Brazil looming large for Maradona and Argentina

June 20, 2009

Is the fact that Brazil are Argentina’s next opponents in the World Cup qualifiers getting to Argentines worried by the precarious position of Diego Maradona’s team in the standings?

While Brazil enjoy more match practice at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, Argentina, their rivals in the 2005 final in Germany, are bickering over the pitch on which to host their arch-rivals in match that will have a major bearing on their World Cup ambitions.

The River Plate pitch was in a disgraceful state, Maradona said before his team, playing poorly, beat Colombia 1-0 in their last qualifier on June 10 just days after fans at a rock concert trampled all over it.

A 2-0 defeat away to Ecuador at altitude in Quito in a match Argentina, playing better than against Colombia, should have sewn up in the first half, had an unhappy Maradona once again harping on about the River Plate pitch where Brazil are due on the first weekend in September.

River Plate then brought their bitter enmity with Boca Juniors, the club Maradona played for and supports, into the issue.

They demanded from the Argentine Football Association (AFA) to see Maradona’s contract and proof that the former national team captain had undergone psychological tests before being appointed to the job last year.

AFA president Julio Grondona apologised to River over the aggressive tone of Maradona’s remarks.

“It’s all about a Boca and River issue in which the River people are complaining about some remarks made by a fervent supporter of Boca,” Grondona told radio La Red.

But he also reminded River that the AFA has first say over how the ground is used and had not been asked if the club could hold a rock concert there so close to a qualifier.

Grondona also admitted, though, that the AFA had been at fault in having only one stadium that fits FIFA specifications for World Cup matches and said it was applying for the ground of Rosario Central, in Argentina’s second city 400 km north of the capital, to be passed as a reserve stadium.

Newspapers then extended the debate to canvassing fans as to whether they thought Argentina might be better off playing Brazil in the more compact Central stadium where the arch-rivals drew 0-0 during the 1978 World Cup.

With four matches to go, Brazil lead the South American qualifying group with 27 points, one more than Chile, three ahead of Paraguay and five in front of Argentina in the four automatic qualifying berths for next year’s finals in South Africa.

Slipping down to fifth would put Argentina in a playoff berth against a team from the CONCACAF region of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

What also might help Argentina improve their position is playing better and for this Grondona believes it might be good to recall Boca playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme, who controversially quit the national team over critical remarks by Maradona in the media in March.

“Also, if possible we’ll make a move to have Riquelme back,” Grondona said. “It’s not a request of Diego’s, I haven’t spoken to him about this. But who wouldn’t want him back. I sent Riquelme a few hints, he’s a good kid,” said Grondona of the player who was the midfield fulcrum of the Argentina side that reached the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals.

The outspoken Maradona is paradoxically persona non grata at his beloved Boca because of his perceived role in Riquelme’s decision to quit and hasn’t been to his private box at the club’s Bombonera stadium since.

PHOTO: Argentina’s Diego Maradona reacts after an Ecuador goalĀ during their World Cup 2010 qualifying match in Quito, June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Granja


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

[…] Post By Google News Click Here For The Entire Article Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

Posted by Ā» Brazil looming large for Maradona and Argentina – Reuters Blogs | Report as abusive

I can see this all ending in tears, with Bilardo having to dig the team out of the mire to ensure qualification. Not overly impressed with Diego’s leadership thus far but having Riquelme return through the back-door would be too much for most to put up with. As we all know Riquelme is a great player but a less than uniting figure in the dressing room.

Posted by meatandmalbec | Report as abusive

Posted by meatandmalbec | Report as abusive

Me too. Losing riquelme was ridiculous and if he’s forced to take him back it could spell the exit door for Diegito.

Posted by j | Report as abusive

With Juan Roman Riquelme, the team would be complete. I hope he does come back! Riquelme FTW!

Posted by Katie | Report as abusive

Argentina is hurting on several fronts.

The current manager is someone who has very little managing experience but because he is MARADONA, he was given an opportunity to learn the job of national team manager while on the job.

Maradona’s lack of managing experience has unfortunately shown. From poor tactical decisions, his inability to put together a proper starting lineup, and his inability to establish a style of football around the current national team.

If anyone thinks that all of the above is impossible to do in a WC qualifying campaign then look at the job that Marcelo Bielsa has done with Chile.

Also, the endless amount of controversy’s involving Maradona since taking over as Argentina manager has created a negative environment around the national team.

The players have also underperformed but not having the right players in the lineup and the poor tactical decisions made have affected the players performances.

My only hope for the game against Brasil is that the Argentina players will respond to the strong fan support they will certainly receive in Rosario Central’s stadium (if the game is played there) and hopefully that along with their pride and inner strength will be enough to defeat Brasil.

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive

I’ll be writing a more in depth analysis about Argentina’s WC qualifying struggles next week on my blog:

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive

[…] to Source Share and […]

Posted by Brazil looming large for Maradona and Argentina – Posted In WC Qualifying South-Africa | Soccer News Info – Soccer News Info | Report as abusive

I don’t think Argentina’s international team stands a chance against Brazil’s.

Maradona was an awesome football player but he isn’t showing the same skills as a coach.

Besides I think it is about time for Maradona to receive a well-earned lesson for what he did to Brazil in 1990…

Posted by Marcus Vinicius Pinto Schtruk | Report as abusive

To say Argentina don’t stand a chance against Brazil could be somewhat premature. Emphatic as Brazil’s victory was in Uruguay earlier this month the home side had more than enough chances to go a head or to equalise Brazil defence was all over the place. However if Argentina do beat Brazil it may be inspite of Maradona rather than because of him.


Posted by meatandmalbec | Report as abusive

A new soccer blog is up and covering the USMNT:


Posted by | Report as abusive

Riquelme pl come back v need ur help

Posted by raj | Report as abusive