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Emotional Maradona and the last chance saloon

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The above picture was the defining image of Argentina’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Peru in the rain on Saturday, and perhaps Diego Maradona’s tenure as national team coach to date.

For many in Argentina, Maradona’s reactions are indicative of an approach to the job that is too emotional.

Whatever he is really thinking, he often looks slightly bemused on the touchline when his team are not in control. He has been criticised for being unable to make the right substitutions, though he did pull a rabbit out of the hat with the introduction of mircale maker Martin Palermo, a striker who has been dubbed “the goal optimist”.

When Maradona celebrates he is like any fan and while his dive on to the sodden pitch after Palermo’s winner made for great pictures, the sports talk shows have been asking whether it was the image the national team manager should be giving.

Martin Palermo heads towards the record books

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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.

Have Peru shot themselves in the foot over Guerrero and co?

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After watching a Bundesliga game in which all the goals are scored by Peruvians, it is hard to imagine that the South American country’s national team is in such a predicament.

Paolo Guerrero scored twice for Hamburg SV on Sunday in their 2-1 win over Schalke 04, whose consolation was scored by his compatriot Jefferson Farfan.

Latin American complexities – Part Four: Ecuador

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This is the final instalment in our look at the peculiarities of Latin American championships, after an introduction, a tour through Peru, and on to Uruguay and Mexico

And so to Ecuador.

With three stages, bonus points and a two-leg final, Ecuador’s championship is a brave attempt to keep as many teams in with a chance of winning the title for as long as possible. In fact, getting knocked out takes some doing.

Latin American complexities — Part three: Mexico

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This is the fourth instalment in our look at the wacky world of Latin American championships having started with an introduction and then analysed Peru’s interesting league system and moved on to Uruguay.  

Today, we’ve reached Mexico and it’s a goody.

Mexico has some of the finest stadiums in Latin America and pays some of the highest wages. It is also notable for having a system in which the championship’s best team repeatedly fails to win the title.

Which is Latin America’s most complex championship? Peru

Peru’s new system, introduced after the league increased the number of teams from 12 to 16, is particularly curious.

The “Decentralised” championship, as it is known, begins with the 16 teams playing each other twice in the conventional style. For most people, with matches being played from the jungle of Iquitos to the dizzy heights of the central Andes, that would be enough. But the Peruvian league has decided to follow this up with a sort of playoff system.

Defeat will hand San Martin the Peruvian title

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Has anything like this ever happened in football before?

Deportivo San Martin will win the Peruvian championship on Sunday if they lose their final game of the regular season. But if they win the match, they could have to face Universitario in a two-leg playoff.

This odd and unfortunate situation has arisen thanks to the weird and wonderful format used for the championship. (more…)

So Flamengo, what was all the altitude fuss about?

For the last year, Brazilian club Flamengo have led an almost obsessive campaign for a ban on matches at high altitude. Following a match away to Bolivian side Real Potosi at 4,000 metres above sea level in the Libertadores Cup, club president Marcio Braga has gone on the warpath describing high altitude games as “inhumane” and comparing them to a form of doping for the home team.

Braga has taken his case to FIFA, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and even the United Nations human rights commission — all without success. Although FIFA has effectively banned World Cup qualifiers above 2,750 metres, the South American Football Confederation has refused to follow suit for the Libertadores.

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