Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
It is becoming a familiar trend in Argentine domestic football. The home team is winning by a single goal, the clock is ticking….and suddenly all the balls have disappeared and visiting players have to go searching for them.
The latest incident happened on Sunday during River’s match at home to lowly Gimnasia-Jujuy. One of the ball boys took his time in returning the ball to visiting goalkeeper Gaston Pezzutti, who angrily hurled it at the youth and was sent off.
It was a four-edged punishment for Gimnasia, who had to bring on a substitute keeper, reshuffle their team, play with a man down and lose precious seconds.
No action, however, was taken against River apart from the dismissal of the ball boy.
Diego Simeone was often described as playing with a knife between his teeth as he scowled his way through 106 internationals for Argentina.
As a coach, the former Lazio, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid player cuts an equally menacing figure as he prowls the touchline, unshaven and dressed all in black.
Argentine media allocate dozens of pages to football daily and the country has two 24-hour cable channels almost exclusively dedicated to the sport. Quite often it’s a struggle to fill all that paper and airtime — so much so that one of the TV channels passes away the afternoon with a programme in which the presenters play foot-tennis.
But on Thursday, there was more than enough to talk about. How did Argentina, supposedly revitalised by Diego Maradona, lose 6-1 away to Bolivia, one of the region’s weakest teams, in a World Cup qualifier?
Even before this week’s outburst and his decision to quit Argentina for the second time in three years, Juan Roman Riquelme’s future with the national team had looked uncertain.
Riquelme missed their first two matches under Diego Maradona because of club commitments and, without him in midfield, Argentina shook off the apparent lethargy which had marked their last few displays under Alfio Basile.
As usual, it feels like there is a contest going on to devise the oddest format for a football tournament. Over the next few days, the Reuters soccer blog will present the various candidates for this year’s award for the strangest concept.
South Americans often claim that the Libertadores Cup is a tougher tournament than its European equivalent, the Champions League, and Argentine champions Boca Juniors are unlikely to disagree after their marathon journey to the Venezuelan Andes for a game this week.
In terms of quality of play, the Champions League obviously wins hands down. But bring in factors such as hostile conditions, heat, altitude and travelling and the Libertadores is a much tougher proposition.
Popularly-known as the Ogre, because of a supposed likeness to the animated film character Shrek, Cristian Fabbiani has become a cult figure for his ability to alternate moments of brilliance with others of near comedy (such as a miss for Newell’s Old Boys that became cult viewing on YouTube).
Diego Maradona has advised Manchester United and Argentina forward Carlos Tevez to join Inter Milan.
Then again he also thinks Atletico Madrid striker and compatriot Sergio Aguero should do the same. Who’ll be next? Barca’s Lionel Messi, another Argentine?
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.
It has taken only a week for Diego Maradona’s appointment as coach to turn the Argentina national side into something approaching a cabaret.
A squabble over the choice of Maradona’s assistant escalated into a saga this week which culminated with the country’s plethora of news and sports cable channels splashing the headline “Maradona to quit?” across the screen.