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Rex Gowar in Buenos Aries on a tough decision taken by Boca Juniors’ new coach.
Boca Juniors coach Julio Cesar Falcioni has taken a brave decision leaving Juan Roman Riquelme out of his team for this Saturday’s home match against modest All Boys.
Boca lost 4-1 at home to Godoy Cruz in their Clausura championship opener two weeks ago with Riquelme in the team and won 1-0 at Racing Club last weekend without him.
However, to focus solely on the results is to oversimplify a serious problem for any coach in charge of a squad that includes a gifted player like Riquelme and more so if he is at Boca and even more still if he is new.
Falcioni’s predecessor Claudio Borghi, appointed coach of Chile’s national team this week, lasted 14 matches at Boca in the Apertura championship with Riquelme injured and out of action for all but one – which ended in defeat.
Falcioni’s decision is based on fielding a team with balance and staying faithful to his favoured 4-4-2 formation which bore fruit in friendlies the summer recess when he was taking his first steps as Boca coach.
“I was hired to make decisions and today I think this is the best team Boca can present,” Falcioni told reporters. “This team always gave of its best for me on the pitch.
“On Sunday people will talk about Saturday’s result. If we win they’ll say I was right, and if we lose that I’m a donkey.”
Riquelme, who had knee surgery last May, was for to return for the Clausura and Falcioni, with the home crowd at the Bombonera in mind, fielded an attacking side that created a string of chances – Riquelme hit a post — but failed to put them away while succumbing to Godoy Cruz’s counter-attacks.
Goalkeeper Javier Garcia was blamed for the first two goals and had a torrid week fending off questions about his performance yet was retained and was Boca’s best player at Racing, even laying on the winning goal with a long clearance to scorer Pablo Mouche.
Is Martin Palermo’s amazing winner for Boca Juniors on Sunday, a header from nearly 40 metres that bounced just once on the line of the six-yard box on its way into the net, worthy of an entry into the Guinness Book of records?
This is a question Argentines have been asking, while TV sports chat shows have been running footage of other remarkable goals and moments in the career of the 35-year-old striker.
Diego Maradona says that on the compact Rosario central pitch Argentina will pin Brazil against their goal. They do up to a point, with masses of possession, but Dunga’s men demolish them in lethal counter-attacks with Maradona watching in glum silence and Argentina return to River Plate for next month’s key World Cup qualifier against Peru.
Fans are angst-ridden over the delay of the season as bad management and the global slowdown leave the country’s world-famous clubs unable to pay players and heavily in debt.
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.
Less than a year after being forced out of Villarreal, who tired of what they said were his excessive privileges and lack of commitment, Juan Roman Riquelme is at the centre of a similar storm at Boca Juniors.
A sequence of listless performances from the enigmatic number 10 prompted public criticism from team mate Julio Cesar Caceres. And it all sounded very familiar.
South America’s Libertadores Cup has reached the quarter-finals and, for those lucky enough to see it (it’s sadly shunned by most tv networks outside the region), offers a refreshing change to the predictability of its richer European counterpart.
Only three of the eight teams reached this stage last year, there are no clear favourites for the title and all four ties remain wide open after last week’s first legs.
The fact that Martin Palermo is Boca Juniors’s regular penalty taker speaks volumes about his strength of character.
Back in 1999, Palermo made international headlines for the wrong reasons when he missed three penalties for Argentina in their 3-0 Copa America defeat by Colombia. Yet, instead of hiding in his hotel room, Palermo came out and faced the media the next day, promising to get on with his career.