Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
By Rex Gowar
As Argentine Football Association chief Julio Grondona put it, River are not adapting to the second division, the B Nacional is adapting to River.
The record 33-times first division champions still command front page headlines on a par with arch-rivals Boca Juniors – during a season in which the biggest club match in the country, the “Superclasico” is missing from the fixture list.
It has been five years since away fans were banned in the second tier of the game in Argentina, principally for security reasons.
River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club and San Lorenzo are Argentina’s Big Five clubs.
Until Estudiantes became the first club outside the elite Five to win a league title in 1967, no other team had lifted the crown since in the professional era began in 1931.
Argentines often talk about how heavy a particular football shirt can be, River Plate’s, Boca Juniors’ or Argentina’s.
“La camiseta pesa” (the vest weighs (a lot).
This is what is happening to the players of River Plate, one of Argentina’s “Big Two”, who could be relegated for the first time this month.
River Plate’s former goalkeeping great Ubaldo Fillol, a World Cup-winner with Argentina in 1978, has resigned as their first-team keeping coach after what he felt as a lack of respect shown by Juan Pablo Carrizo on Sunday.
Carrizo brushed Fillol aside when the older man tried to console him as he left the pitch with jeers ringing in his ears after a blunder that allowed San Lorenzo to equalise for a 1-1 draw that left River in the relegation zone.
Club president Daniel Passarella, a temperamental former River and Argentina captain and coach, exploded at the weekly Argentine Football Association board meeting chaired by AFA chief Julio Grondona.
River Plate are playing two championships in one and until Sunday’s shock 2-0 home defeat by modest All Boys they had as good a chance of winning the Clausura title as they do now of relegation.
In the craziest of Argentine league championships, results are impossible to predict and playing away is an advantage. There have been 50 away wins and 41 at home so far in 13o Clausura matches this term.
Boca Juniors have two aces in their pack, one now firing on all cylinders, the other in one of his worst slumps during his final season before retiring.
River Plate have a new ace at the lower end of the age scale who is growing in confidence, cheek and sheer skill.
Boca Juniors can’t escape the spotlight after another defeat, 1-0 at Velez Sarsfield on Sunday.
The big question surrounding coach Julio Cesar Falcioni’s team is whether he should continue to pick striker Martin Palermo when he can only count on one half of a brilliant, but aging double act that helped Boca win a string of trophies.
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.