Can Messi and co. get their campaign on track against Paraguay later this week?
Considering they may well not even be in South Africa next summer, Argentina’s status as fourth favourites to win the 2010 World Cup – at odds of 8.8 – makes for bizarre reading.
La SelecciÃƒÂ³n’s fortunes have continued to slide under the suspect guidance of Diego Maradona and the morale-sapping 3-1 home defeat to fierce rivals Brazil on Saturday night has left them contemplating the unthinkable; failure to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1970.
Argentina were outthought, outfought and outplayed in Rosario on Saturday night, despite making a promising start to the match.
Maradona refused to blame his players, saying: “I won’t send anyone to jail.” He then singled out three of them. “Unfortunately, we had some chances in the first half with Maxi [RodrÃƒÂguez] and [Carlos] TÃƒÂ©vez but we couldn’t score. We shouldn’t heap all the blame to [Lionel] Messi because he wasn’t the only one playing.”
The chief culprit here, though, is Maradona himself.
The fact that he identified Dunga’s Brazil as being a threat from set-pieces, worked on it with his players in training (“we practised high balls because we know Brazil are very good at this”) and then watched helplessly as his side shipped two basic goals has highlighted his own inadequacies as coach.
The first goal was a classic case of poor communication as Gabriel Heinze and SebastiÃƒÂ¡n Dominguez – questionably making his debut in a match of such high importance – both decided to mark LÃƒÂºcio, giving LuisÃƒÂ£o the freedom of the city of Rosario. The second was also an exercise in static defending.
Maradona has admitted that qualifying will now be “complicated.” His side’s grip on the all-important fourth place is weakening, with Colombia and Ecuador just two points adrift and Argentina heading for a tricky trip to Paraguay on Wednesday.
The Albicelestes must then negotiate a seemingly straightforward home match against Peru before finishing with an arduous trip to Uruguay.
Paraguay, meanwhile, ended a four-match winless streak with a 1-0 win over Bolivia on Saturday, are back on track for South Africa and will qualify with a win over Maradona’s men on Wednesday.
Los Albirrojas lie joint-second on points with Chile, thanks to Salvador CabaÃƒÂ±as’s match-winning penalty and the 29-year-old playmaker will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of exploiting Argentina’s frailty on dead-ball situations. As will his Argentinian coach Gerardo Martino.
El Tata, as he is known in his adopted homeland, has managed to rebuild an ageing squad since taking over in February 2007 and created a well-balanced, attack-minded team, which has learned to live without the injury-prone Roque Santa Cruz.
Since being thrashed 6-1 by Bolivia, Argentina have beaten Colombia 1-0, lost 2-0 to Ecuador and been taken apart by Brazil.
Their home match against Paraguay 12 months ago ended 1-1 and, when you bear in mind how close Paraguay came to beating Brazil in Recife in June before losing 2-1, there’s little to suggest Maradona’s outfit have what it takes to secure the all-important win.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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