Is Lionel Messi’s second goal (above) of his hat-trick against Real Zaragoza in Spain’s La Liga an early contender for Goal of the Century?
The goal will have to compete with one he scored another Spanish club, Getafe, last year:
Diego Armando Maradona’s charges are doing their exquisite best to keep South Africa 2010 from matching Italia ’90 as the dullest World Cup in terms of quality of play. Argentina’s performances so far have been better than Germany, Uruguay, Brazil, and better than those of their likely semifinal adversaries: Spain.
Gracias Dieguito for quenching our thirst in a desert of scientific catenaccio. Maradona’s side produces a organized, attacking, flowing game. Gonzalo Higuain is the tournament’s leading scorer, with Carlitos Tevez close behind (what a strike against Mexico!). And, of course, King Leo is always eager to please ‘beggars for good football’ like me (Galeano docet).
One regret: Germany’s 4-1 victory yesterday in Bloemfontein denied us the pleasure of seeing Maradona take on England in the quarterfinals.
TEN POT OBSERVATIONS.
1. FIFA got the seedings right. Pot 1 seeds earned their ranking. France did not. France’s final appearance was four years ago.
2. Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay have come out of the pot alignment better than most. Each of the smaller South American nations will avoid the big five African qualifiers in the 1st Round.
3. Argentina and Brazil cannot avoid the African qualifiers from Pot 3. The seeds for two potential Groups of Death have now been sown. Has FIFA put Brazil at risk for an early bath?
4. The most frightening Group of Death would be: Brazil, Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire and Portugal.
5. The dark horse of Pot 2 is Honduras.
Paraguay have qualified. Chile can choke. Ecuador too. Argentina are at home to Peru next. Uruguay have superior goal difference. Venezuela are lurking. Colombia cannot be ruled out just yet.
There are so many permutations, yet it is difficult to discuss without getting drawn into the Argentine drama.
Argentina losing at home to Brazil was not so extraordinary. It had happened before. It was actually more noteworthy when several months earlier Uruguay lost a World Cup qualifier at home to Brazil. That had never happened before.
South American World Cup qualifiers are ultimately predictable affairs, the current Argentine drama notwithstanding. Earlier in the qualifiers, bigger questions hung over Brazil.
Klaus Fischer’s famous bicycle kick.
Papers, podcasts and blogs are full of the demise of Argentina. Maradona makes good press. His Anglo detractors remain bitter. The Argentine domestic game is bankrupt. Yet, despite the noise, Argentina remain poised to qualify. The competition in South America is that stale. A home win against lowly Peru in October should almost certainly seal their South Atlantic passage.
Argentina’s poor form has somehow detracted attention from the failings of some of Europe’s marquee performers.
Yesterday Brazil beat Argentina 3-1 in Rosario, Argentina. Brazil qualified, but Argentina is just about holding onto the fourth automatic qualifying place for South Africa 2010. (The fifth placed Conmebol or South American team will face CONCACAF’s 4th placed side in a home-and-away play-off. The Americas could provide a tasty appetizer for South Africa: Argentina vs. Mexico anyone? Or get the popcorn out for the USA against Venezuela!)
Argentina has some tough qualifying games ahead (particularly Paraguay, and a trip to the Centenario in Montevideo). This could be the first time they fail to qualify since 1970. They are coached by one Diego Maradona, God to some Argentinian (and all Scottish) fans. And some observers and the country’s fans (this is sacrilege of course) think he (gasp) is the problem.
A Test of Faith in Argentina.
Dios Mio! Argentina in Trouble.
Critics round on Diego Maradona after Brazil twist knife against Argentina