Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Argentina coach Diego Maradona will appear in person before a disciplinary hearing at FIFA headquarters on Sunday to explain his foul-mouthed outbursts (plural) following the win over Uruguay in Montevideo last month.
The result, at the very end of an 18-match campaign, finally clinched Argentina’s place at the 2010 World Cup after they had looked in serious danger of missing out for the first time since 1970. Maradona “celebrated” with an expletive-laden tirade at the hapless touchline reporter who went to interview him.
If he had left it at that, he could perhaps have passed it off as a heat of the moment incident. Instead, he spewed out more obscenities — which he says were aimed at the media — at the post-match press conference, broadcast live on a number of networks in several countries.
FIFA quickly caught on and opened disciplinary proceedings for his unruly behaviour. These could result in a stadium ban which, if applied only to competitive games, would effectively rule him out of part or possibly all of Argentina’s World Cup campaign.
Imagine the scenario … there are 10 minutes to go in the World Cup final and England are 1-0 down.
Fabio Capello can choose between Michael Owen and Darren Bent to come off the bench and rescue England’s World Cup dream. Who will he turn to?
Milan have just announced the deal on their website (just in Italian for now), meaning any lingering hopes Premier League clubs had of changing the England midfielder’s mind have finally been dashed.
Joel Santana arrived for what he thought was a routine review of his work with his South African Football Association bosses on Monday and within hours was packing his bags for a return to Brazil, ending his tenure as the 15th coach employed by South Africa in the last 17 years.
The run of poor results in recent internationals plus last year’s early elimination from the African Nations Cup qualifiers, had left Bafana Bafana in deep crisis, a team without any confidence or direction and running out of time before hosting the 2010 World Cup finals.
The scores are in and it hasn’t been quite as bad a week as usual for most of the Reuters Panel. Still, we’re not tearing up any trees, as the big man would have said, so still plenty of chance to make us look like fools. Here’s the updated table:
Reuters Soccer Blog panel: Patrick Johnston 89, Paul Radford 77, Simon Evans 71 (shocker), Kevin Fylan 65, Mike Collett 64 (outstanding performance), Mitch Phillips 62 (another shocker), Miles Evans 60, Julien Pretot 57, Neil Maidment 43, Mark Meadows 42, Justin Palmer 36, Asia Sports Desk 35, Martyn Herman 7
Draw for the European World Cup playoffs:
Republic of Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia
Two-legged ties to be played on Nov 14 and 18.
Is that the sound of a World Cup playoff shock I hear? France, 2006 runners-up, will have to beat Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland over two legs to reach South Africa next year and that is no easy feat.
So now we know which European teams are in the World Cup playoffs and we have a pretty good idea of the seedings, though FIFA’s updated rankings out at the end of the week will provide confirmation ahead of Monday’s draw.
It looks like Russia, France, Greece and Portugal will be the seeded teams with Ukraine, Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia playing them. After Argentina’s qualification in the final match against Uruguay, it looks increasingly likely that all the big teams will be there in South Africa.
Unusually, the final night of European World Cup qualifying is a bit of a damp affair. Most of the groups have been decided, with by and large just the second-places, and play-off berths, up for grabs.
Undeterred, we shall keep you up to date with what’s going on in Europe as a prelude to the really serious business of the night … the decisive match in Montevideo, where Argentina are playing for their lives against Uruguay.
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.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and for every FIFA marketing slogan there is a subsequent decision that can make fans wonder if world football’s governing body is being serious.
“Fair Play Please” is the current favourite but how, exactly, does that square with the decision to make the European zone World Cup playoffs a seeded affair?