well let us consider 30 to be a youngish age) is quite simply ill formed of their opinion. The two players mentioned in the last paragraph are examples of players who have done such a thing, and I am sure there are others. I personally am not of the belief that players will retire if they have the option of playing in a major tournament. However, players who play for teams who are unlikely to qualify for a major tournament may be more likely to quit international football, Ryan Giggs being a honourable mention.

    Finally, something which I would like to mention is the performance of Lio Messi in this World Cup qualification. I have watched 6 out of the last 8 Argentina World Cup qualifiers, and even taking account of the tactical changes of the team and selection woes, Messi's performance has still been greatly under par. Has anyone noticed how little his contribution has been? I believe his poor international form compromises his credibility as World Player of the Year. And I do not believe that is a stake bestowed upon Cristiano Ronaldo, but I believe the true claim to is the wonderfully majestic and undersung Andres Iniesta.

    One last point! Adriano is looking quite fat isn't he? Why is it that Brazilian strikers seem to lose their figures more so than other nationalities. Adriano, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho, who are also affectionately referred to as Fatdriano, Fataldo and Fataldinho. Can't think of any other nation who have as tubby strikers.

  • Comment number 38.

    Have to say, i think everyone is being to critical of the decision to bring on Palermo, when he came on it helped Higuain get the space in behind to score the first goal because it forced the 2 central defenders to mark up, rather than 1 mark the other cover, and if you watched the programme, Ossie and Trevor Francis actually say, at home needing a victory, they should go 2 up top, and most coaches around the world like a big man/little man combination up top. But i do think with Peru havin 1 up top, he should have went 3 at the back and put the extra man into midfield from there rather than sub a striker that just scored when you've just grab the iniative of the game they should have went looking for number 2, but i guess thats the pressure of failure creeping in and trying to protect what they had. Unfortunetly for El Diego and Argentina, i think heartbreak is on the way as i don't see them getting the results they need on wednesday and i think they will be staying at home, and we do need Messi and co at the world cup, just like English fans and journalists where saying you need Gerrard an such at the last Euro's.

  • Comment number 39.

    Stephen Ireland is a selfish little prat. OK, so he made a mistake, why doesn't he man up and at least seek to bridge the gap? No, instead he gives petulant interviews to trashy newspapers, blaming everything but his own bad attitude. He's not kicked a ball in the qualifiers either, so hasn't really earnt the right to be considered.

    I hope Ireland (the team) make it so that the country, which is feeling the fiscal pinch at the mo too, has something to look forward to, and Stephen sees for himself what it means. Like Tim pointed out with the south amercican nations, to be an emblem for your country is a special thing. Especially when there's not much else going...

    The world cups in 90 & 94, were amazing. Not really for the football we played, but the collective will, and enjoyment of being a part of one of the worlds great events.

  • Comment number 40.

    Comment 31 - RedstarGunner

    Couldn't have put it better myself, best comment I've read on here for a long time. International football is such a great equaliser because, unlike just about everything else in football right now, natutral talent cannot be bought.

    I hope that Stephen Ireland realises what he is missing next summer if (hopefully when) Rep of Ireland are out in South Africa and he is driving around Manchester in his flash car.

  • Comment number 41.

    Stephen Ireland's point of players retiring at a young age could be partly explained by players such as Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer, who both had distinguished international careers but both retired around 30 to extend their club careers.

    Scholes quit the national side because he is a central midfielder and Sven was playing him out on the left!

  • Comment number 42.

    In your response to the Steven Ireland question you mention that he might change his mind if he was representing 'a nation of 190 million desperate to win the World Cup'. Why should this be any different to a nation of 4 million desperate to win a World Cup, in fact arguably more desperate given we haven't even come close yet. I'm sure your comment wasn't aimed at Irish football fans who are, believe me, as fanatical as any around and have been voted best supporters at the few tournaments the team has actually qualified for. But, I don't accept this as justification. They guy is an idiot. If he doesn't want to play for the national side fine, but he shouldn't claim he has some remarkable insight into the future of footbal (or film for that matter, Saw the greatest film trilogy of all time...,international football tournaments will be around as long a national pride exists. The World Cup final is still the pinnacle of the game, and although it's unlikely Ireland would feature in such a game, nothing in football is impossible, let's not forget we've just drawn twice with the World champions in competitive fixtures.

  • Comment number 43.

    For a blog on Argentina there is an awful lot of comments about ireland! Anyway, moving on.
    It was great to see Higuain finally get selected for Argentina and for him to score a deserved goal, sadly Maradona is as clueless as ever and i doubt Higuain will start against Uruguay!
    According to El Diego it was Saint Palermo who delivered, all praise has gone on the Boca forward, who prior to the goal offered all the movement of a Giant Redwood tree! Back in Argentina the praise is equally mind boggling, all hail Martin Palermo is the message. Palermo should not be near Argentina of 2009, nor should 3 of the 4 who made up the shoddy defence on Saturday night. Jonas is not a great left winger let alone a decent makeshift right back & Schiavi was so lost he made Heinze look composed!
    Argentina with the continued poor team selection (expect the same defence and Palermo & Veron to replace Aimar & Higuain) and the random tactics that are synonymous with Maradona, they will be lucky to concede a low scoring defeat on Wednesday let alone a draw or win.

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree that Palermo is way past his prime, and shouldn't be anywhere near the Arg squad.. after that goal, however, I think there is no chance Maradona will ever drop him as long as he is the Arg coach !
    Having read Ole Clarin, it seems the Arg press are bestowing hero status on Palermo too !
    Schiavi.. never heard of him until recently.He's about 36 isnt he ?
    Has he ever played in Europe ?? I dont think he has. Not surprising, what big european club would want him !

  • Comment number 45.

    Palermo stars for Boca, Maradona's team. Wonder if that's significant?

  • Comment number 46.

    I watched the game and I couldn't believe the played in that rain. The cameras could hardly see the players never mind the ball near the end of the match and I wondered how much the elements played a hand in the match?
    I also noted your point,
    "If Stephen Ireland had the chance to represent a nation of over 190 million all desperate to win the World Cup I doubt very much that he'd see it as a chore. He would probably view it as the highlight of his career."
    I can gaurantee that although we only have around 4 million and although soccer is the 3rd sport after the two gaelic games, of football and hurling, Irish people in general are desperate to qualify. I think young Mr Ireland is an anachronism of the modern day footballer. A young lad with too much money and too little foresight and very sensitive possibly bodering on clinical issues...Frankly he talks out of the wrong oriface. Shame because he is extremely talented.

  • Comment number 47.

    and btw, plenty of teams would have taken Palermo in his prime. He's a big, powerful player with a good shot. Not very quick at all now though as he's got older.

    However, he never wanted to leave Boca, he is a massive, massive star for them and loved the adulation there too much to leave.

  • Comment number 48.

    #44- He played on minor clubs in Spain. I remember him playing in Brazil for Grêmio in 2007, but he was let go at the end of the year for being rubbish.

  • Comment number 49.

    Stephen Ireland represents alot of what's wrong with football these days. Couldn't be bothered playing for his country, and that's all it is at this stage, while swanning around Manchester in Chav Mobiles while comparing his own situation to that of others that have retired from International football! Scoles and Shearer retired after serving their country while making an informed decision on how to prolong their careers at an age previously considered over the hill. Ireland got a bit of abuse over wearing a wig from his team mates and this is his reaction. He's early 20's and should be showcasing his talent against World Champions in front of 82,000 fans in Croke Park. Full of excuses for being a prat. Great player....hope he has a terrible season at City. He's a disgrace.

  • Comment number 50.

    Steveat... Keegan was never a good manager.. he has always had a lot of money to spend on these 3 teams he has had promoted... people are also saying he admitted his shortcomings and walked away... others would say bottled it..

    apologies for the off topic bit but I dont like how this guy still gets plaudits for ditching clubs like he has.. he has just taken 2mil off Newcastle and he apparently 'loves' them...

    Funny how Maradonna makes strange tactical decisions but when they have won we are told in hushed whispers that 'you dont really think it's him picking the team do you'.... Hope they manage it.

  • Comment number 51.

    A world club league is out of the question. Why'd any manager or player want to fly all over the world week-in and week-out?

  • Comment number 52.

    #48... yes, i see on wikipedia he played for the alicante club Hercules ( a 2nd division outfit !). He obviously impressed the big 1st division Spanish clubs then ! (not)

    I'd say that was his level tbh.... a 2nd division player

  • Comment number 53.

    The game between Argentina and Peru was crazy. Higuain had his first cap when he should have had a few by now (although being a Real Madrid fan I admit I can be biased), Palermo should have not been caled, Heinze should not be in the radar of the team, let alone having more caps, Aimar has seen the best of his football pass him by long ago... I think I overheard Maradona has called up to 80 different players in his time for the national side, which is hardly believable. That national side is chaotic; no wonder Messi cannot shine.

    The problem, from the distance, is Maradona's God-like treatment (an official releigion was created after him some years back) but then again, how would we treat Fernando orres or David Villa if single-handed (and this is not a pun on *that* goal) win the Wolrd Cup for us? I wuld like to think with a lot moe meassure.

    So, I insist, from the distance it seems Maradona can do no wrong. Yet he is doing; you could be cruel and say that except while playing footbal, everything else he has done has gone wrong or horribly wrong (his private life is a prime example of how not to behave). Regardless of the improvements of Chile and Paraguay, the strike power of Uruguay or the talent of Colombia, the qualifying rounds in South America is a two-horse race and Maradona can get his team 6th.

    After watching the Argentina-Peru, I am not certain thy will get what they need at the Centenario. Argentina were the better side, but lacked ideas and were full of nerves. Palermo was offside, Peru hit the ar a couple of times and that shot at goal from kick-off deserved a goal. Vargas, what a discovery! Argentina could do with him. Uruguay have useful players, perhaps less talent but compensated with better tactics, and strikers that can capitalise on the weakness of Argentina's back 4.

    Argentina may well end 4th after all - Even 5th and prove too strong for the Concacaf side, and they'd make it through but quite unimpressively (if that is the word). I cannot see many sides fearing them ahead of the world cup. Still, other sides may go through with poor displays and stll nobody would write them off from the start (Portugal, France, a very poor Italy last weekend, a lucky Germany in Russia...)

    The world cup will be fantastic. I cannot wait for the draw.


    Stephen Ireland is, in my opinion, the best Irish midfielder. I an undrsand his poin of view about travelling far, long concentrations, small games, missing the family, etc. But I don't think intenational football will change.

    I think everybody would be happier with less qualifiers. Other spors (basketball for example) award world cp spots in the continental tournaments. If Spain are European champions, what is the need for them to play along qualifying round against lesser European sides to end up in the same place? Basketball authorities awarded 6 places in the European Championship. I am not sure if there are more places available for Europe, but usually here are some. In that case, a qualifying tournament with the rest of the sides will be played. I think that would appeal to footballers a lot more, not to mention the clubs.

  • Comment number 54.

    26. At 12:17pm on 12 Oct 2009, Vikdaddy wrote:


    You said "Next summer an estimated 40,000 English people will travel half way round the world to South Africa." Since when was South Africa half way round the World?!

    You can go around the world North to South you know? And given that the last stop in a straight line before the south pole would be south Africa, whats your problem exactly? God the pedants on here...........

  • Comment number 55.


    I'm a bit dissapointed that you chose the email you did for this week. I understand you are making the point that South Americans dream of playing for thier country over club football, but what a stupid email. Firstly the guy quotes Steven Ireland, clearly one of the most clueless idiots in football (the cars, the lies etc etc) and then he agrees with him.

    I love the World Cup, the passion and drama could never be replaced by club sides. If people like the emailer and Steven Ireland want the 'chore' of internationals to end, fine, leave them to their opinions but don't waste time of this excellent blog.

    On to Argentina, it would be a disaster if they don't qualify, the World Cup is so much better when the best teams and players are there, and despite current results, as a bunch of players, Argentina are clearly one of the best teams. However Maradona is not a manager/coach and this is what is holding them back. I genuinly fear that they may lose and not even get a play off.

    If they did qualify, would the AFA consider replacing Maradona for the tournament or would they stick with him? My view would be they would be lucky to get there and if they have any realistic hope of competing they should accept Maradona hasn't worked and look to get in a real manager. You can't argue that Maradona has blended a squad as it's different names every game.

  • Comment number 56.

    # 21.
    I've never seen a "2nd league team" with Wilson Palacios, David Suazo, Hendry Thomas, Julio César de León, Maynor Figueroa, Víctor Bernárdez. Obviously, you underestimate like the rest of the ignorant world.

  • Comment number 57.

    #26. It South Africa is half way around the world, try thinking vertically instead of horizontally for once, what are you a Portsmouth player?

  • Comment number 58.

    What Argentina are lacking at the moment is Riquelme. At the moment the focus of the attack is on Messi and it restricts his play, at Barca he has Iniesta and Xavi to run the game and it allows him to the all the extra bits which make him the great player he is. If Maradona is to compete in the World Cup (which I believe they'll get to) he is going to need a more coherent attack. Carlos Tevez should be playing on the other side to Messi as well, would give them an extra dimension which the other players simply don't have. His goalscoring record is questionable but what he adds to the team is not, he must be playing in every game. If Argentina have their strongest team out, they are a match for anybody but with nonsensical decisions like playing Jonas Gutierrez, firstly at all and secondly at right back are going to cost them against a half decent side. The key is Riquelme and Maradona needs to swallow his pride and recall him, not something which is at all likely however.

  • Comment number 59.

    Great to see Pablo Aimar back in the side, setting up the first goal with a slide rule pass with the outside of his foot. :)

  • Comment number 60.

    collie21, thehonorarytitle,

    I might be a pedant but England to S.Africa is still about 5.5k miles to me. Going by the fact that the circumfurence of the Earth is about 25k miles, it still isn't half-way round the World!

    Half-way around the World would still be Australia (or thereabouts); it doesn't matter which way around you go! Get an apple and go half-way around from the top, and you'll realise that you'll always end at the bottom. Duh.

  • Comment number 61.

    The storm was so bad in Buenos Aires that my cable connection cut out 15mins before the final whistle. Had to listen to the Palermo goal on the radio. Maradona has made so many bad mistakes you could write a book about them but here are just 5 from the Peru game.

    1. Schiavi - basically in there because he is tall. 36 years old, with the turning circle of an oil tanker. Not even playing for a top Argentine team anymore. If he plays against Uruguay on Wednesday Forlan will destroy him.

    2. Jonas Guitierrez at right back. Not his natural position and in the second half he had to cover the whole right side for half an hour. Maradona has done this before to Gago in the home game against Colombia.

    3. Not calling up Zanetti. Argentina don't have a fit right back in the squad. Zabaletta was injured in the City game. Maradona knew this but still has not called up a replacement. So it is either Jonas or Demechelis playing out of position.

    4. He can't accept that Palermo is not international quality. Apart from the goal on Saturday he did nothing, and reduced the team to long balls. He has now christened him "Saint Palermo" - no way he'll drop in now.

    5. Leaving Mascherano alone in centre mid. Good as he is at sweeping up there he needs support. Cambiasso could do a great job next to him (much better than Gago) but once again personal problems get in the way.

    Tim - what's your prediction for Wednesday? Maradona is not going to learn anything in the next two days. I can see them losing by 2 or 3 goals.

  • Comment number 62.

    Im really looking forward to wednesday's game in Montevideo.

    Both are double World Cup winners, both are steeped in History and i cant wait to see Forlan and Saurez in action.

    I was lucky to see Uruguay beat Bolivia 2-0 back in 1989 to qualify for Italia 90 and what struck me was the sense of pride and history at the Centenario in Montevideo.
    I can honestly say that ive never been to any other stadium in the world where you can literally feel that history and pride. If i didnt know better i'd say it was haunted by the Varela's,Andrade's and Schiaffino's etc!!!

    Its a shame that one of these Nations could miss out but i'd love to see Uruguay in South Africa.

    Tim, who are the perceived favourites Uruguay or Argentina?

  • Comment number 63.

    Remember back just 1 year ago the Argentina u23 team was running rings against every else. They were more of a team than this current batch of full internationals. The U23 side of last year would probably do better than this current Argentina side. Never have I seen such a weak and leaderless Argentina side before which is yet packed with so many stars. They remind me of Brazil qualifying for the WC 2002. Playing poorly and just getting to the WC and from there winning it, perhaps Argentina will do the same.

  • Comment number 64.

    On Wed, Uruguay beats Argentina with a late goal after more nervous mix up in the Argentina defense. All seems lost when news comes in from Chile of a late winner against Ecuador. Maradona runs the length of the Stadium and Argentina are the happiest losers. Argentina wins the play off match by away goals. Maradona suffers health problems, Argentina re-appoint Marcelo Biesla as coach. He re-organises the Argentina though results are still. Expectations of Argentina winning the world cup are low. They manage to qualify from their group as runners up despite playing badly. Meet England in the 2nd round and defeat England with 1 Messi magic goal and 1 Messi controversial goal (England also loses a player to a red card in that match as well). Argentina then beats Italy and Brazil by penalties and win the world cup against Spain with more Messi magic while Maradona will be jumping up and down in the stands.

  • Comment number 65.

    Some amazing comments such Argentina are one the best in the world, well they aren't right know. Each team deserves to be at the world cup on on their merits (like England in the last Euro Chumps).I would like to see Agentina there only for England to show Maradona that cheating and drugs have no future in sport.
    For a great footballing nation such as Argentina to pick a twinkle toes with no true managerial experience has "the hand of god" written all over it.

  • Comment number 66.

    56 - thehonorarytitle

    I stand firmly put in my place - you are right - it was a silly and unjustified comparison... and i am sorry for any offence caused to Honduras or Costa Rica fans...

    My point however is that Argentina will qualify, i'd put my house on it ... and it is largely due to the way that FIFA have fixed qualification so that 1) the USA MUST qualify no matter what, and 2) Argentina and Brazil MUST qualify as well.... i am sure that you would acknowledge that the CONCACAF region is not blessed with the same strength in depth as Europe... and don't get me started on the Asia (including Australia!!!... when was Australia ever in Asia???) or the Oceana regions ... i know other regions get less places than Europe but when you think that Portugal (or even the Rep of Ire) may not qualify, i just find it somewhat frustrating that FIFA do all they can to ensure that other regions are so heavily represented...

    So sorry - my main problem is not Honduras - but the system that means New Zealand have a better chance of qualifying than lots of better teams in Europe... and Honduras, with the greatest amount of respect, would not really consider themselves favourites to beat Argentina should that scenario materialise...

  • Comment number 67.

    Stephen Ireland??? More like Stephen kopout, On saturday evening the republic of ireland minus one man city midfielder were one minute away from beating the current world champions, and Ireland may not be a country with 190 million people willing them to win the world cup but they do have a population of 4.3 million people who have followed the team through the good times and bad...and for a small nation of people we don't do to bad. Once the man city ming the merciless look a like stops dropping his shorts, buying ridicolous cars and grows up he may son realise he was in the wrong, should have been honest in the first place and then take his place on the bench as his whimsy light brand of 'attacking midfielder' football would be lost in the international game with most national teams employing a quality holding midfielder who would snuff out his limited threat anyway

  • Comment number 68.

    caveman1982 - Stephen Ireland, having been found to be lying on about 4 previous occasions then decidied to say that his girlfriend had a miscarriage.... if this is the truth then it is obviously very sad for them both... but that is IF IT IS TRUE... i know lots of people that don't believe it... and if the press were then to have found out that this was also a lie, I wonder what his next excuse would have been... no doubt something equally as tragic/tasteful as his relatives dying, miscarriage, etc...

    he is a pleb.... whilst he is a very decent player - the door has been left open for him (we are 3 managers on now from when he had the situation - which came off the back of him not wanting to play for Kerr anyway) and yet despite managers clearly going public saying they wanted him to play he has decided he didn't want to ....... maybe it is all still because his girlfriend had a miscarriage... or maybe it is because he is a bit of a moron and doesn't want to play international football as he doesn't earn enough money from it to buy a disgustingly chavvy bentley

  • Comment number 69.

    re: Steven Ireland

    He plays for Ireland. Even if he qualifies for a major tournament in his entire career (it may not happen) he'll be in a team with no chance of winning it.

    Players like Giggs, and Ireland, who show no respect for the national team. It's because they play for pretenders. Teams that spend most of their time as the underdog.

    I'm sure both would get a big lump of patriotism, if Wales and Ireland were going in to world cups with at least a legitimate chance of winning. Like say, England do.

    Ireland plays for Ireland. That's why he doesn't like international football.

    Many England/Brazil/Argentina/France players, high and low points of their careers, over the last 20 years have been in major tournaments.

    You know, ask Zidane what the high point of his career was, and it won't be winning the champions league. It will be winning the world cup. Ditto Ronaldo. Ditto Henry.

    Ask Beckham, Gerrard, Waddle, Lineker, Gazza, Ince, Shearer, what the low points of their career have been, and it will be in an England shirt. I guarentee it.

    International football's highs and lows are much more important than that of club football.

    Gerrard will get over losing a champions league final. As will Rooney. As playing in it will happen 3 or 4 times in their career perhaps.

    Neither would get over losing a World Cup final. And if either won it, it would trump anything they have done with their clubs.

  • Comment number 70. cup contenders??? your having a laugh mate....your not english by any chance? you all blow yourselves up every international tournament but never out do teams like sweden who get just as far just as regularly.....champions my ........

  • Comment number 71.

    Hi Tim,

    To start off let me say I am Peruvian, as such my view might be a bit bias regarding the match played on saturday.

    Nevertheless, I am suprrised you haven´t mentioned the penalties appeals that Peru had throughout the match, particularly the one after ñol solanos shot that was stopped by the hand of emiliano insua. Finally, in the last minute of play i found it amazing and unbelievable that Ortube decided to finish play when Peru had a corner and had the ball in Argentina´s box, specially after Zambrano was brought down by Heinze, correct if i am wrong, in the penalty box. Plus, lets not forget to mention that Palermo´s goal was a huge offside with Ortube standing right behind him were he must have seen it. There was no Peruvian player, not even the goalkeeper in line with Palermo.

    Surely, i want to believe that this mistakes were just part of the game and not a product of the long standing friendship betwen Nicolas Leoz (president of CSF) and Julio Grondona, but i think you should mention that.

    On the other hand, its true we have played awful throughout the qualifiers, we have missed some key players, altough even with those players (farfan, pizarro, acasiete, mendoza) it would have been pretty difficult cause Chemo del Solar, as a manager, has been a disgrace. At least previous qualifiers we were a tough team to beat at home and away, it was harder for us at home cause we didnt have the creativity to make chances, but our away form was good with some draws here and there and some wins like the one in Montevideo. So, even though we are last in this qualifiers i expect better next time around.

    Lookint at Argentina, i think there is just one person to blame and that is Maradona, that seems to think that having him as a coach is enough inspiration for the players to gel as a team and start playing real football. What´s the point of having schiavi and heinze as centre backs? I mean Schiavi is 36 years old and heinze has had a ton of opportunities playing for Argentina as a left back or as a centre back and has never exceled at either one of them. I would be looking for the youngsters and established pair such as Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid) and Federizo Fazio (Sevilla) they are both imposing players, especially Fazio, and Garay brings something extra as dead ball specialist, moreover considering the departure of Riquelme and that Veron is not getting any younger.

    I expect Uruguay to win comfortably on wednesday and hope for an Ecuadorian victory, at least that way, finally, argentineans will realise that maradona is not god.

  • Comment number 72.

    'If Stephen Ireland had the chance to represent a nation of over 190 million all desperate to win the World Cup I doubt very much that he'd see it as a chore. He would probably view it as the highlight of his career.'

    Could not disagree with you more. Your comment is actually terrible disrespectful as well(towards Ireland the country not the person).
    We are football mad in Ireland too. Ok, we don't have 190 million people but when World Cup games are on here the country comes to a halt. I know 75000 people who were at the Italy game on saturday who want to win the World Cup as much as any Brazilian.

    The highlight unfortunately of Stephen Ireland's career is driving a pink range rover that hes splashed his weekly wage into. He is a tremendously gifted footballer but a terribly arrogant one too. Throughout our campaign we have always looked likely to make the playoffs at the minimum. We have now made the playoffs. Stephen Ireland however, has refused to play for us. He was given literally the perfect excuse to when Trappatoni took over as it was change from the old regime but he will not budge. Why would he Man City pay him infinitely more than the fai.

  • Comment number 73.

    #8-'I'm an Irishman with Uruguayan connections and as Ireland now play soccer akin to a Saturday morning under16 team I've adopted Uruguay for the World Cup'

    Both countries have more or less the same chance of making the finals. Does that make them both u16 teams? And Bulgaria who we finished ahead of an u14 team? And other nations who will probably miss the playoffs- Croatia, Sweden, Romania- even younger again.
    Don't be silly. We've had a very successful qualifying campaign and although we will have to play one of the top teams in the playoffs would not constitute it as an excuse to switch allegiances just yet!

  • Comment number 74.

    I don't understand why people say that Argentina not going to the World Cup would be terrible for the world cup cos they're such a great team. Surely the whole qualifying process means that if they don't go it's cos they don't deserve to. They have the same amount of time and the same number of matches to qualify as anyone else, so if they don't make it, it's cos they're not good enough. How would it improve the world cup by having a team like that playing in it???
    They will only have themseves to blame if they don't make it, and all credit should go to the teams that do. They are the ones who deserve to be there, and that is what makes the World Cup such a great competition.

  • Comment number 75.

    Stephen Ireland stopped playing for the ROI because his international team mates were "bullying" him insinuating he wore a wig or hair plugs

    MAN UP!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Comment 69 Mike_Naylor - You fail to understand international football, or the concept of competition in general if you think that players do not wish to play for their countries if they don't have a chance of winning the tournament. If that was the case you'd have the World Cup with just about 6 teams in it! If Ireland qualify and get to say the semi finals beating a couple of big teams along the way (which is possible - look at South Korea, Turkey, Croatia, Bulgaria and the like in recent World Cups) then their players will be heros in Ireland for all of time. That is something money simply cannot buy and what people like yourself and Stephen Ireland fail to understand.

    Also my comment about England fans travelling 'half way round the world' to South Sfrica seems to have caused abit of a geographical debate so let me just say that i meant it as a figure of speech. The point I was making is that they ain't just hopping over the channel to France or Germany and so for 40,000 (if thats how many go) to go all the way to South Africa shows that the World Cup and international football is very much alive and kicking, contrary to when the M W Goble and Stephen Ireland think.

  • Comment number 77.

    I am from Argentina and as most here I can't understand why Maradona was appointed as a trainer. Hopefully Argentina qualifies and Maradona gets sacked! With all the amazing argentine players playing around the World, Maradona picks Schiavi, Palermo, Heinze, F. Insúa...unbelievable!
    To the peruvian hermano who wrote Palermo was offside: I thought that too! But then I read that a peruvian player had walked off the pitch trying to leave Palermo offside (which is, of course, not allowed).
    You can see the peruvian player here look at 1:38.
    The goal was legitimate.
    I thought the play involving Insúa was a penalty, but not the once where Heinze supposedly brought down Zambrano.

  • Comment number 78.

    I would love it for the diminutive cheat to preside over Argentina's miserable failure to qualify and become just as big a pariah in his own country as he is everywhere else. I am positively TINGLING with Schadenfreude already.

  • Comment number 79.

    I honestly believe that Uruguay will roll Argentina over at home and they stand a real chance of missing out altogether which saddens me as Messi et al would grace a WC. However, if they ain't got the points to qualify they do not deserve to go. The way that the European qualifiers have been fudged to suit France, Portugal etc is a case in point. Qualifiers are an accurate reflection of how well a team is performing. Shed no tears for Argentina if they crash out.
    Having said all that I think that if they do qualify they will oust Diego and appoint someone with half an idea about management making them credible challengers.
    Final point, how undignified was Maradona's belly flop? Footballing legend rolling around in puddles like a hippo?
    If only Capello would let himself go for once........

  • Comment number 80.


    The reason I said it would be shame to haev a WC without Argentina is because this is the showcase tournament in World football and any fan wants the great players and teams at the tournament. I fully agree that the qualifying process eliminates the teams not good enough, however even the most anti-Argentinian cannot deny that individually they have a squad of players that SHOULD be at a World Cup. The problem is the manager,who clearly does not know what he is doing. Any decent international manager would have got the Argentinian squad through the qualification based on the talent available.

    Maradona has fallen out with too many key players (Riquelme, Zanetti, Cambiasso) and seems intent on picking players no where near good enough for international football (Palemro, Schiavi) and then changes the starting XI every game. It's no wonder they are struggling.

    Everyone wants a strong World Cup, it raises the quality, and Argentina have talent capable of winning the tournemant. With respect, have Equador or Uruguay?

    The AFA have to sack Maradona even if they qualify or it will be a disaster in South Africa.

  • Comment number 81.

    I agree with Tim, who on a previous blog stated that Maradona needed to feel involved the way he was as a player. So the only way for him to make immediate impacts were to make rash descions and substitutions. He needs to pick a team, let them play and stop handing out debut's to players in the most criticial of times ( Datola, Huguin). Deigo thrives on the limelight, and for Argentina to be a success under his leadership, he needs to learn that.

    Also, please pick Samuel & Cambiasso!! The team is in bad need of strong players who can head the ball and tackle.

  • Comment number 82.

    Maradon was a "twinkle toes" was he? I guess that would be the best way to describe how he literally danced his way past the England team of "86!

    What, England players have never cheated? Are you completly sure? Have a look at Lineker's dive in Italia '90 vs Cameroon to win a penalty. Look at Owen's dive vs Argentina in France '98. Look at Beckham kicking Simone in France '98.

    Look at your best ever player, Paul Gascoigne. How much drink and drugs has he done? Probably enough to kill a herd of Buffalo!

  • Comment number 83.

    MW Goble:
    I agree entirely with Tim on this one, in his answer. The only people who argue strongly for a world club competition replacing the world cup as we know it are those who have not experienced what winning a FIFA WC does for the country.

    I doubt if England had won a WC in more recent times there would be such a clamour locally for such an international club competition. Living in England, sometimes it shocks me as to how much many fans would support their local team above their national side.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm currently in Ecuador at the moment and watched the game on Saturday when the referee bascially handed Uruguay a win. Everyone here is saying that it is a fix by Fifa to allow Argentina to qualify!

    It was really heartbreaking to watch the scenes at the end of the match as Ecuador well outplayed Uruguay and should have easily won. Large sections of the crowd took their frustrations out against each other and more worryingly against the players. Antonio Valencia tried to reason with them, saying that they should get behind their players and all he got in response were bottles hurled at his head!!

    I for one would much rather see Ecuador qualify, based on their style of play and quality of players, than Uruguay or Argentina.

  • Comment number 85.

    I can quite easily see Uruguay (with all to play for) beating Argentina. So my feeling is they will have to settle for the playoff place. The question is whether Ecuador (with a poor away record) can beat Chile (with little to play for, except Argentine Marcelo Bielsa's pride).

    My feeling is that Chile will beat Ecuador and Argentina will still qualify via the playoff match.

  • Comment number 86.

    37. At 1:14pm on 12 Oct 2009, caveman1982 wrote:
    Stephen Ireland a few years prior to the arrival of Trappatoni was down to his girlfriend having a miscarriage. At the time he ended up lying about what had actually happened, which is probably why he feels unable to play for Ireland anymore.

    I think anyone who's girlfriend has a miscarriage at the age of 21 is likely to mess things up in someways, and Mr Vickery I do think this is to about playing for a country of 190 million or not. We all make mistakes in our youth, and sometimes being to amend them is not as easy as it may seem.

    Stephen Ireland's point of players retiring at a young age could be partly explained by players such as Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer, who both had distinguished international careers but both retired around 30 to extend their club careers.

    Anyone who is dismissing Stephen Ireland's claim that players are retiring at a youngish age (well let us consider 30 to be a youngish age) is quite simply ill formed of their opinion. The two players mentioned in the last paragraph are examples of players who have done such a thing, and I am sure there are others. I personally am not of the belief that players will retire if they have the option of playing in a major tournament. However, players who play for teams who are unlikely to qualify for a major tournament may be more likely to quit international football, Ryan Giggs being a honourable mention.


    Think about this then, before it gets modded off -

    Stephen Ireland lied about one grandmother dying - it was proven untrue.

    Then he lied about another grandmother dying - also easy to disprove.

    Then we heard the sad story about his unfortunate girlfriend -
    impossible to prove one way or the other - perhaps on the advise of a PR person this story was given air?

    Do you not think that we never heard the real reason why he walked away from the squad - word has it that he was unpopular within the squad & his team mates had no problem in letting him know.

  • Comment number 87.

    Love your article and your review of the game. I just want to comment that Higuain is a great player with a great future but it does not matter the amount of talent you deploy on the field if the manager is has no clue about strategy, coaching and leadership. We have very few talented managers in Argentina, I think I can count them with my right hand fingers and I think I will use less than 50% of the fingers. Argentina: great country, great players, extremely poor management. Maradona is trouble wherever he goes and whatever he touches and the national team is not an exception.

  • Comment number 88.

    To all the people offended by Tims comment on Ireland playing for Brazil, i think he meant Steven Ireland would feel differently if he played for a team with a realistic chance of winning the world cup. Also, a few of you have mentioned football is only the third most popular sport in Ireland, while in Brazil it is a national obsession. Is it not possible that Football means a bit more to Brazilians than the Irish?

  • Comment number 89.

    88. At 6:56pm on 12 Oct 2009, PrinceOfTheBridge wrote:
    To all the people offended by Tims comment on Ireland playing for Brazil, i think he meant Steven Ireland would feel differently if he played for a team with a realistic chance of winning the world cup. Also, a few of you have mentioned football is only the third most popular sport in Ireland, while in Brazil it is a national obsession. Is it not possible that Football means a bit more to Brazilians than the Irish?


    Only the 3rd most popular sport? - I don't think so mate.

  • Comment number 90.

    Uruguay played a much smarter game than Ecuador, created more chances (they had a blantant penalty to Suarez not called) the fact that Uruguay finished with more shots on goal and Ecuador with 2 more yellow cards is a clear demonstration of this.

    The Ecuadorian coach has been blaming everyone from the Uruguayan players to his own for this loss but he has yet to admit he got outcoached and outplayed in Quito.

    If Uruguay can keep this group playing at the same level they will give Argentina all they can handle, Cebolla Rodriguez is back and he still owes the team a good game playing for Uruguay.

    A few hrs ago all tickets sold out for the game (they did in less than 24 hrs) leaving the Uruguayan Federation with more than 1 million dollars in profit. Argentine fans only got 3,300 tickets so they will be a small batch in the gigantic Centenario.

    Should be a classic.

  • Comment number 91.

    thanks for something u don't usually give me, tim, a darn good laff for those two comments on "only lite rain" forecast for montevideo but the stadium has a huge tower so Diego might try a "parachute jump". The man should be in rehab, not in the dugout. He hasn't a clue, he's mad, but he thinks he's gawd almitey. you r also dead right when you say that Uruguay will have "plenty of questions" for the Argentine defense. Forlan can go through that like the proverbial dose of salts, epsom salts, aaah. it will also have Oscar Washington Tabarez coaching. he was known here as "the master" when he coached Boca and the players, men like marcico and macallister, hard chaws, always displayed great respect for him and he never rose his voice. he'll know what questions to tell his players to ask. As for Palermo, gawd bless him, he's a likeable sort of a fella even if he couldn't score a goal in Spain and can't stop scoring them in Argentina, even headers from 40 yards out, well rebounds off his head. The feeling here about next wednesday's game is -u probably know this- one of sinking. we're happy to be where we are, but we know we are darn lucky to be there. itz like walking on ice, thin ice, very thin, if y know what i mean, but -n u definitely know this- we are in the hands of gawd, the rainmaker

  • Comment number 92.

    Thanks Tim for an excellent blog. There are many reasons for the debacle of the Argentine national team. But, as noted in other comments, among the key ones is the fact that the manager does not seem to know what he's doing, and the team's performance in the last few matches speaks for itself. There is conceptual and managerial confusion at the top. From one game to the next players are called and dropped seemingly at random. It's been reported that in the last 7 matches the manager has used 36 players -- with 29 players in the starting lineup for at least one game. In some cases the players brought together hardly know each other. In such an unsettled context, what concept of strategy or tactics could there be for any particular game or series of games? It has also been a matter of concern that the "team" (if that's the word for such a volatile lineup) is reported to train lightly before each game, and that the provision of tactical instructions and guidance by the managerial team is modest. If Argentina qualify for South Africa, their FA will have to take tough managerial measures, which frankly they look unlikely to take, or risk an early exit from the World Cup.

  • Comment number 93.

    It's always a bad sign when a gaffer plays 4-3-3

    It means you are going to lose the midfield. And so lose possession. And - more often than not - lose the game.

    Why do some managers still risk it?

  • Comment number 94.

    46. At 2:07pm on 12 Oct 2009, collie21 wrote:

    soccer is the 3rd sport after the two gaelic games, of football and hurling


    his words, not mine : )

  • Comment number 95.

    Great read Tim thanks. Interesting to hear your insightful view on what went wrong in the second half. Mascherano couldnt control midfield without someone in beside him. Veron will have a big role on Wednesday - if he plays? i wonder if he and aimar will function well in same 11. He should start though! Was pleased to see Aimar again, always a player i liked, thought he done well hope it wasnt a one-off appearance.

    Schiavi was painfully slow - made Heinze look very quick! E. Insua was fairly anonymous, Di Maria dives too much - quite irritating, Messi didnt do anything great but linked well with Aimar. I dont know enough about F. Insua to judge.

    Uruguays attack is very dangerous, the full backs 'bomb on' at home especially the Porto left back. control of midfield is vital. Argentina cant let Forlan and Suarez have space.

    Score draw and both teams to go through with a Chile victory - thats my hope and prediction!

  • Comment number 96.

    Honestly, i'm not particualrly interested in the so called big names of football. I'd much rather see decent football played by unknowns than watch people passing the ball to one star player, watching him go on a mazy dribble only to give the ball away (or fall over).

    The games i enjoyed the most in the last world cup all involved the supposed lesser teams. They played much more attractive football than any of the bigger teams. Maybe that's why they didn't win.

    But i guess that's because i've always been a fan of the underdog. At the moment, i would say argentina are underdogs against uruguay, but this is football, so you never know what's going to happen. It definitely makes wednesday interesting, and as my country has already qualified, it'll make for good viewing. If uruguay do win, barring some dodgy decision, they would be the form team, and i'd rather watch teams play in the cup that are on form (or should be barring injuries etc) than the teams who have 1 or 2 star players.

  • Comment number 97.

    The Uruguay - Argentina game is sure to be a classic. Both teams will be fighting for their lives. Incredibly, both these teams World Cup futures depend on what Ecuador does against Chile. As an Ecuadorean, I will root my heart out for Ecuador on Wednesday. But it will be extremely difficult. Yes, Chile has already qualified and may not send their A team out. Still, the game is in Santiago. More tellingly, Ecuador is not playing well. Their forwards - Benitez and Caicedo - have shown time and again their inability to score. I do not see them reversing course here and there is no one on the bench to replace them. And we need a goal! Ecuador will be without Valencia and Noboa as a result of yellow cards. And lastly, the motivation factor. The game against Uruguay ended badly. Not just the score but the reaction of some of the fans. Valencia and his teammates was rightly peeved as racism raised its ugly head and players were unjustly insulted. How much resentment will the players - who are mostly black from a majority white country- bring with them to the game? Can they truly try to win this one for "Ecuador"? It is up to the coach to get them focused on the game, to play for their own personal pride first and second for Ecuadorian pride. And regardless of the outcome, Ecuador - all of us - have to thank and applaud these marvelous athletes who have brought us so much joy and pride.

  • Comment number 98.

    Football means more to the average south-american than to the average european.

    We agreed on it, two or three articles ago.

    On Diego, I hope he can qualify Argentina, and then settle for a squad in the upcoming months, for all his mistakes, the biggest is that he doesn't have any group formed in his mind.

  • Comment number 99.

    To SamTHK, the player you see in that video is Luis Ramirez who was taken off just before the corner and Ortube, in order to save some time, made him go out behind the peruvian goal, he was taken off for Juan Carlos La Rosa, so the goal was offside. Moreover, even if Luis Ramirez had still been in the game it would have still been offside, the rule states that there needs to be at least two players and there was only one.

  • Comment number 100.

    Argentine coaches only coach for their own; they are too "macho" to evaluate any opposition squad.


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