Argentina faces a lame duck final
Last Sunday, San Lorenzo, Tigre and Boca Juniors won their last matches of the regular tournament to finish level on points at the top in a three-way tie. Goal difference is not used for the title so a mini-league is being played.
The Argentina Football Association (AFA) appeared unprepared for this eventuality (it’s the first time it has happened since the current system of two championships per season was introduced) and could now find themselves with a lame duck final.
Amid much criticism, the draw for the three-way final was held behind closed doors and produced the following fixture list: San Lorenzo v Tigre (last Wednesday), San Lorenzo v Boca (on Saturday) and Boca v Tigre (next Tuesday).
Boca, the country’s most popular club, appeared to come out of it the best as they got a week’s rest between their final league match and their first playoff.
San Lorenzo, on the other hand, find themselves playing three games in seven days in an unseasonal spring heatwave.
The biggest criticism is that the AFA should not have fixed the order of the games in advance.
San Lorenzo beat Tigre 2-1 in the opening match on Wednesday and will now clinch the title on Saturday if they beat Boca. In that case, Tuesday’s game will not be played.
A Boca win would leave both sides with three points and leave all three teams in with a chance of winning on Tuesday.
But if Saturday’s match ends in a draw, the AFA will be faced with the unhappy scenario of Boca playing the decisive game against a Tigre side who will be out of the running and more interested in their holidays.
Such a situation could have been avoided if, instead of fixing the order of matches, the AFA had ruled that the losers of Wednesday’s game had played Boca on Saturday. Instead, San Lorenzo’s hopes could be placed in the hands of a team with almost no motivation.
“With what sort of enthusiasm will a team play if they have no chance of being champions, having fought hard for 20 matches and lost everything three days ago?” asked the daily newspaper Clarin.
PHOTO: San Lorenzo’s Gonzalo Bergessio celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal against Tigre during their playoff match in Buenos Aires, Dec. 17. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian
NOTE: Refiled with correct author’s name 1106 GMT Friday, Dec 18. Sorry, Brian.