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.
Juan Manuel Olivera scores the winner for Al Wasl against Al Ain in the UAE league. Al Wasl’s head coach, Diego Armando Maradona, must be pleased to see his lessons translated into magical “golatos.”
Argentina’s 1-0 win in Montevideo ended the qualification telenovela. El Pibe’s charges earned their ticket to South Africa on the sacred ground of Centenario stadium, where Uruguay defeated Argentina in the inaugural World Cup final in 1930. So Maradona, with all his contradictions and flaws, got the job done. Improvisation can work. In South Africa, Diego hopes to realize his dream of meeting Nelson Mandela.
When I was growing up in Italy as a Juve fan (long story), I had no time for El Pibe. My idol was Michel Platini. After I moved to America, my view of Diego slowly began to change. Not only had he won the ‘86 World Cup almost single-HANDedly, but he then delivered Napoli’s first Italian titles (scudetti) while Platini bowed out of the game.
When I was in college in the late 1980s Italian football was difficult to find on TV. But I was lucky to be a few blocks from a small local station in Hartford (Conn.) that catered to a large Italian-American community. The transmitter had a range of only a few miles, but it got the RAI feed from New York! As a result, I got to delight in Diego’s magical, illuminating inventions, a sometimes perfect synthesis of creativity and pragmatism (i.e., goals, assists, wins). Of course, I was livid when his Argentina beat us in Naples on penalties at Italia ‘90 — the only Italy match I did not attend — but time has healed that painful wound.
Ultimately, as we know, Maradona’s injuries, drug use, and other off-the-field problems undermined his ability to do what he did best — play. His flaws and contradictions, regrettably, sank him lower and lower. Yet I remember that as the tide began to turn against Maradona in Italy (after the 1990 World Cup), he had the audacity and sincerity to go on national TV and say what no Italian dared to say. When the anchor asked him whether he was taking drugs, “Maracoca” shot back: “I am not doing anything captains of industry aren’t doing.” Maybe not the smartest thing to say, but absolutely true.
I have not yet seen Kusturica’s film, but here’s a clip of Maradona that inspired me back in the “good ol’ days”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJXqFGYenRY
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